Assange and Human Rights

“A really good round-up post on the #Assange extradition and Wikileaks” - David Allen Green, lawyer and New Statesman legal blogger.
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Some responses from supporters of Julian Assange are at the bottom of this article.

Assange and Human Rights

Supporters of human rights – and especially women’s rights – have good cause to be concerned about the Julian Assange extradition case.  It is a very worrying situation.  But there’s a lot of incorrect information going around.  So let’s clarify a few facts:

  1. The US authorities are trying to find evidence linking Assange to the Bradley Manning case, to show that Assange was complicit in espionage.  The investigation is ongoing.
  2. If they find enough evidence, they will probably attempt to extradite Assange from wherever he is.
  3. Sweden do not extradite for espionage or leaking.

Wait. What? It is quite true: Sweden do not extradite for espionage or leaking, and in fact this is written into their extradition treaty with the USA. This has already been covered by David Allen Green at the New Statesman, who sourced his information from Mark Klamberg (professor of International Law at Stockholm University) and Pål Wrange, a colleague of Klamberg’s who is also a Swedish expert on International law.

By the way: Glenn Greenwald’s famous demand for an apology was further clarified by Klamberg in another blog post, but Greenwald’s article remains up and without correction (just misleading “updates”).

But the law is quite clear on this point: Sweden consider espionage to be a political crime; and Sweden does not extradite for political or military crimes.  Not only is this the law, and not only does the Swedish government have no say (having delegated all decision-making power to the courts via their extradition treaty with the USA) but the Swedish authorities have previously refused to extradite a US traitor.  And “Traitor” is accurate: Edward Lee Howard worked for the CIA, but gave secrets to Moscow at the height of the Cold War.  When he was arrested in Sweden for an expired visa, the USA applied for his extradition (claiming that his actions had led to deaths).  Sweden gave the case a quick examination, decided it amounted to espionage, then released Howard so he could return to Moscow.

Howard died peacefully in Moscow in 2002.

As if that wasn’t enough, Sven-Erik Alhem testified for Assange in London at the February hearing.  Judge Riddle summarised Alhem’s statement in the findings (page 6):

It would be “completely impossible to extradite Mr Assange to the USA without a media storm”. It is quite right to say that he would not be extradited to the USA.

So not only is the law clear, but Assange’s own expert agrees with all the other experts.  Yet Assange and others continue to make the claim.

High profile people and organisations are loudly calling for Assange to not be sent to Sweden (where he can’t be extradited to the USA) and instead to remain in the UK (or Ecuador) from where he can be extradited (if Ecuador withdraw their asylum).  Peter Tatchell, Women Against Rape, Amnesty International – all these are campaigning on information that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.  That is worrying.  What is especially worrying for feminists is that they are campaigning in favour of a man who is undergoing criminal proceedings for one count of rape and three other sexual offences.

Criminal proceedings? But don’t Wikileaks claim that he has not yet been charged? Indeed they do; loudly and repeatedly.  But if you read Ground 3 in the English High Court summary of the appeal, it could not be clearer:

Although it is clear a decision has not been taken to charge him, that is because, under Swedish procedure, that decision is taken at a late stage with the trial following quickly thereafter. In England and Wales, a decision to charge is taken at a very early stage; there can be no doubt that if what Mr Assange had done had been done in England and Wales, he would have been charged and thus criminal proceedings would have been commenced…. On this basis, criminal proceedings have commenced against Mr Assange.

So if by “charges” one means “criminal proceedings”, then the position is identical; the argument is merely one of semantics.

Other countries could learn a great deal from how the Swedes treat both victims and accused in sexual cases:

  • The  hearing is in private (considered vital by Sven-Erik Alhem – see page 5) which protects both accused and accusers until a verdict  is reached
  • The role of the målsägarbiträde is not one that many people are familiar with outside of Sweden: but it sounds like an excellent idea for the court to give the plaintiffs an adviser and counsellor who also knows the details of the legal processes.
  • The ability of a plaintiff to appeal a decision - and the ability (in 12% of appeals in 2010) to have the investigation reopened is a good way of checking decisions.  In England the police are often criticised for deciding not to bring charges in certain cases – this process is a safeguard against possibly wrong decisions

Yet all these (and more) have been – and are being –  misrepresented by Wikileaks and their supporters.  If they succeed in discrediting these processes, what chance is there to adopt them elsewhere?  That can do no good, and could very possibly harm victims (and  accused) everywhere.

There are a lot more examples, which we are collecting on Wikiwatch.

But the fact that Peter Tatchell, Women Against Rape, Amnesty International, and  other high profile supporters are aligning themselves with Assange through such untrue information is not the most worrying aspect of this case.

It’s not the fact that this bad information is being reported by mainstream media like ABC Australia.

It’s not even the fact that justice4assange.com (an official website of Wikileaks),  is heavily biased and also propagates untrue information – or that Wikileaks promote this site so much.

No, the most alarming aspect of the support being given to Wikileaks is that it could be seen as giving tacit approval to the behaviour of Wikileaks (via their official site justice4assange), which links directly to the now infamous Rixstep attack article.

TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR SOME QUOTED TEXT BELOW.
A few choice quotes from that Rixstep.com page (except the names of the two women have been redacted):

Except [REDACTED] never said “no”… [REDACTED] deliberately ambushed him so she could bed him and brag about it afterwards.

..Joseph Goebels.. [would have gone to] feminist Sweden of today to take lessons from the real pros.

Both [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] are basket cases.

But there are things one can do against domestic violence, even if the chief cause is the women.

And from this follow the precepts of of Swedish State feminism…
1) Women should preferably not engage in heterosexual sex. They should go lesbian instead.
2) Women in marriages and relationships with men should immediately stop have sex with them.  For to have sex with them is to betray the feminist cause.  Women who have sex with men are traitors. [emphasis in the original, changed to bold here]
3) Sex with a man is always rape. Always. No matter the circumstances.  Period…

To find that numbered list, by the way, search the article for the words “rape the shit out of them”.

You may be thinking that this must surely be a mistake; has the official Wikileaks site linked to rixstep.com by accident? Yet there is the link (with clear instructions to follow it), at the very top of the “Duckpond” page – which is the very first controversy that the site menu points us towards (click “Controversies” – it’s the first option).  But just to make sure you didn’t miss it, Wikileaks tweeted a direct link to that article in December 2011.  Just after they tweeted this (warning: extreme and graphic violence).

Such is the behaviour of the organisation that human rights activists are now standing behind.

So overall, this is a very worrying time for human rights activists and feminists in particular. A powerful, high-profile man is refusing to face criminal proceedings  for rape and sexual assault. His organisation is openly linking to disinformation and nasty articles that attack the plaintiffs personally (and women in general).

And human rights activists are standing with him and supporting him in his fight to avoid returning to Sweden: based on that same bad information. This will not enhance their credibility; but quite the reverse.

Worrying times indeed.

Responses

We pointed out some of the above to people we mentioned and other supporters.

Vivianne Westwood‘s office asked us to re-send the original information (link goes to original emails), confirmed receipt, but would not reply again, despite a further request from us.

Peter Tatchell told us:

I believe that Assange should answer the sexual assault allegations. The alleged victims of sexual assault should not be abused or vilified. Their claims should be taken seriously. They deserve justice if a crime has been committed.

I do not and never have tacitly supported the comments to which you refer. Nor do I approve of the phrase you quote [from Rixstep].

While not agreeing with everything that Wikileaks says or does, overall I support its exposure of war crimes and other abuses by US military and diplomatic personnel.

I urge Wikileaks and my fellow Wikileaks supporters to not abuse or harass our critics or the alleged victims of sexual assault. Let’s keep the debate civilised and honourable, even if some people on the other side don’t.

If Sweden doesn’t extradite to the US on the grounds of espionage and leaking, why has the Swedish government refused to say this publicly?

Mr Tatchell also referred us to his twitter feed, where he (incorrectly) states the following:

  1. Assange has not been charged (see above).
  2. Sweden could extradite to the USA for leaking military secrets and face the death penalty (Sweden cannot extradite for espionage at all – or for any crime if the death penalty is not ruled out by the requesting country in advance).
  3. If extradited for one offence, Assange could later be charged with another one in the USA (this last is also explicitly prohibited by the extradition treaty, as is standard in such treaties).

We would, however, like to join Mr Tatchell in urging the Swedish government to give this very simple clarification: does Sweden extradite for espionage, or for leaking of information (military or otherwise)? Not on an individual case basis, but as stated by Mark Klamberg in his analysis: does the Swedish government agree that this is accurate? A simple statement to this effect would lay to rest a lot of debate in the UK and elsewhere, and possibly help to resolve this situation. Update: We note the Swedish government have already made this statement, which clearly states that they do not extradite for political or military crimes, but we think they could go further with the clarification and explicitly state that political crimes include espionage, and that leaking is not a crime in Sweden.  Sadly, that is what it seems it will take to lay the rumours to rest.

Amnesty International in London have only just been contacted; we await a reply from them.  But their Stockholm office have released the following statement (translation by us with help from Google):

The Swedish section of Amnesty International does not endorse the way the organization has set itself on the issue of guarantees. Swedish section does not believe that it is either appropriate or possible to demand that the Swedish government provide assurances that Assange not be extradited to the United States.

Women Against Rape have not returned our emails, despite several requests over several days.

Reviews and comments on this article

“A really good round-up post on the #Assange extradition and Wikileaks” - David Allen Green, lawyer and New Statesman legal blogger.

“You can support equality or support Wikileaks but you can’t do both” - Nick Cohen, journalist

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6 Responses to Assange and Human Rights

  1. justanotherswedeonthefirm'spayroll says:

    The US-Sweden extradition treaty does not specify how the requested state is to deal with extradition requests, but even if it did, that would still in Sweden’s case have required corresponding domestic legislation to take effect.

    Rather the supreme court’s power in extradition matters come from legislation (Lag om utlämning för brott: http://www.notisum.se/Pub/Doc.aspx?url=/rnp/sls/lag/19570668.htm , English translation which does not include changes after 2003: http://www.sweden.gov.se/content/1/c6/03/79/09/f391f7b5.pdf ; this law deals with extradition requests from non-Nordic non-EU countries), legislation being the domain of parliament. This should not be called “delegation” (whether from parliament or from government).

    Besides, the Swedish government is in general not at liberty to delegate government matters to other institutions.

    The claim that the supreme court (which is the only court that can be involved) has all the decision-making power is wrong.

    The matter does not even reach the court in case the government quashes the request immediately (which it is obliged to do if it is obvious that the request should not be granted) or in case the requested person consents to the extradition.

    If the matter comes before the court, it doesn’t decide the request; rather its task is to decide whether there is any bar to extradition according to 1-10 §§ of the extradition law. This is by no means merely a formal distinction. The court finding there is no 1-10 §§ bar does not determine the matter, neither in law nor in practice.

    There can be a 11 § bar (that the person is under preliminary investigation, on trial or serving a prison sentence in Sweden for a different crime punishable by prison); of course this isn’t a difficult determination, still it isn’t the court’s job to make the finding.

    If the request is solely blocked by a 11 § bar, then it is for the government to decide whether to temporarily surrender the person for trial in the requesting state or to postpone the extradition till the end of legal proceedings/sentence in Sweden. (This is the temporary surrender procedure, that has been so grossly misconstrued (to put it charitably) in some quarters.)

    12 § obliges the government to set certain conditions for the extradition; it is for the government to decide whether these conditions are sufficiently assured. This includes the non-application of the death penalty (which is not dealt with in 1-10 §§).

    It is for the government to determine whether the general conditions of the requesting state are such as to allow for extradition; the court only deals with the individual case. That the general conditions are such as to disallow extradition does not necessarily mean there will be a 1-10 §§ bar.

    1-10 §§ are by no means meant to be understood as an exhaustive list of reasons against extradition. There can be good reasons not to extradite without there being a 1-10 §§ bar; and such reasons can even mean there is an international obligation on Sweden not to go through with the extradition. Of particular note is the European convention on human rights. Now, as it happens, after the convention’s incorporation into Swedish law in 1995, the court has apparently tasked itself (somewhat dubiously to my mind) with finding whether the convention bars extradition. I don’t think the court finding an ECHR bar legally binds the government, although we can probably safely assume the government wouldn’t make a different finding in such an event.

    But whether or not the court concerns itself with the ECHR, the government is bound to follow the convention, and of course was so also before 1995. So if the court didn’t make the determination, then the government would have to make it. Also, the court when applying ECHR takes a strict approach, setting a high threshold for finding a bar; the government can take a looser approach.

    Also, when it comes to 1-10 §§ bars, the government can find one when the court hasn’t. This is true simply because circumstances may have changed in the time between the court’s decision and the government’s. But some of these bars are also such that people can reasonably differ.

    Furthermore, there being no bar of any kind, does not mean from the p.o.v. of the Swedish law that the government has to go through with the extradition, even in cases where there is a treaty obligation. Treaty-breaking happens with regularity (see e.g. Ecuador misusing its Lodon embassy). But presumably the government in such an event would claim one bar or another rather than openly breaking the treaty.

  2. mary eng says:

    thank you for more attention to anti-semitism whitewashed by assange, jennifer robinson, and wikileaks central. the key issues are the israel shamir issue and johannes wahlstrom issue so well covered by james ball at the guardian. newer issues to emerge include assange linking to a neonazi extremist on his justice4assange website. while on surface a “free speech fpor racists” defense might be applied, it is more beneficial to look at the victims of the neonazi murderer’s families. when assange cites a neonazi murderer wqho has killed police men in sweden, he sends a message of disrespect to the families of the neonazi murders. that this link is promoted by his key blogger and legal architect rixstep who also verbally harasses the rape victims online, should inflame our sesibilities towards the evolution to internationalized rape shield law. it is not beneficial to harass people who report crime, to the point that crime reporting is diminished, or crime victims choose silence or suicide. i am encouraged that oisin cantwell at aftonbladet is concerned that assange has also cited the overtly racist newspaper Fria Tider which has attacked him, i allege partially due to his excellent work covering Nazi Extremist Murderer Breivik’s trial. why should assange promote holocaust denial, rape victim harassment, neonazi murderers who write law blogs from swedish prison, and racist newspapers from sweden? this is not justice for sweden. anti-semitism is so severe in sweden that the synagogue is on an RSVP basis in stockholm due to hate crime attacks. for assange to promote nazis and murderers and holocaust revisionists, or call yossi melman an SOB, is such a sexist and unprofessional and racist manner of comportment, it puzzles me that the american and UK left still sanctify assange, and the mainstream media refuses to engage with assange’s more recent links to nazi-ism with tony olsson and fria tider and rixstep rick downes, or his past ties with israel shamir, or even putin, whose homophobic discrimination should alarm us.
    i hope that this issues can be explored in greater detail.
    great credit is due Goran Rudling for pointing out Assange’s neo Nazi cop killer Legal article on Sweden’s Lay Judges on Rixstep and Justice4assange.
    i immediately tried to petition assange to get this racist nazi association broken, and tried to help him see how misogyny was hurting his rape defense.
    i appreciate very much soupy one for future article on assange racist issues.
    notable is his deense of Australian Racist Bolt.
    notable also Christian Chistensen’s interrogation of assange retweeting UKIP racist party pro-assange press in june 2012 and CC denouncing assange’s fria tider publicity for the racist newspaper.
    also kudos to @Jerlerup for his interest in assange’s new racist agenda.
    the failure of Norway and Europe to take its Nazi Extremism seriously will only lead to more Breivik Style massacres. It is important to denounce affiliations and promotion of murderous agenda, including Baltasar Garzon’s torture of Basque and Catalan separatists or assange blogger Marcello Ferrada de Noli’s ridicule of Lesbians and Honor Killing Research and PTSD among rape victims.
    i have tried to make a point of contact with kurdo baksi in sweden whose immense work in the antiracist struggle i admire.
    please contact me at [email protected] or USA (01) 503 577 0977 for more information on Tony Olsson link in Assange Rape defense.
    i am attempting to be in touch with Michael Rattner of the CCR regarding the NeoNazi aspects of the Assange defense and Cyberbullying rape victims. i have tried to get War Rape scholar from Rwanda and Rape Law expert Michelle Anderson from Cuny to weigh in.
    Taking NeonAzi Massacres seriously and Suicide rates among Rape Victims seriously will hopefully promote an atmosphere in which compassionate criminal law defense can operate with highest integrity.
    it is demoralizing to see continued attacks on Swedish domestic violence activists and women by the assange defense team.
    this is so disrespectful to the work in criminology which notates the medical effects of rape and resulting depression and somatic symptomology.
    every year women are killed in sweden
    many thanks to women under seige, fair girls, aha foundation, karma nirvana, and half the sky, when the nation and democracy now’s rape apologism and complicity with anti-semitism has m0rally vanquished me.
    i am very interested in tracking cyberbullying specific to assange fanaticism, death threats, and neonazis who also support wikileaks.
    there is one aryan supremicist who promotes the Breivik and Assange sanctification in unison. i find this disturbing and would like to document and learn more.
    also it is worth note that ant-racists in sweden face death threats, and racist shootings have been occurring in Malmo. this cannot be ignored. our complicity in fueling racialized violence cannot be euphemized by the application of the word ‘wikileaks.’

  3. Objectiviser says:

    Hi Sling,

    your objection was examined when you raised it by twitter, and we still stand by what we said then. Our thoughts can be found here:
    http://www.wikiwatch.org.uk/criticism/#rixstep

    Our readers may also like to see Sling’s claims that the European Arrest Warrant has made all missionary-position sex illegal in Europe, and our response to that claim:
    http://www.wikiwatch.org.uk/4corners/#comment-50

  4. Sling Trebuchet says:

    “To find that numbered list, by the way, search the article for the words “rape the shit out of them”

    That’s an interesting technique.
    In order to find a numbered list that begins with “1) Women should preferably not engage in heterosexual sex”, you advise that people search for something not on the list.

    Just as in your graphic that is headed by the same words, this is an outrageuos attempt to manipulate the emotions of the reader by taking text out of context.
    Your intention is that *if* the reader cares to read the page in order to check the background, they will read it in a prejudicial frame of mind. Ideally for your technique, the reader will never check – they would just go “Oh my goodness. How offensive”, and leave the mud sticking.

    When I first saw your graphic (with that offensive pieve of text as headline) I checked out the page in question.
    The offensive phrase is actually used in the context of an attitude attributed by fictional OTT women to fictional OTT men. Any fair and open-minded reading would see that.
    You however insinuate that the phrase is an exhortation by the author of that page.

    The technique is dishonest.
    Your advice to ‘Search for something by searching for something else’ – is transparent and dishonest mud-slinging.

    When I see you deliberately do something so blatantly dishonest, I question everything you do.

  5. pro2rat says:

    Thank you for this timely and lucid summation. I first broke with Assange over his treatment of fellow cypherpunk revolutionists ( in late 2010) Everything that’s come out since has helped justify this decision ( previously I was a strong supporter)

    Assange has huge credibility problems now with cypherpunks, revolutionists, women, GIBLETS, Syrians ( his RT programs ) and anyone whose intelligence has been insulted by the bs that he and his fanatical supporters have pumped out since 2010.

    Thanks again

    Yrs etc Professor rat

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