What a relief that we're leaving the EU in a few short months and getting out of this mess. Except that's not quite how it's working out, with the UK government's Brexit negotiating objective on extradition being a system with all of the same failings as the current arrangement. The government must move to abandon anything like the EAW and instead treat the EU like the rest of the world when it comes to extradition, argues Emily Barley

A recent judgment against Romania at the European Court of Human Rights (EctHR) paints a horrifying picture of filthy, rodent and insect infested, massively overcrowded prisons reminiscent of the medieval period, with no access to medical care, dirty drinking water, and no privacy to go to the toilet the daily reality of tens of thousands of people locked up by the corrupt Romanian regime.

It would be shocking if it wasn't a well-known, long-standing issue that the EU and various member states have been turning a blind eye to for years.

Back in 2017 the ECtHR issued a 'pilot judgment' against Romania for its appalling prisons – a special procedure developed to acknowledge a structural problem that is consistently violating people's human rights. Indeed, the ECtHR heard so many cases regarding Romania and its prisons in the preceding years that the country has consistently ranked as the worst abuser of human rights in the EU, on a par with Russia and Ukraine for its poor treatment of its citizens.

Prioritising integration and expansion over the safety of ordinary people, the EU refused to respond. The EU sat on its hands even when Romania's Minister for Justice admitted that the government's widely-welcomed plan to invest one billion euros in bringing its prisons up to scratch was a total fabrication.

People familiar with the Romanian government will know that it has a long history of making things up to keep the rest of Europe happy (and the taps of financial support turned on), and the rest of Europe has an equally long history of accepting blatant lies at face value, choosing to ignore the obvious reality and push away mounting evidence that Romania is unfit to be a full member of the EU.

There is no issue where this problem is as clear as with the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) system. Over and over again Romanian authorities have made promises that people extradited from other parts of the EU would be treated properly, and time after time they have gone back on those assurances, throwing prisoners into crumbling hell-holes with as little as 1.5m2 of space to live in each.

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What a relief that we're leaving the EU in a few short months and getting out of this mess then.

Except that's not quite how it's working out, with the UK government's Brexit negotiating objective on extradition being a system described as the 'EAW-lite' by experts, with all of the same failings as the current arrangement set to continue indefinitely.

And whatever happens in the future between the UK and EU, right now one man's life is at stake. The fantastical, but nevertheless true, case of Alexander Adamescu is a prime example of how Romania's modus operandi of lies and fabrication has reached all the way to London, where Adamescu lives with his wife and small children.

Adamescu now finds himself at the sharp end of an EAW, with his options running out. The full details of the case have not been able to be heard in open court, with witnesses to the conspiracy against Adamescu unable to speak out for fear of retribution by the corrupt Romanian government, and people previously extradited from the UK to Romania under assurances of proper treatment likewise too terrified to speak out about the ways they have been abused.

There is now only one person in a position of power who is able to hear this other evidence: Home Secretary Priti Patel. She has in her hands reports from British and German intelligence experts exposing the political plot against the Adamescus, as well as witness statements from various prisoners extradited from the UK who have found themselves in the same squalid conditions accepted as common across the Romanian prison system by the ECtHR in hundreds of other cases.

Priti Patel must act now to protect the life of this vulnerable man, lest his fate be the same as that of his father, who died after being denied medical care in a Romanian prison.

And once that's done, she, and the rest of the government, must move to abandon anything that looks, talks, or walks like the EAW and instead treat the EU like the rest of the world when it comes to extradition.

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