An open letter to Sweden

Dear Sweden,

For decades your country has been respected worldwide as a place of tolerance, openness, fairness and equality, and proud independence. But in the last two years, this has changed and changed a great deal.

Human Rights activists and organisations are lining up to criticise Sweden. Your legal systems, the way that alleged victims are given a state-appointed målsägarbiträde, private hearings for sexual cases, the way that victims and the accused are interviewed and many other things are being said to be against liberal values, against freedom, and show that Sweden is nothing more than a puppet of the USA.  Only recently, Amnesty International joined in, demanding that Sweden give assurances that cannot be given.  Sweden has even been compared to Saudi Arabia for human rights.

That is quite shocking.

Were you aware of this?  Certainly, outside of Sweden this is obvious and the voices calling for Sweden to change (or ignore) your own laws and legal system are getting louder.  Suddenly Sweden is not a good place to go if you value freedom – and it is getting worse.

This is not simply a case of Swedish national pride being hurt; at the time of writing, Sweden is under a cyber attack by activists, protesting “the human rights violations” by Sweden.

But the more I learn about the Swedish process, the more I envy Sweden.  In England*, a person who makes a complaint to the police is often left alone to deal with the case.  The case may be dropped with no input from the victim, let alone a chance to appeal through överprövning av åklagarbeslut.  The victim may not be given any support at all, and they certainly won’t get a målsägarbiträde to help them.  Any court case will be heard in open court – in public, where anyone who wants to can sit in and listen to all the details.  The victim must also give evidence in open court, facing the accused – unless the court give them permission to sit behind a screen or use a video link.  A victim in England is very unlikely to even report a crime; perhaps partly because our process is so unfriendly and such a struggle to get through.

So the more I learn of the Swedish process, the more I think that the United Kingdom (and other countries) could also benefit from processes like these. Yet these are some of the very processes being widely discredited – and not just by individuals.  ABC Australia (Australia’s national television station) have done exactly this.  Due to such widespread bad information, big names such as  Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, and now Amnesty International, Peter Tatchell, Women Against Rape, and Slutwalk London have all declared open support for Julian Assange in his fight to stay away from Sweden.

The damage being done to Sweden’s reputation, the rights of victims, and to the chances of improving other systems is very real and it is getting worse.

How did this happen?  Wikileaks have 1.6 million followers, and were a trusted source of information in the past.  But they are now saying this sort of thing:

And that’s just recently.  The detailed attacks on Sweden go much, much deeper and much further (and include direct attacks on the two women in the Assange case).  Check (an official wikileaks site) and see the article on Lay Judges.  It links heavily to Aftonbladet and rixstep, including to this article (the link is on “body language”) by Tony Olsson (yes that Tony Olsson, though note carefully how Rixstep describe him).

I know what you are thinking. “This is ludicrous and ridiculous! This is not something that anyone would take seriously for one single moment! Such claims are so easy to demolish!  It is nothing more than a conspiracy theory!” Yet a cyber attack along with ABC Australia and Amnesty International getting involved suggests it is being taken very seriously outside of Sweden.

The simple fact is that the conspiracy theory is made more believable by some things that the Swedish authorities have said.  They say they have not brought charges yet, when they mean that Assange is not yet “åtalad”.  In England a person could be said to be charged when they are “misstänkt för brott”.

The Swedish authorities keep saying that they are at the stage of “preliminary investigation” – a literal translation of the Swedish, we think.  In English, this clearly means that they do not yet have enough evidence to charge (or probably even arrest) somebody.  They are looking around, trying to find who is responsible for a crime (or even to see if there is a crime at all).

Would you support an extradition from Sweden for somebody who was not even misstänkt för brott, when the foreign authorities say he must be detained (perhaps indefinitely) so that he can be “questioned”?  Almost certainly not – but this is what we hear (in English) about Assange.  He has not been “charged” but he must come back to Sweden and go to prison until he is “questioned”, after which they will decide whether or not to “charge” him.  Human Rights organisations are very concerned – but many of their concerns come from the translations into English that are being used in the case; if one understands the process, it is not at all concerning.

The Swedish government also refuses to guarantee  that they will not extradite Assange to the USA for espionage.  This is because:

  1. Such a decision would be for the Swedish courts, and (rightly) the government must not and cannot interfere either way.
  2. Sweden consider espionage a political crime and do not extradite for it.
  3. In addition, in Sweden, leaking is protected by law – it is not a crime so would not be extraditable either.

Yet time and again, the Swedish authorities say the first thing and not the other two.  When I asked why, a Swedish person said to me: “we could guarantee that we drive on the right hand side of the road, but why would we? Only an idiot would ask for such a guarantee!”

This may seem silly to people in Sweden, but in less civilised parts of the world, hacking government computers or leaking military secrets can be literally a matter of life and death for those who do it.  They are very serious crimes in England and the USA.  Espionage can be punishable by death in the USA,  hacking into a government computers counts as espionage, and England do extradite for this (within EU human rights legislation regarding the death penalty and other punishments, obviously) .  And some well-known politicians have even called for Assange to be killed.

So the rest of the world clearly does need to know that Sweden drive on the right.  To us, this is completely alien.

We are asking for your help, Sweden. We need get the accurate truth out to the world. Urge your government and the prosecuting authorities to clarify the situation in terms that English people will understand.  Go looking for the news stories on the internet; they are not difficult to find: comment on them, and write to the editors of the publications.  If Twitter or reddit is your thing, then the bad information is easy to find – so please help to get the facts out.  We already have a big list of the most common misconceptions, and if you click on the index at the top, it will take you directly to the point in question (for example on questioning).

If you spot any errors on our site, please let us know.  The first step in any discussion is to get the facts correct.  Only then can a discussion be useful.  Once the facts are better known, we can let the discussion lead us where it may.

But the place to start is to get the facts discussed, not the myths.  And to do that, we need your help in defeating the already widespread disinformation which is out there.  Let’s put Sweden back on her feet and away from the firing line of Human Rights organisations.



this post was inspired by the work of Goran Rudling.
* Note that while part of the United Kingdom, England and Wales have a separate legal system to Scotland and Northern Ireland; hence I use “England” where appropriate.  The UK Supreme Court is for all the UK, but operates under English law for English cases, Scottish law for Scottish cases etc.
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