Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by Treaties.
Different rules apply within the EU (surrender) and outside the EU (extradition). In 2002 the EU created the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), a fast-track system for extraditing people from one EU country to another. It was rushed in as part of Europe’s response to the terrorist threat, and was meant to help tackle serious cross-border crime more effectively.
Extradition treaties in force between Spain and other countries deal with cases that are considered serious offences according to Spanish criminal law.
Under Spanish law, extradition is not possible for citizens located in Spain for a conduct that is not a crime in Spain. No one can be extradited unless the offense is a crime in both countries and carries a prison sentence of at least 1 year.
Individuals are only extradited after the Spanish National Court (Audiencia Nacional) has reviewed the case and determined that it meets the legal requirements for extradition. All extradition requests must meet the evidentiary standards required in both countries.
It is important to note that, in urgent cases, a provisional arrest may be requested for extradition purposes. Such a request may be issued through the International Police Organization (Interpol) or via diplomatic channels. If Spanish authorities believe that the request meets the formal requirements of the applicable treaty or domestic law, the individual subject to extradition will be arrested and brought before the National Court.
Later, a brief hearing will take place to decide about the detainee’s personal situation and to inform him/her about the details of the extradition. The public prosecutor takes an important role in processing the extradition. At any stage of the process the individual wanted may give free consent to be extradited. A second hearing will take place where the judge will decide, according to the circumstances of the case, whether extradition is appropriate or not.
If extradition is granted, it may be postponed if the wanted person is standing trial or already serving a prison sentence in Spain.
Spain has requested the extradition of many individuals located in non-EU countries. The Spanish court National Audience has dealt with many important Extradition and European Arrest Warrant cases like the one of Augusto Pinochet.
On the other hand, the Spanish authorities has denied many requests for extraditions from other countries after looking over the special circumstances of the case. The Spanish lawyer plays an important role on extradition cases. Legal representation by a local lawyer is required under Spanish law.
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