Archive for » June 3rd, 2012 «

Justice, the European Arrest Warrant, and Assange

What do these three have in common? It would seem, absolutely nothing!

In late 2010 it came to light that Sweden wanted to question Julian Assange over a possible case against him for what might be considered rape in swedish laws (as far as I can gather it’s consensual sex but not consensual un-protected sex that’s causing the issues), and I want to stress that they only wish to question him, not to actually charge him.

Assange obviously appealed. He has no wish to be jailed in Sweden just because the prosecutor wishes to question him, surely she can do that via the British police or a video conference. It’s not like he’s going anywhere. He’s been under house arrest for 550 days as of the date of this post.

On top of that there has also been a leek from Stratfor’s internal email system confirming that the US have a sealed indictment to extradite Assange to the US which was granted by a secret grand jury. At any point this could be opened and then they would call for his extradition. Sweden has a slightly different agreement with the US on extradition than many other european countries do. The most notable being the clause for ‘temporary’ surrender of any of their prisoners to the US to face any possible US charges. ie it’s easier from Sweden than any other European country. There’s more info on that here about a third of the way down the page. I’d also like to being attention to the fact that this clause hasn’t been challenged by Sweden since 2000 so there chances of protecting Assange and not letting him be extradited on are very slim.

I seriously doubt Assange wants to be extradited to the US to face possible charges of treason/espionage act, both of which have the death penalty if found guilty, especially considering how a secret grand jury works. The grand jury is a randomly selected bunch of people who sit in a room where no one is present for the defendant unless witnesses are called forward, no lawyers for any witnesses or the defendant are present and the prosecutor has to convince the jury to press charges. Yup you heard that right, no one defends at all and a jury has to decide based on that, so of course there’s an indictment against Assange.

Here’s where I think things have gone wrong.

  1. He’s not actually being charged. He’s only wanted for questioning and the case has already been closed and re-opened since it was first brought to light in I think April 2010.
  2. It’s normal for questioning to happen without the defendant having to leave their home country. They just get the country’s police to act as go betweens or set up video conferencing to do the questioning. For some reason they’re not doing this here.
  3. Sweden’s papers have been slandering Assange, printing things which aren’t true, and even the PM has spoken out about Assange being a rapist, so the vast majority of Swedish people, including the PM, have decided he’s guilty, before he’s even been charged, let alone tried. There’s now no way he can be assured a fair trial in Sweden.
  4. The person who asked for arrest in the UK has to be seperate from the prosecutor and part of the court system (a judge) instead to ensure no conflict of interest and impartiality. This isn’t the case with Assange’s arrest warrant. It’s a prosecutor who has asked for his arrest, someone with a conflict of interests. This is what was argued in the Supreme Court.
  5. I’m not 100% sure but do believe that the charges being investigated are that he had consensual sex without the use of protection, and the issue was the lack of protection. I don’t think this is actually a prosecutable offence in the UK. Now leaving out whether it should be or not (I actually think it should) that’s a problem.
  6. The Supreme Court have a motion of 5-2 to extradite Assange, where two of the 5 based their answer on something not even brought up or agued about during the court hearings and for the first time ever in the history of the supreme court are allowing the defendant to appeal for the court itself to reopen the case and talk about that point. If you watch the video they even seemed to expect this. They seem to be having trouble making up their minds. I’ve also mentioned some more of what they have to say in the bottom paragraph.
  7. The Uk courts are not allowed to look at the evidence for the possible charge before deciding whether to extradite Assange or not and Assange hasn’t even been given everything.

Leaving aside whether Assange is guilty or not and how the possible victims must feel, there’s a lot wrong with this case.

But even going into the guilt or not guilt there’s issues. For starters even if you assume Assange is guilty (which isn’t how we’re meant to think, innocent until proven guilty remember), the case has been handled badly and technically there is the possibility they’ve not even got enough actual evidence to charge him. It’s a far cry from wanting to question to wanting to charge and if they closed the case once for lack of evidence, what makes you think they have more evidence now when they’ve still not actually charged him.

On top of that, even if he’s guilty there’s a significanct chance he’ll be found guilty in Sweden regardless. The Swedish PM himself called him a rapist in front of the public. Last I checked he’d not been charged. Again that, innocent until proven guilty, thing. There’s a significant chance he’s going to be decided as guilty in Sweden regardlessly and theoretically it’s his human right to be protected from that kind of prejudice. Admittedly this creates other problems. With his trial so public is there now any way to ensure him a fair trial? and what about the victims? if he is guilty they need justice, but is it even possible for them to get justice anymore? I don’t know the answers to these questions but a fair trial is important.

Going back to the assumption he’s innocent then there are even more problems. He’s facing prison in Sweden from a biased trial and possibly even extradition to the US all because of something he may well have not done. In the mean time he’s had to spend 550 days under house arrest and yes that may well be in a mansion but, seriously, is that any reason to fight less for his rights to freedom because he essentially has a nicer prison than most people do (I did actually have someone say this to me. ‘It’s ok, his house arrest is in a mansion.’ A cage is a cage no matter how nice the curtains)?

This whole fiasco could be prevented by the prosecutor aggreeing to either, question him via a video conference, and/or sign an official agreement with the UK courts that Assange, under no circumstances will be handed over to the US at any point during the proceedings. Assange is much more likely to go to Sweden to be questioned if he knows he’s not going to be extraded to the US as soon as he gets there. Alternatively rather than having the costs of him going over to Sweden to be questioned, he could just be questioned here and held under house arrest for the next 48 hours so they can decide to charge, because if I remember right in UK law, someone not charged but suspected of a crime, like Assange is, can only be held for questioning for 48 hours before they have to be released, unless enough evidence is gathered to press charges (which has already been deemed not possible once). So Assange has been in prison 548 days longer than that all because he wants to be questioned here rather than there. Am I the only person who can see how messed in the head that is! Just question him here already people!

Whether he did it or not surely justice would be better served by just asking the guy the questions now, rather than dragging it out for whichever side is the actual victim here.

On top of the sillyness. Why can’t the UK courts look at the evidence already gathered and see for themselves if the whole case is rediculous or not! That way all the time being wasted on whether the arrest warrant is even valid would be moot. If there’s not enough evidence to charge him then they don’t get to extradite him, simple as that.

Finally for another set of plain stupidity, this time by our own judges in the Supreme court there’s a great blog here which goes over a few snippets from the SC’s document and current view on things. There’s one lord who’s basically said he views International cooperation of a higher importance than ensuring that the judicial authority is impartial. Ie as long as our allies our happy who gives a stuff if a citizen gets a fair trial or not. Another of the judges then goes on to say that the french word used in the initial agreement allows for the prosecutor to be a valid judicial authority, so is going with what the french think, despite it not matching with the English definition of the word. Last I checked the Judge was in the UK courts and a Uk citizen but he seems to have confused our country with France!