Vote: should Julian Assange be extradited to Sweden?

The curious case of Julian Assange is couched in complexity.  But this is what makes it so interesting and divisive of opinion.

His role as Wikileaks founder in exposing the evil that governments do – Western governments in particular – when they believe right is on their side is unchallengeable.  He opened all our eyes to what goes on under our noses, in our name.  Perhaps, we – all of us – should have made more of what he uncovered about the behaviour of officials working on our behalf for a safer world.  But deconstructing imperialism takes time and we’ve been somewhat distracted of late, by crises closer to home, some of which, like MPs’ expenses and bankers’ bonuses, are symptomatic of the wider malaise running through the documents obtained (probably illegally) and published by his website and its media allies.

What they demonstrate is that at all levels of our society, there is an elite operation that behaves with a sense of entitlement, whether domestic or global, to follow its own rules and ignore moral codes and legal boundaries.

But just because Assange broke the law for the purpose of good does not put him beyond the reach of the law in other aspects of our life.  The charges he faces in Sweden are serious and he must be held to account for them.  We like our heroes to be flawed, but that cannot and should not excuse behaviour which appears to be beyond the pale.  Perhaps though when you believe – as you must, to take on the role as the global teller of truth, of exponent of liberty and transparency and you operate in a twilight world of conspiracy, corruption and cabals – you come to believe that the same applies everywhere.  Some Assange supporters have, after all, determined that the sexual offences of which he has been accused by two women are trumped up and part of a plot to bring him down.

There is nothing, though, to suggest that this is the case.  Nor that they are some kind of a ruse to flush him out and over the Atlantic to America, which he and his people assert is the real reason everyone wants him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy.  No charges have yet been laid by the US authorities;  no warrant for his arrest for treason or other high crimes has been issued;  no indication given that eventually any of this is what will transpire.

In any event, as others more qualified than me have explained, neither the UK nor Sweden can extradite someone to the US if they are at risk of the death penalty under the European Convention of Human Rights.  And, again as others have pointed out, Sweden is more likely to uphold this than the UK, which has a lop-sided approach to extradition matters with the US.  If such espionage and other charges come to fruition, Assange stands a better chance of resisting them from Sweden than from the UK, even if it is from a prison cell following a conviction for sexual offences.

Which is of course, far from certain.  The Swedish investigation into the allegations is at an early stage;  it has stalled because Assange broke bail and sought diplomatic sanctuary.  Stalemate has been reached but all around him swirls the portent of a much bigger crisis.

The UK has spent months – if we are to believe what we are told – behind the scenes negotiating with Ecuador for Assange’s removal.  Having reached the end of the line, or their tethers, William Hague and his officials started making very public threats to invoke little used laws to remove Assange.  The idea of breaking into another country’s embassy has created ripples in the murky world of international diplomacy:  Russia has waded in, issuing veiled threats, enjoying the opportunity, no doubt, to create a little mischief at the UK’s expense, smarting as it is, from the opprobrium heaped upon it for its treatment of Pussy Riot.  Such is the maturity of international diplomacy.

If the UK follows through on its threat, some have warned that our diplomats and overseas staff will be at risk of reciprocity.  A game of international tit for tat might ensue: we will have broken the rules and the world of international diplomacy will reserve the right to exact its own retribution.  There’s an irony here, as yet untapped, but also, something far more distasteful.

We all know (or at least, suspect) that the cloak of diplomatic immunity has been misused to protect individuals from the consequences of crimes committed in countries in which they resided.  Particularly if they were important or monied enough.  Indeed, a little investigative journalism into this would be welcome.

Is the UK making an exception for Assange?  Has it turned a blind eye to serious allegations made by people who can claim diplomatic immunity or political asylum because it has been expedient to do so?  Have other countries done the same for us?  Is there one rule for some, and another for the rest of us?

In effect, this is what Julian Assange appears to have persuaded himself of.  That, by embarking on his Wikileaks venture, the rule of law does not apply to him, whether international or domestic.  Yet, by his very behaviour over these charges, he has exposed himself as a fraud.

We thought he was on our side.  That he shared our distaste of and dislike for the unevenness with which the West applied notions of human rights to others.  That he believed in the need to create a more civilised world, where the law applied equally, fairly and justly to all.   But in his quest, he appears to have forgotten a self-evident truth:  that what keeps us civilised as societies, as communities and as individuals, is a fundamental belief that we should treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves.  It’s a tad crude, but in essence, this is the point of human rights and indeed, justice systems.

And in his mission to expose all that is cruel, inhumane, opaque and illegal in our dealings with each other as states, he appears to have forgotten a touchstone principle.  That in a fair and just world, the little laws – the ones, for example, which aim to prevent men from using power to abuse women, and to punish them when they appear to do so – matter just as much as the big ones.

28 thoughts on “Vote: should Julian Assange be extradited to Sweden?

  1. There have been three court decisions in the process in England so far, these are made public on judgment and do not attempt to argue the actual case so do not prejudice it but will give more information than a lot of the hysteria going about. All three decisions found against Assange after full hearing of all argument. This is the High Court one. http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2011/2849.html

  2. The correct place for discussion and disection of details about what happened or didn’t is a court of law – repeating gossip will achieve nothing as people can say and do anything and we can’t determine justice through the ether. We know there are lies being propagated about what rape law is in the UK, in the Occupy London ‘fact’sheet which states the charges which HAVE been proferred (he is wanted for arrest, not questioning) are not a crime here – categorically untrue. How dangerous is that? It’s the side which is knowingly fudging these issues and spreading misinformation which I cannot trust nor support, and that is Wikileaks and Assange. If he was such a great white hero he would not be letting these dangerous lies continue, is that what a whistleblower does now all of a sudden? Spread rubbish?

  3. My statement will probably elicit nothing but a few disbelieving sniggers, but as a researcher into the paranormal, and having recently completed a 100,000 word theory which explains its mechanisms in detail, I feel obliged to report that I found myself in telepathic contact with him(go on – have a little snigger), as I am at this very moment, oddly enough, and the feeling was one of total innocence. The man is as straight as a die, and is simply caught up in the machinations of governments whose motives are dubious. Telepathy doesn’t necessarily involve the transmission of words, though it can, but is essentially a feeling. Sometimes both the ‘sender’ and the ‘receiver’ will be aware of the connection, as were Mr. Assange and myself. He should not be extradited to Sweden but allowed to go free here in England.
    Philip Hodgetts. 23:08.21/08/2012

  4. Allegedly, One of the women who has accused him of assault, subsequently threw him a birthday party. One of the accusations he faces is after spending the night together he rubbed his naked penis against a womans back. She later made him breakfast. Sweden has a different take on sexual assault laws, much of it appears to be about etiquette and not about force. I would like to hear the evidence, and if he is guilty of more than being a two timing bastard then the debate really will start.

  5. Interested to hear your views on this report:

    http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2012/07/19/3549280.htm

    Burdzeyeview you haven’t really gone into any details about the case that the Swedes are trying to push against Assange.. (maybe in another article of yours?) Would love some unbiased news about what the accusations, who’s making them and a comparison to similar cases in the past.

    • That will be because it’s not my place to prosecute nor defend someone in a criminal case – and doing so actually prejudices any possible case. Countries have judicial systems and laws for a reason.

      • Burdzeyeview developing an unbiased opinion of a case and reporting the facts isn’t prejudice (prejudice would be developing an unsubstantiated opinion and pushing that on to others in order to influence their minds prior to the case). For example your article is quite biased against assange and it’s easy to spot the sentences/phrases where you opt to use certain language to sway opinion against him.

        Prejudice is to bias the jury, hence why I said I’d love an unbiased view as to the accusations – I still have faith that you can provide such an article! I do think both our opinions are slightly biased at the moment dependent on the media we’ve been exposed to😉 Best of luck in pursuing some truth!

  6. The USA wants to control the internet and wants to create a gulag where it puts all people who transmit information on the net that it doesn’t want to be transmitted. That’s why it’s going after Assange, and it’s also why it’s going after Richard O’Dwyer and Kim Dotcom.

  7. Since our MSM are basically cut, paste and opinion news suppliers rather than searching for the truth its easier to keep with the ‘establishment’ views as its a more comfortable environment.

    Assange Facts

  8. The thing I don’t get in all these discussions is that surely Assange’s high profile is exactly the thing that will protect him from the US, if that threat genuinely exists? Unlike Bradley Manning, or the many other poor sods experiencing human rights abuses that we don’t even know about, the global media is watching and giving Assange an unparalleled ‘protection by spotlight’. I’m with The Burd- he should answer the charges and follow due process of law. I don’t believe extradition to the US is really what he’s afraid of.

    • Most people who care about digital rights know who Bradley Manning, Kim Dotcom and Richard O’Dwyer are, and it hasn’t stopped the USA from persecuting them.

    • cheers for all these links. Interesting reading!

      • happy to oblige. My reading of it is that Assange and the 2 women involved are not very nice people. But given that Bradley Mannings was (still is?) kept naked and in chains without the benefit of a tral (see Amnesty on this), and that various US pols have called for Assange’s assassination – Ecuador is correct to offer him asylum.

  9. I understood that he had been questioned previously in Sweden,over the allegations,and was allowed to go free.Now the Swedes want to question, him some more,could they question him here? These allegations if true are very bad,but would he have been released by a senior Swedish judge,then re-arrested by a more junior judge! these are some of the aspects of the case that are dodgy to say the least.Could some evidence be put before courts in England and make it open so that the people can make up their own minds,and that could stop a lot of support for him.But the timing of the accusations also leave some room for questions.You mention treason,as he is an Australian citizen it would be up to Australia,to make this claim.
    But should not charges be made first not just allegations and a request for questioning?

    • “I understood that he had been questioned previously in Sweden,over the allegations,and was allowed to go free.”

      This is Assange’s version of events. The Swedish authorities say no, Assange was never questioned.

      “,but would he have been released by a senior Swedish judge,then re-arrested by a more junior judge”

      No.

      “Could some evidence be put before courts in England and make it open so that the people can make up their own minds,and that could stop a lot of support for him.”

      It has. That’s why I stopped supporting Assange, at all, when he admitted he’d had non-consensual sex with both women but he didn’t think that was rape because they’d had consensual sex with him on other occasions.

      Part of the problem is that Julian Assange is genuinely extremely good at spreading information. This is not conspiracy theory, he is, that’s what he does. What he’s opted to do here is spread misinformation about what he’s been accused of, and what due process he’s received.

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  11. Assange should undoubtedly answer the charges, but there is something very odd about trusting the US to be constrained by international law, given what we now know and have known for decades.

    The US, its corrupt behaviour and that of its allies is the elephant in the room here. What’s really ‘skewed’ now, trust in international law It’s difficult to see how a person in Assange’s position can make normal, rational decisions.

    Perhaps the Swedish prosecutors should talk to him, as they could have done long ago. If Sweden is committed to justice for his accusers, then they owe them no less.

    • We don’t have to trust the US to do anything, but trust in either the UK or Sweden not to breach ECHR and extradite him to the US, should charges come. In the meantime, he has questions to answer about laws he is alleged to have broken in another state and should be made to do so. The same applies to any one of us. He is no different, no higher being, no allowed to occupy a different plane legally because of the good he has done at Wikileaks. That is the point of my piece. Or else, all that good work counts for naught.

      • Of course he’s not on a higher plane, and of course he should answer the charges, but it is no way inconsistent with that, to acknowledge he is in an unusually difficult, tangled and dangerous place.

        Part of the reason for that is Sweden’s unwillingness to interview him in the UK. They could have done so and still could, but they seem to have become boxed in by hubris.

        If they believe in justice for their citizens, they should be talking, rather than shouting insults from Rilsdagen.

      • *Riksdagen* – (big fingers, little buttons!)

      • ” but trust in either the UK or Sweden not to breach ECHR and extradite him to the US, should charges come”

        Actually, if Assange is extradited to Sweden, the US has to satisfy both UK and Swedish extradition law before they can have him.

        So if Assange considered UK extradition law a better protection than Swedish extradition law (I disagree, I think Swedish law is better and Sweden has a better track record than the UK) then he should go to Sweden, where he can have both.

      • “trust in either the UK or Sweden not to breach ECHR and extradite him to the US”

        Sweden have refused to give any such assurance. So any such trust would be absurd.

    • Which is why he needs to man up and go to Sweden!

      • This was a reply to Robbie Pennington | August 18, 2012 at 9:18 am

      • So the US can put him in their gulag and torture him for the reast of his life? Would you go to Sweden under those circumstances? Of course you wouldn’t.

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