Oliva-Ayala Abogados

From Request to Delivery: These Are the Key Stages of the Extradition Process in Spain

Por Oliva Ayala Abogados

Extradition is a formal process where one state surrenders an individual to another state for prosecution or to serve a sentence following a conviction. This complex legal procedure involves multiple stages, specific legal frameworks, and the participation of various governmental and judicial authorities. Below, we will explore the critical stages of the extradition process.

Initial Request and Preliminary Review by the Spanish Administration

Extradition proceedings typically begin when a country, through its diplomatic channels or directly, requests the extradition of an individual from another country. This request must include essential details about the individual (identity, nationality, residence), a summary of the criminal acts, and the legal basis for the request, such as a warrant or a judgment of conviction if the extradition is for serving a sentence.

In Spain, the Ministry of Justice, upon receiving such a request, has eight days to submit a proposal to the government on whether to continue with the extradition through judicial proceedings. The existence or not of an extradition agreement between the requiring country and Spain will determine the key elements on the extradition. If an extradition agreement has not been signed the Spanish Extradition Act will apply. At this preliminary stage the Ministry of Justice will limit its intervention to check if the extradition petition fulfils formal requirements.

Following the initial review, the Spanish government must decide within 15 days whether to proceed with the extradition through the courts. If agreed, the case is forwarded to the Central Examining Court at the Audiencia Nacional, which handles the judicial phase of the extradition.

If the individual is not already detained, this stage may also involve issuing a detention order to secure the individual while the extradition request is formally processed. This is often done urgently if there is an International Arrest Warrant involved, and the detainee is brought before the judge within 24 hours.

Judicial Proceedings

At the Examining Central Courts of Audiencia Nacional (located in Madrid), a critical hearing takes place where the requested individual can consent to or oppose the extradition. Besides the individual will be asked if he/she wants the protection of the speciality principle according to which the requested individual can be prosecuted or sentenced only in relation to the offence or offences for which extradition was granted and not for any other crime committed before extradition took place. The individual shall be assisted by a legal counsel during the whole judicial phase. If the individual opposes extradition, the judge may consider imposing precautionary measures, such as bail or pre-trial detention, to mitigate the risk of the individual fleeing. The public prosecutor will take part on the judicial process ensuring the legality of the proceedings. The requesting State might formally appear before the Court appointing its legal counsel.

The judge, during this stage, may request additional information from the requesting state if the extradition documentation is deemed incomplete. This ensures that all legal bases are covered before moving forward.

Decision Making and Appeals

Once the Examining Court is satisfied with the information on hand, the case moves to the Criminal Chamber at Audiencia Nacional (3 Magistrates), which reviews a submission from the public prosecutor and the defence with their arguments against or in favour the extradition and will schedule a final hearing. Here, the individual has a chance to address the court, but discussions are strictly limited to issues surrounding the extradition treaty and legal requirements, rather than the merits of the case itself. This limitation is typical in continental systems which privilege cooperation between States and radically differs from Common law systems which privilege legal guarantees for the individual.

Following the hearing, the court has three days to issue a reasoned order on whether the extradition is admissible. This decision can be appealed by either the defence or the prosecutor, and the appeal is handled by the Full Chamber of the Criminal Court of Audiencia Nacional.

Governmental Finalization and Surrender

If the court finds the extradition admissible, the final decision rests with the government. It may still refuse extradition based on national interests or international reciprocity considerations. Once the government approves the extradition, the Ministry of Justice communicates the decision to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which then notifies the requesting country.

Constitutional Protection and Bail Considerations

Throughout the extradition process, the individual has the option to file for constitutional protection if there are grounds to believe that fundamental rights are being violated. This is an extraordinary remedy and is rarely granted, but it provides a critical check against potential judicial errors or abuses.

Bail during the extradition process is discretionary, depending on the individual’s circumstances, including their ties to the community, the gravity of the charges, and the risk of flight. Conditions imposed may include regular check-ins, restricted movement, or surrender of travel documents.


Extradition is a complex legal process that balances international cooperation with the protection of individual rights. Each stage of the process, from the initial request to the final surrender, involves intricate legal and procedural steps designed to ensure fairness and legality. Understanding these stages is crucial for legal practitioners, policymakers, and the public to navigate and comprehend the intricacies of international law and extradition treaties.

More than 3 decades assisting nationals, foreigners and third states in complex extradition proceedings makes Oliva-Ayala an outstanding option to guarantee the best defence of the interest of the client.