The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday in the joint case of two Romanian escapees extradited from France in 2016, finding that the extradition of one man had been in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, but not of the other.
Both applicants had sought to challenge France’s execution of European arrest warrants (EAWs) and their surrender to Romanian authorities under article 3, which provides that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” As part of this, it protects individuals from deportation or extradition if there is a real risk they will face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country concerned.
The first of the applicants, Codrut Moldovan, was sentenced to seven years and six months imprisonment by the Mures District Court in June 2015 for human trafficking offenses committed in 2010. At the conclusion of his trial, Moldovan fled to France, and an EAW was issued by Romanian authorities for the purpose of enforcing his prison sentence. On August 26, 2016, he was surrendered to Romanian authorities.
In accepting Moldovan’s challenge to France’s execution of the EAW, the court considered that “the executing judicial authority had a sufficiently solid factual basis […] to characterize the existence of a real risk that the applicant would be exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment as a result of his conditions of detention in Romania.” It went on to infer, from the particular circumstances of the case, “the existence of a manifest insufficiency in the protection of fundamental rights” and a violation of article 3.
The second of the applicants, Gregorian Bivolaru, was the leader of a spiritual yoga movement, Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute. In June 2013, the Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice sentenced Bivolaru in absentia to six years imprisonment, having found him guilty of conducting sexual relations with a minor. The Sibiu County Court subsequently issued an EAW with a view to enforcing that sentence, Bivolaru having fled to Sweden to seek asylum.
In rejecting his challenge, the court concluded that nothing in the file before the executing judicial authority indicated that Bivolaru risked, in the event of surrender, being persecuted for religious reasons in Romania. It considered that the executing judicial authority, after conducting a “thorough and complete examination of the applicant’s personal situation,” did not have a sufficiently solid factual basis to characterize the existence of a real risk of violation of article 3 of the ECHR or to refuse, for this reason, the execution of the EAW.
While Moldovan was awarded €5,000 in damages and €2,520 for expenses, Bivolaru’s whereabouts are currently unknown. The latter is also wanted by Finnish authorities in connection with sexual assault and human trafficking accusations.