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Our View: Extradition hurdle exposes our irrational lawmaking

IT IS VERY difficult to understand some of the laws that are made by the legislature. The law about the extradition of Cypriot nationals against whom European arrest warrants have been issued is a case in point. An amendment made to the bill submitted by the state’s legal office restricted the scope of the law in a way that was, from a rational viewpoint, unjustifiable.

As the attorney-general explained yesterday, the legislature amended the relevant bill, which it approved in 2005, so that nobody wanted in connection with offences committed before Cyprus’ entry into the EU, would be subject to extradition. For the legislature, the only offences that counted were those committed from 2004 onwards. Suspects wanted by other EU countries, in connection with crimes committed before 2004, could not be extradited.

Why was the commitment of crimes outside Cyprus, before the EU accession year, deemed not to count by our deputies? Was it a human rights issue that we are not aware of? Had they decided to protect the interest of suspects, who did not know they would be subject of European arrest warrants, when they committed an alleged offence? With the amendment, deputies had in effect given an amnesty to Cypriot nationals for alleged offences committed abroad pre-2004. Do deputies have such an authority?

There is the cynical view, that one or two of the many lawyers in the House had clients who could have had a European arrest warrant issued against them, and the law was amended in order to ensure against this happening. But why would the majority of the deputies have approved the amendment? Perhaps they were following instructions from their respective parties, which are quite capable of doing such favours.

The issue was in the public domain this week when it transpired that European arrest warrants, issued by Greece against the former interior minister Dinos Michaelides and his son Michalis, could not be executed because they were related to alleged offences committed before 2004. The attorney-general is reportedly determined to bring the two before the court and argue in favour of the execution of the warrants, but there does not seem a way round the law.

Unsurprisingly, most of the parties, which issue statements about every issue imaginable, have said nothing about this scandalous matter. Only DISY, to its credit, took a stand, urging the state to find a way to execute the arrest warrants. “It is not appropriate in an EU member-state, while we talk continuously about transparency, for there to be legal obstacles, preventing the execution of European warrants.” DISY is absolutely right and the sooner these indefensible obstacles are removed the better.

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