On 2nd March 2011 at 9.15am a meeting was held, organised by Andrew Laming (Liberal Party MP Bowman Qld) at Parliament House Canberra to allow federal parliamentarians who wished to attend, some insights into the matters of Julian Assange facing extradition from the UK to Sweden, and facing (subject to that extradition process) a possible trial in Sweden and another possible extradition to the USA thereafter.
Among others, MPs Andrew Laming, Malcolm Turnbull, Doug Cameron and Sarah Hanson-Young were in attendance, along with parliamentary staff members.
Three speakers made themselves available for oral presentations and questions: Greg Barns, barrister from Tasmania; former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin and Peter Kemp, solicitor from NSW. The latter two made written material available for the parliamentarians, reprinted below with their permission. Written material was also provided by Jennifer Robinson, UK counsel for the Julian Assange. That material is reprinted with permission here.
After short addresses by each of the three speakers, the meeting was opened for questions and summaries of each speaker in the proceedings appears below, after biographies.
1) TONY KEVIN
Tony Kevin’s biography:
Tony Kevin retired from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1998, after a thirty-year public service career. He served in the Prime Minister’s Department, and was Australia’s ambassador to Poland and Cambodia. He is currently an honorary visiting fellow at the ANU Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. He has written extensively on Australian foreign, national security and refugee policies in Australia’s national print media, including Eureka Street, Canberra Times, the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, and Australian Financial Review. Since February 2002, his research has been focused on the sinking of the asylum-seeker boat that he named SIEV X
Tony Kevin’s summary of the meeting as provided to Wikileaks Central: “Impressions of the multi-party briefing meeting at Parliament House Canberra on 2 March”:
It was a most constructive discussion, organised by Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming, and notable for the high level and numbers of political attendance, including Malcolm Turnbull (Liberal) , and Senators Doug Cameron (Labor) and Sarah Hanson-Young (Greens). Many political staffers attended. The discussion was practically focussed, on clear and present dangers to Julian Assange’s safety as an Australian citizen but living outside the legal protections of his own country, and how his human rights might best be protected by his government as complex legal situations in Sweden and the USA evolve in coming weeks and months.
Participants went away better informed and with a set of useful briefing papers that will help them better to evaluate and respond to future developments in this unpredictable and fast-moving story. Heartening was the general cross-party responsible concern for Julian Assange’s welfare. It is good to see our parliamentary democracy working so well.
Tony Kevin, Canberra 3 March
Tony Kevin provided the following written material for the meeting: ASSANGE TALK – ISSUES
My focus here is not on debating Wikileaks but on:
1. Whether Assange’s rights as an Australian citizen abroad to the Australian Government’s full consular protection against unjust treatment are now at risk?
2. If so, whether our government could or should do more to help protect him, either now or later after the extradition decision on the rape case has been made and implemented?
At the end of this talk I make a recommendation for your committee’s possible consideration.**
There is growing concern in UK human rights circles that too many people are being extradited from the UK whose human rights are then violated. Public concern about Assange taps into this. However, in the UK as in Australia, most extradition decisions are enforced, overriding appeals. Judges consider extradition cases on the procedural legality of the warrant, not on substance of the case.
There is a built -in assumption that the receiving country will judge the case fairly and will respect human rights norms. Some judges even say what happens later to extradited persons is none of their business as judges. Australian governments sometimes ask for political guarantees that death penalties will not be imposed eg in a landmark case of an extradition from here to Singapore.
There is scope for Attorneys-General to override judicial decisions to approve extraditions, on political or humanitarian grounds, but these powers are rarely if ever used. Assange’s team appealed Judge Riddle’s decision last week, to be heard on Thursday 3 March (UK time).
Might Assange’s human rights be at risk if he were extradited against his will to Sweden?
I ask first, were the rape allegations against Assange an unrelated sequence of random events, or might they have been prompted or later exploited by persons with hostile political intent against Assange ? To put it strongly, might Assange have stumbled into some kind of ‘honey trap’ in Sweden, set by people out to cripple Wikileaks’ political effectiveness at the least, and who might have known his personal lifestyle preferences and his vulnerable state of mind at the time?
It seems that Assange was excited and euphoric and quite emotionally vulnerable when he arrived in Sweden in August 2010. He was living through a stressful time of virulent abuse and death threats from people in USA deeply angered by the harm they think Wikileaks is doing to American national interests.
He may have naively thought he had found a kind of refuge from American retaliation among friends and supporters in what he thought was a safe liberal country. He may have naively thought he could relax in Sweden from his normally very guarded personal life. Prominent well-connected figures in US politics both Republican and Democrat have expressed deep loathing for Assange, even calling for him to receive the death penalty or be assassinated for exposing US state secrets.
If there was a honey trap, or political exploitation of a situation randomly created by Assange’s actions, it is quite possible that the US government is not involved. A private contract could have been put out to entrap Assange in Sweden. A lot of this kind of activity has been privatised in the USA in recent decades.
Political background – Relevant Sweden/USA connections
I researched reputable US investigative journalism, as published on US internet sites like Huffington Post and the Swedish English-language internet site www.swedishwire.comby American investigative journalists Andrew Krieg and Roger Shuler. They have raised disturbing questions about the position of the Swedish Government in the case, and its US connections.
Sweden has moved to the right since 9/11 (2001). The present government in Sweden since 2006 is a centre-right coalition government under Prime Minister Fredric Reinfeldt. He leads the Moderate Party, actually a conservative party which has close ties with the US Republican right. Reinfeldt and Bush are friends. Reimfeldt is ideologically and personally close to the former Bush Administration.
Reinfeldt’s party favours Sweden joining NATO, and under his government Sweden operates as a de facto member of NATO. Karl Rove, the controversial architect of George Bush’s political success from 1994 until he resigned under pressure in 2007, has been implicated in many US political-legal scandals though no allegations have been proven or sustained. These scandals include the Valerie Plame affair, the Bush White House e-mail controversy and the related dismissal of U.S. Democratic Party –affiliated state attorneys .
Rove is proud of his Swedish descent and is close to the conservative side of Swedish politics. He has been a friend and political adviser to Reinfeldt for the past two years, and in his private consultancy role visits Sweden regularly e.g. in November last year. The legal firm representing the two women in the rape case, Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen, is a partnership, Borgstrom and Bodstrom. Both men are former Social Democrat politicians. Bodstrom is a best selling author of spy thrillers. Last year he left his parliamentary seat and moved to the US for six months, citing a need for family time and to write another book.
As Sweden’s Minister of Justice in 2001, Bodstrom had a major policy role in the decision by his government in 2001 secretly to hand over to the CIA two asylum-seekers in Sweden who were suspected by the CIA of being terrorists. The CIA flew the men from Sweden to Egypt where they were tortured. Sweden later awarded them damages for their torture. Bodstrom’s partner on the firm, Borgstrom, represents the two women accusers. Borgstrom is the primary advocate in the complaint initiated by this legal firm against Assange. He stresses that only he, not his partner Bodstrom, represents the women.
Swedish PM’s comments
Swedish national pride is now engaged by Assange’s UK defence team’s casting of doubt on the integrity of Swedish justice.. Geoffrey Robertson said on 11 February that a toxic atmosphere has been created against Assange in Sweden by remarks about the case made by the Swedish PM on 8 February. But some Swedes say that Reinfeldt was legitimately responding to stones that had already been cast by Assange’s lawyers. Reinfeldt was reported by Reuters on 8 February:
What worries me is that they are trying to shy away from the fact that there exist allegations which are very serious.
And as reported more fully on Swedish Wire, from Swedish news agency TT:
It is unfortunate that women’s rights and standpoint is taken lightly when it comes to this kind of question compared to other types of theories presented. I can only defend what everyone in Sweden already knows; that we have an independent, non-coerced judiciary.
Reinfeldt rejected the notion that Assange’s human rights could be violated in a Swedish rape trial.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of thing you hear when a lawyer trying to defend a client gives a condescending description of other countries’ legal systems. But everyone living in Sweden knows that is not in line with the truth.
Assange’s prospects for avoiding extradition to Sweden
Likely that Assange will sooner or later be extradited to Sweden. Hard to see now after the exhaustive Riddle judgement how any UK appeal court could find grounds for disallowing the Swedish request for a European extradition warrant. If anyone has entrapped Assange, they have so far covered their tracks well. It is equally hard to see how the UK Attorney-General could override on humanitarian grounds an appeal verdict that went against Assange, Sweden being a friendly EU member country with a high reputation for due legal process and respecting human rights.
Is Mr Rudd doing enough for Assange? And some awful possible scenarios down the track …
It’s hard to see how the Australian government could ask Sweden to withdraw its extradition request to Britain, which according to Judge Riddle was legally made. A complaint was made by Swedish women that Assange broke Swedish laws in Sweden and Swedish law authorities want Assange in Sweden to answer those accusations.
If Assange were living in Australia and Sweden were to demand his extradition from here on these charges, it would present a very similar problem for Australian courts and an Australian Attorney-General as their British equivalents now face. Rudd has already gone a long way to try to help Assange. Unusually, when you consider the countries involved, the Australian Ambassador in Sweden Paul Stephens sent a letter to Swedish Justice Minister on 10 Feb. According to a document leaked by somebody, it is not clear who, to Agence France Presse on 18 Feb (my source is swedishwire.com 18 Feb) the letter said:
‘I wish to convey the Australian Government’s expectation that, should Mr Assange be brought into Swedish jurisdiction, his case would proceed in accordance with due process and the provisions prescribed under Swedish law’ ….
The letter said also that Australia also expected a Swedish trial of Assange would respect‘applicable European and international laws, including relevant human rights norms’.
This seems a good action by Mr Rudd. But I note that these requests relate only to the matter of the case brought against Assange by the two women. Let’s assume that Mr Rudd’s requests will be honoured by Sweden. If the cases go to trial, Assange will be judged by Swedish courts, which are assumed to be independent of politics, and according to Swedish rape laws.
If Assange were convicted, Australia could do nothing about any resulting sentence in Sweden except to ask for clemency – as our government often does in other cases of Australians sentenced abroad for actions that would not be crimes, or would be lesser crimes, in Australia.
But the more disturbing possibility – not alluded to in the Australian Ambassador’s letter so far as we know – is that once Assange is in Sweden, whether doing time in a Swedish gaol or not, the Swedish government might be asked by the US government to extradite him to the US to face charges of a political character relating to Wikileaks. How would Sweden respond to US? Would the response be any different from the way the UK or Australia would respond to such a US request, if Assange were to be living in the UK or Australia at the time?
This contingency is possible from the moment Assange sets foot on Swedish soil. It would present difficult political problems for Mr Rudd and Mr McClelland. However much the Australian public might protest (and they would!) against an American request to extradite Mr Assange on Wikileaks grounds, our legal system, like the UK legal system, would seem likely to judge such a US request almost entirely on the legality of the process.
It seems from the Singapore case that Australian judges might not even want to consider the question of Mr Assange’s safety once in the USA. It would then be for our A-G to consider whether to override such a procedurally based decision by our courts on grounds that Mr Assange’s human rights and physical safety might be at grave risk, if Assange were extradited to the US on such political grounds and in the current hostile political climate after Wikileaks.
It would take a brave A-G and Australian Government to take such a decision, which would be applauded in human rights circles but bitterly attacked by conservatives. Sweden – or Britain, if by some miracle Assange were able to stay in Britain – could be faced in a few weeks time with this same situation. Both are US friends and NATO allies. How would the Reinfeldt government most likely respond? I would assume they would be inclined to say yes to the US. What reason would they have for protecting a non-Swedish citizen fron US wrath? Like Pontius Pilate, they might wash their hands of the Assange matter.
How would the Cameron government respond? Hard to say. They remember how UK citizens suffered in Guantanamo and how hard it was for UK to get them back.
In 2001, after 9/11, Australia did nothing effective to protect the human rights of our citizens Hicks and Habib from US punitive mistreatment in Pakistan, Egypt and Guantanamo. Many of us regret that now.
CONCLUSION: I think this option is worth considering – Should Mr Rudd and/or Mr McClelland now be asking the Swedish and British Justice Ministers for humanitarian guarantees that their countries would not surrender up Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, to the US to face political charges there over Wikileaks in view of the current dangerously hostile political climate to Assange in the US, without first giving Australian Government the right to repatriate him here and to consider his rights as an Australian citizen thereafter.
Tony Kevin firstname.lastname@example.org Canberra
Greg Barns also contributed as a speaker to the meeting.
His bar association biography: Greg Barns graduated BA LLB from Monash University in 1984. He was a member of the Victorian Bar where he practiced in criminal law from 1986-89 and has been a member of the Tasmanian Bar since 2003. Greg was chief of staff and senior adviser to a number of federal and state Liberal Party leaders and ministers from 1989-99. He is also the former National Chair of the Australian Republican Movement and a director of human rights group, Rights Australia. Greg has written three books on Australian politics, is a Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, and a member of the Australian Defence Lawyers Alliance.
His summary of the meeting as provided to Wikileaks Central:
Political leaders should not undermine the presumption of innocence or make claims about the legal process – the Assange case bears this out. Prime Minister Gillard and others mused about cancelling Julian Assange’s passport and wasted taxpayers money on a fruitless exercise determining whether or not Assange may have omitted offences under Australian law – he hasn’t and never did! The political necessity of the US alliance overrode the rule of law.Assange cannot be guaranteed safety by the Swedes. While their extradition process is similar to that other countries the political pressure from the Americans is a likely countervailing force that could undermine a proper application of extradition law.
Greg Barns Barrister
Michael Kirby Chambers Hobart
Equity Chambers Melbourne
PO Box 124 Battery Point 7004 TAS +61419 691 846
3) PETER KEMP
Peter Kemp is a solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW and editor here at Wikileaks Central and has contributed various open letters and commentary articles on human rights and the law particularly in relation to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. He currently practises in the criminal law area and child protection matters operating from solicitor’s chambers in Armidale, Moree and Walgett NSW. Peter Kemp made the following observations on the meeting:
This was a most productive meeting and I thank Andrew Laming MP for organising it. My concerns are with the human rights breaches that have occurred in the Julian Assange matter and I believe these concerns were thoroughly ventilated at the meeting by myself Greg Barns and Tony Kevin.
A fundamental principle which I stressed at the meeting in relation to any Swedish trial is that that if justice is to be done it must be seen to be done,and not held in secret. The response from the MP’s present gives me some confidence and hope that a son of Australia will not be abandoned to the dubious legal processes of foreign states.
Peter Kemp provided the following written material to the meeting:
Address to members and staff of the Australian Federal Parliament Peter Kemp 02/03/11
I regard myself as a human rights lawyer in a nation that has no separate human rights legislation on the Commonwealth’s statute books.
Were members to enact a human rights bill, my job in, for example, Child Protection matters before Magistrates in NSW Children’s Courts would be a little easier. Children are being removed by DOCS at birth in NSW without being allowed to bond with their mothers and without medical reasons. That’s an argument for a Bill of Rights for another day but my remit here today is the matter of Julian Assange for which other human rights are paramount in my mind.
1) European Arrest Warrant system
The EAW process has changed arguably for the worse and I agree with Julian Assange’s solicitor Mark Stephen’s comment that it is a “tick box” regime. That the EAW system does not allow direct testing of the prosecution evidence is something that might be common with some extradition treaties, but some EU nations have pursued extraditions that are flimsy and have resulted in some rather unfortunate human rights abuses. The threshold is way too low.
The Framework Decision of June 2002 that established the EAW needs modification to prevent abuse. For the UK, prior to the Extradition Act passed in 2003 applications for extradition to the UK had to show a prima facie case, ie is there enough evidence on the face of it that a jury properly instructed could find an accused guilty.
All extradition processes should be akin to committal proceedings in principle and perhaps with witnesses being called only in cases where the defence can establish substantial reasons or special reasons for witnesses to be called to test their evidence, but otherwise all witness statements should be made available to the Magistrate or Judge for extradition purposes, as they are for committal processes, ie a prima facie case.
During Mr Assange’s first bail application in the UK where strength of the prosecution case is an important factor in determining bail, under UK and also Australian bail law incidently, the Swedish prosecution seemed unaware of this and had little to no such evidence available. In any event extraordinarily high bail cash surities have been imposed on Julian Assange involving hundreds of thousands of UK pounds.
The EAW is fast track system and was designed for terrorism offences across the EU at a time of great fear of international terrorism early in the new century. It is being complained about and apparently will be reviewed soon. Sweden’s system in the ongoing extradition process of Julian Assange says in essence “we can arrest and hold people in custody for investigation and interrogation purposes only and maybe depending on that interrogation, we might lay charges.”
Now that does not bar an EAW extradition due to the very wide interpretation of what constitutes a prosecution. In NSW, by comparison, if a suspect is held in custody for more than 4 hours plus timeouts for investigation and no charges, then the case is very likely to be ruined for the prosecution. Mr Assange has not yet been charged, a crucial fact, he is wanted for investigation and may languish for weeks or months in custody in Sweden without legal or other visits.
Mr Assange’s human rights will not be accorded him if he is automatically incarcerated, firstly by inferences that can be drawn from the presumption of innocence and secondly by an automatic refusal of bail. Presumption of innocence and opportunity for bail are both constituent parts of the European Convention of Human Rights that Sweden is a signatory nation to.
Reform of the EAW system is of course both a political question as well as legal one for EU member states plus Gibraltar and their electors in the EU, but we in Australia have a right to complain if a legal regime of extradition ignores breaches of human rights.
Likewise Amnesty International has the right to complain about prima facie breaches of human rights in this nation in relation to any matter they think fit, and any disagreement and resentment on our part about that is irrelevant as the nature of human rights is that they are universal and apply anywhere anytime. Sweden is obliged to enact into domestic law the European Convention. In the UK it’s the Human Rights Act.
2) Human Rights
In Julian Assange’s case, breaches of his human rights or potential abuses are raising questions of whether he will get a fair trial in Sweden (and potentially the USA). The decision of Judge Riddle a few days ago for the extradition of Julian Assange basically ruled out human rights issues as reaching a sufficient threshhold to allow the Judge, in his opinion and judgement, to reject Sweden’s EAW. That does not mean that Sweden’s prosecution authority did not engage in certain conduct. Note that only about 5% of contested extraditions are refused.
Appeals to the High Court and to the Supreme Court (formerly the House of Lords) may take a different view to Judge Riddle on Julian Assange’s case but his lawyers have a very difficult task ahead of them against the “tick box” regime of EAWs.
We might look at the activities of one Claes Borgstrom in the Assange matter. He is senior politician and a lawyer in Sweden who has made the various comments and engaged with the judicial process of Julian Assange as a suspect right from the beginning. What one prosecutor dropped within 24 hours, he went to another and had reinstated. Mr Borgstrom has made statements about the case and I refer to a Guardian articlehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/08/julian-assange-rape-allegations
…his clients were “the victims of a crime”
There was nothing unusual about different prosecutors, of varying seniority, coming to different conclusions about whether a crime had occurred.
He refused to reveal sensitive details of the evidence provided to him by the women. “It is important for the future investigation that the suspect himself does not know more than necessary before he is interrogated by the Swedish police,” he said.
“These two women were molested by Mr Julian Assange at two different times, independently of each other.”
He also said on another occasion that the alleged victims could not be sure of whether it was sexual assault as they weren’t jurists. (Australian barrister James Catlin’s article at Crikey and elsewhere.)
Mr Borgstrom is being paid by the Swedish government to make all those representations. Sweden allows this. In Australia it would, as Members know, be highly improper and reprehensible and in our system such statements from a politician would go a long way for a defence being able to argue that such utterings widely disseminated as they were, would preclude a fair trial.
If extradited, a trial in Sweden is conducted with one legally trained judge and two or three lay judges, the latter appointed by political parties. We of course have trial by jury and those jurors are selected from jury panels with both sides having an equal number of challenges to strike individual jurors off as part of the selection process.
Mr Borgstom has stated that he is justified in his representations of the two complainants that Julian Assange’s supporters are blackening his client’s names. This would of course never have happened if his clients and/or the Swedish prosecutors had not confirmed (as the case may be) or revealed the accusations and names of all the parties at the beginning.
Mr Borgstrom statements illustrate that the Swedish Criminal Justice system operates by restricting the prosecution evidence available to the accused. In our system and the UK and adversarial systems generally, there is a fundamental imperative and obligation on prosecutors to provide an accused with all the evidence, including exculpatory evidence. This is not the system in Sweden. We have seen this in the Ms Ny’s refusals to provide all evidence to Julian Assange in his language which has cost him personally some 20 to 30 thousand pounds to get authorised translations for the purposes of his extradition hearing. Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights is highly relevant.
Attorney General McLelland has sent me a letter dated 22nd February this year signed personally by him, and he says “…the government cannot interfere in the legal processes of another country.” On the face of it that sounds perfectly reasonable but the answer to it is of course, that complaining about human rights abuses does not constitute “interference” if human rights are to have any meaning in an international political context.
Doubtless Messrs Gaddafi and Mubarak would have complained about other governments interfering if they had remained in power and ran star chamber courts to prosecute the protesters. In those circumstances the senator Attorney General would have every right to complain about human rights being abused.
I would say to the Attorney General, respectfully, I believe you are wrong, I believe it is any government’s remit to complain of human rights abuses, wherever they occur and whatever their range of seriousness, whether or not the offending nation is democratic. Back on the subject of incarceration in Sweden as a human rights issue, Judge Riddle at the extradition judgement made a finding that Sweden would hold Julian Assange incommunicado if extradited. The Article 6 questions multiply, but in relation to that Article 5 arguably is highly relevant if he is incarcerated for weeks or months before trial: ie
5(3)Everyone arrested or detained in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of this article shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release pending trial. Release may be conditioned by guarantees to appear for trial.
Prosecutor Ny is on the record as saying her policy is that all males suspected of sex offences should be incarcerated irrespective of the circumstances of the case.
Sweden’s lack of consent as an element to sexual assault is another concern which is troubling to me and many other legal practitioners that what was consensual may then be held to be an offence by a Criminal Justice system at trial on what appears to be a policy of extending the scope and liability unknown or alien to adversarial systems.
Lack of consent as an element to be proven by the prosecution, and having to prove it beyond reasonable doubt, is fundamental our system and to worldwide adversarial systems in these types of serious sexual offences for which there is at least one such allegation against Julian Assange. This is called the mens rea or “guilty mind” element.
Not only must the prosecution prove lack of consent but it also must prove to the requisite standard that the accused knew or was reckless as to lack of consent. Sweden has every right to make laws domestically but the question arises as to whether minimum international standards apply under EU law and particularly where the matter spills over into the international arena.
It is difficult to reconcile our concepts of an inherited British justice system with one that does not have, among others the mens rea concept.
3) Further issues of the police/prosecutorial conduct and a fair trial in Sweden:
Two complainants went to police in Sweden last year seeking advice. In relation to that interview it is on the public record that they communicated with each other beforehand and were interviewed together. That means collusion of witnesses and contamination of evidence aggravated by the fact there was no electronic record of interview, only a narrative summary by police, this means that the chance for the defence to expose inconsistencies at trial are much more difficult, perhaps impossible.
The Prosecutor’s office apparently confirmed details of the accusations and the accused’s name to Expressen, a Swedish tabloid right at the beginning stage of the matter in 2010. No publicly known action was ever taken against that prosecutor. There is some publicly available evidence to support the contention that the two complainants approached the media as well which may surface in the sms message evidence.
There was another major leak of complainant evidence from the prosecutor’s office minus the exculpatory parts to the Guardian newspaper in the UK, ie the social networking exculpatory “tweets” between the complainants and between them and others. That one sided evidence was again widely disseminated, prejudicing Julian Assange’s right to a fair trial. Australian people might ask just how that was allowed to happen contrary to Swedish law or regulations.
One of the complainants sought unsuccessfully to delete all records of her tweets and online article “how to get revenge” from internet records. Again this is all publically available information and ventilated by a Swedish witness at the extradition proceeding recently. While these are matters for the Swedish criminal justice system, there are legitimate complaints that can be made of prosecutorial conduct and in so far as they are human rights abuses at least, the Australian people and government in my opinion is entitled to so complain.
4) Possible further extradition from Sweden to the USA
(a) Sweden has a record of allowing rendition of people to Egypt (breach of the Convention Against Torture ) at the instigation of US authorities which does not bode well if an extradition application was made by the USA. This was the Agiza-Alzery incident in December 2001 where Swedish authorities signed off on US diplomatic assurances that the two Egyptian men would not be tortured when renditioned by the US to Egypt. Sweden was, I might add held in breach over those renditions by the UN Committee Against Torture in 2003.
Given that the Swedish prosecutor has not laid charges, will not release to Assange the exculpatory evidence by reason apparently either that he is not yet charged and/or the limited evidence policy, and given that it is publicly known to consist of “tweets” and/or sms messages highly damaging to the prosecution case, perhaps fatally, then is it such an unreasonable proposition that the whole exercise may well be to make a holding charge to allow the USA to make an application to extradite Julian Assange from Sweden, after they “discover” they have no sex assault case in Sweden?
And if that extradition occurred, would there be US assurances of not breaching Assange’s human rights and if so what would those assurances be worth given the extreme statements many prominent US citizens have made, for exposing so many of the US’s dark secrets? Australians might well ask these political questions ever since the world saw some novel treatment of other foreigners and international law appeared to go into legal limbo in Guantanamo Bay.
(b) The UK Home Secretary’s required consent to a Swedish/US further extradition. Again this is a question of whether political pressure is put by the USA on the UK behind the scenes and whether Sweden would recognise a grand jury indictment as a political charge precluding extradition under the EAW system.
(c) If Julian Assange is extradited to the USA a fair trial may well be compromised by all the incitement so far to assassinate Julian Assange including VP Biden’s comment “high tech terrorist” comment (See my article at Truthout http://www.truth-out.org/on-julian-assange-and-inciting-whackers66788 )
Here is what some other prominent US citizens said, all this is available on the internet:
Bob Beckel, an American political commentator and an analyst on the Fox News Channel, said, “There’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the s-o-b.”
Tom Flanagan, ex-senior adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually.” (He has since retracted this statement, which will help him if he is charged and convicted.)
Jonah Goldberg is among the less inciteful. Goldberg is a US syndicated conservative columnist and author who asked, “Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?” To be fair to Goldberg, he also said he didn’t expect the US government to kill Assange, merely “to stop him.”
John Hawkins is a professional blogger at “Right Wing News” and fundraiser for conservative candidates in the USA. He said: “Can we have a CIA agent with a sniper rifle rattle a bullet around his skull the next time he appears in public as a warning? You bet we can…. “
Rep. Peter King (R-New York) said, “I mean, they are assisting in terrorist activity,” when he requested that the administration have WikiLeaks declared a terrorist organization.
William Kristol wrote an article, “Whack Wikileaks” citing Marc Thiessen and asking, “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are?”
Jeffrey T. Kuhner, columnist at The Washington Times, wrote under an article, “Assassinate Assange”:
He is aiding and abetting terrorists in their war against America. The administration must take care of the problem – effectively and permanently…. Mr. Assange is not a journalist or publisher; rather, he is an enemy combatant – and should be treated as such…. [W]e should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets.
Julian Assange is no terrorist; he is not a war-defined “belligerent” acting with intent against the United States; and he cannot be treasonous against the US, since, by definition, he is not a citizen of the United States. He is only doing what journalists do, excepting that he does not directly solicit material as the main stream media sometimes does, and if he is to be classified as a terrorist then the New York Times is also a terrorist organisation: ridiculous propositions both. Wikileaks goes out of its way to make the identity of leakers and the leaks to its system unidentifiable and untraceable.
The libertarian Senator Ron Paul put it this way on the word treason being bandied about with respect to whistleblowers: “In a society where truth becomes treason, however, we are in big trouble.”
If Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden and then as is a distinct possibility, extradited to the USA, we should ask ourselves can he get a fair trial in that political environment? Can he get his human rights and a fair trial in a closed court in Sweden if he is deprived of his liberty and precluded from seeing his lawyers while Claes Borgstrom might still be making representations on guilt before trial?
We should ask the Swedish authorities to give him a “fair go”, but so far that notably Australian concept is somewhat wanting to what has occurred so far.
Julian Assange is being treated on multiple levels Members, to a questionable extradition, and questionable prosecution. It’s costing him a small fortune to fight it, and I’d ask you to note and consider the facts, law and general situation in this meeting today. There will be appeals for up to a year or more in the UK, The Appeals Court and up to the Supreme Court formerly the House of Lords.
If he is extradited to Sweden, as a bare minimum, we should insist on an open not closed court unless they can fully demonstrate the validity of an allowable exception for part closed court under European human rights law, and we should insist on a legitimate fair opportunity for bail.
If Julian Assange is further subjected to an extradition proceeding from either the UK or Sweden to the USA, we should carefully examine such charges (presumably under the USA’s Espionage Act, the conspiracy subsections) for strength and if found wanting under US First Amendment rights or otherwise, we should complain of the political nature of those charges given our own Constitutional law which parallels US First Amendment rights, by the High Court of Australia’s ruling that free political communication is implied as a prerequisite for our democracy.
While the USA is our friend and ally, they are on a slippery slope when they appear to be saying that their security requirements and domestic law trumps other nation’s sovereignty and the freedom of speech of Julian Assange and his organization Wikileaks.
As I said earlier, the case of Julian Assange, is highly questionable, on multiple levels there being a large number of legitimate concerns. Thank you
Peter Kemp Jarratt Webb Graham Advocacy Pty Ltd
Solicitor of the Supreme Court of NSW
176 Beardy Street Armidale NSW 2350