JANUARY 21, 2004
The EU and the FIA get into a spat
The European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs has had a run-in with the FIA over the European Arrest Warrant problems. The FIA President Max Mosley has asked the various governments to look at the legislation and allow for Formula 1 to be exempted from the European Arrest Warrant because of the eccentric laws of manslaughter in Italy.
But a spokesman for Antonio Vitorino, European commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, told AFP that the Formula 1 circus cannot be considered above the law.
"Mr. Mosley is not above the law and the European Arrest Warrants apply to all citizens," said Pietro Petrucci. "The debate has been closed for some time and technically impossible to reopen. Formula 1 chiefs are waking up too late. In any case we don't see why we would have made an exception and why we shouldn't have confidence in the justice system."
The FIA responded waspishly.
"Mr. Vitorino is clearly unaware that one EU government has already confirmed that the relevant provisions of the European Arrest Warrant do not apply to sport. We anticipate that other EU governments will agree.
"No F1 team considers itself above the law but they will not race where they do not feel safe. Mr. Vitorino may not understand this but those who apply EU laws do."
At the moment only Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal and Spain have implemented the law. The others will have to do so by May after which EU countries will no longer be able to refuse to surrender their own nationals, since the warrant is based on the principle that all EU courts are the same, which is clearly not the case. Many countries in Europe do not have Habeas Corpus and under Italian law, the "preliminary hearing" to establish if there is a case to answer will be held behind closed doors and might not take place for six months or longer if prosecutors want to complete their
investigations. Throughout this the people charged would remain in jail. They may be released provisionally, but the decision on bail will be taken by the investigating judges and not in a public hearing.
Italy's Constitutional Court has ruled that the continued existence of measures devised by Mussolini's Fascist
government in the 1930s to crush political opposition is still acceptable even thought people can be arrested in Italy for simply associating with people.
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