Assange to Sweden – Latest

From the Financial Times –

Ecuador’s government may ask the UK to allow safe passage for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to its embassy in Sweden so that he can respond to sex crimes allegations there.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who is likely to meet Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague in New York next week at the UN General Assembly, said Ecuador was considering the transfer as an option to solve a diplomatic stalemate over Mr Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The two foreign ministers will resume their discussions on Mr Assange’s case among other foreign policy issues.  Britain has repeatedly said it will not grant him a safe passage to Ecuador.Safe passage to Sweden would allow Mr Assange to “remain under our protection while also satisfying the demands of the Swedish justice system,” Mr Patiño said.
The British Foreign Office said on Saturday it had a binding obligation to extradite Mr Assange if he left the Ecuadorean embassy and that it fully intended to do so.  “We want to reach a diplomatic solution but need to make sure our laws are respected and followed,” said an official.

The WikiLeaks founder fled bail three months ago when he lost his legal appeals against extradition to Sweden.
On Friday, Mr Patiño also hinted at fresh developments in the Swedish case against Mr Assange, saying that “several elements of proof have been dismissed.”

Mr Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador in mid-August, having been holed up since June in its London embassy, where he enjoys diplomatic protection.
Mr Assange has said that once in Sweden he would be at risk of being extradited to the United States because of WikiLeaks’ whistleblowing activities and involvement in publishing of thousands of secret US diplomatic and military cables.  Both Stockholm and Washington reject the claim.

“I think Ecuador is making a huge effort to resolve the diplomatic problem and protect Assange from the gorilla in the room: persecution by the US,” Michael Ratner, Mr Assange’s lawyer in New York, told the Financial Times.  “Ecuador is suggesting many solutions.  We hope the UK is likewise willing to come to a solution.”

Mr Assange is seeking asylum from a government that has a controversial attitude towards independent media. “If he sets foot in the US, it is very likely that he won’t see the light of day,” said Mr Ratner.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ec97e5ae-04a9-11e2-b64f-00144feab7de.html#axzz27Jo0uttS

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.  Sweden gets to question Assange in Sweden and he remains protected from any US machinations by the Ecuadorian embassy.

Advertisements

“It’s Rape, Jim. But Not As We Know It.”

*NOTE* – As has been pointed out to me by a few people, my wording here is far from ideal.  Rape does not necessarily need to be accompanied by violence or the threat of it.  I shall be writing a further post to clarify in due course.  Thank you to all those who took the trouble to offer constructive criticism.  I really do appreciate it.  *END*  1.9.12
My response to feedback received can be found HERE.

  ******************

Rape.  Such an unpleasant word that it should have it’s own sentence, so as not to contaminate the words around it.   For me it has always meant forced sex with violence, or the menace of violence.  I see the victims as battered and bruised, crying, often abandoned.  And more often than not this is compounded by a judicial system that doubts, fails, and ultimately humiliates those seeking justice.  Ask any woman, the society we live in does not move heaven and earth to provide justice to victims of rape or sexual assault.  Very far from it in fact.

But it would appear things are rather different if the alleged perpetrator is called Julian Assange, the Editor-in-Chief and founder of WikiLeaks.

Suddenly it seems heaven and earth will indeed be moved in order for justice to be done, what with the UK government threatening to storm the Ecuadorian Embassy in order to arrest Assange and have him extradited to face questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation.  There are those who deny this was a threat, but one has to bear in mind the language that diplomats use with one another.  Threats are couched in the most banal terminology.  Here I think is the killer sentence –

You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.”

Quite a change from 1998 then, when the UK refused to extradite General Augusto Pinochet to Spain, to face charges of genocide and terrorism.  And also quite a change from June this year, when the UK refused to extradite to the US a man suspected of raping children.

Which kind of throws into serious question William Hague’s claims about Britain’s “blinding obligations” under “international law”.  You’d think if William Hague was so concerned about ‘binding obligations’ and ‘international law’, he’d also be an advocate of nuclear disarmament and the prosecution of Tony Blair for war crimes.  But no.

When Jack Straw, the Labour Home Secretary, denied the Spanish request for the extradition of Pinochet, he cited the unique circumstances, saying the case was “unprecedented”, and that he was “in uncharted territory”.   Jack Straw in this case used his wide discretion and was said to have been obliged to “consider the personal circumstances of the alleged offender and any new evidence since the committal.”  Which is a considerable distance from Hague’s strict adherence to “binding obligations”.

So why the different approach to the extradition of Julian Assange?  For many, including activists from Women Against Rape, and the feminist author Naomi Wolf, there are good reasons to be suspicious of the uncommon zeal being shown in the efforts to get Assange extradited, and the “glaring aberrations” in the handling of the case.

It is widely believed that Assange’s ultimate destination is the USA to be prosecuted for his political work with WikiLeaks.  And this is the number one reason why he is in the Ecuadorean Embassy today, to avoid the terrible fate of Bradley Manning, namely torture, solitary confinement, and the possible death penalty.  Assange has stressed repeatedly he would readily travel to Sweden today and face the allegations if he could be assured there was no risk of him ending up in the hands of the US authorities.

Yet to mention these issues is to run the risk of being labelled a “rape apologist”, as George Galloway, Tony Benn, John Pilger, and even the ladies from Women Against Rape have found in recent weeks and months.  Galloway, in particular, has been slaughtered for calling Assange’s behaviour nothing more than “bad sexual etiquette“, and saying that even if the allegations of the two women “were 100% true” they would not constitute rape.

My guess is that Galloway based these remarks on the leaked Police transcripts of the interviews with the women involved.  Another aberration in the pursuit of justice, but very interesting nonetheless.   Here is the account of the incident –

They sat on the bed and talked and he took off her clothes again.  They had sex again and she discovered he’d put the condom only over the head of his penis but she let it be.  They fell asleep and she woke by feeling him penetrate her.  She immediately asked ‘are you wearing anything’ and he answered ‘you’.  She told him ‘you better not have HIV’ and he replied ‘of course not’.  She felt it was too late.  He was already inside her and she let him continue.  She couldn’t be bothered telling him again.  She’d been nagging about condoms all night long.  She’s never had unprotected sex.  He said he wanted to come inside her, he didn’t say when he’d done it but he did it.  There was a lot running out of her afterwards.

She told him what happens if she gets pregnant.  He replied that Sweden was a good country for raising children.  She told him jokingly that if she got pregnant then he’d have to pay her student loans…….”

Personally, I agree with Galloway to the extent that the above does not describe “Rape” as I have understood the word most of my life.  There is no violence, no hint of it, and no expressed refusal of consent.  In the circumstances above, I think one can be forgiven for thinking there would be a “reasonable expectation of consent”.   As I wrote on my Facebook page this morning, “If initiating nocturnal sex with a sexual partner who is half asleep is rape, then every girl I have ever slept with is a rapist, and so am I.”   I guess this makes me some kind of prehistoric, misogynistic rape apologist too.

But still, the allegations need to be tested in a court of law.  Everyone wants that.  I have read no serious commentator suggest otherwise.  While Sweden and the UK refuse to use their ‘discretions’ in this particular ‘uncharted waters’ to assure Assange of no forward extradition to the USA, the pursuit of justice will stall.  If the UK and Sweden are really interested in getting justice for these two women, then all it will take is a few little words – “No extradition to the US on Wikileaks related charges.”  It really is that simple.

*Further article responding to criticism of this post – HERE.

Further reading –
Debate between Women Against Rape advocate and Bonnie Greer.
In Defence of George Galloway, Huffington Post.
Glenn Greenwald on extradition myths.
Ruth Hull – The Persecution of Assange is a Persecution of Women Worldwide.
Greenwald again, on the Media contempt for Assange.
Seaumas Milne, Don’t Lose Sight Of Why The US Is Out To Get Assange.
US intends to chase Assange, cables show.
Craig Murray – America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally
John Pilger, The Pursuit of Assange is an assault on freedom.
Guardian, leaked police reports.
Bradley Manning Support Network.

.

America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally – Craig Murray.

THIS IS A REPOST OF AN ARTICLE FROM CRAIG MURRAY’S BLOG.  Craig Murray is a former UK Ambassador.  The original article can be found HERE.

I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries – arguably millennia – of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function.  The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.

The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms.  There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty.

Article 22

1.  The premises of the mission shall be inviolable.  The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2.  The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
3.  The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen.  Even during the decades of the Cold War, defectors or dissidents were never seized from each other’s embassies.  Murder in Samarkand relates in detail my attempts in the British Embassy to help Uzbek dissidents.  This terrible breach of international law will result in British Embassies being subject to raids and harassment worldwide.

The government’s calculation is that, unlike Ecuador, Britain is a strong enough power to deter such intrusions.  This is yet another symptom of the “might is right” principle in international relations, in the era of the neo-conservative abandonment of the idea of the rule of international law.

The British Government bases its argument on domestic British legislation.  But the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law, unless it chooses to withdraw from them.  If the government does not wish to follow the obligations imposed on it by the Vienna Convention, it has the right to resile from it – which would leave British diplomats with no protection worldwide.

I hope to have more information soon on the threats used by the US administration.  William Hague had been supporting the move against the concerted advice of his own officials; Ken Clarke has been opposing the move against the advice of his.  I gather the decision to act has been taken in Number 10.

There appears to have been no input of any kind from the Liberal Democrats.  That opens a wider question – there appears to be no “liberal” impact now in any question of coalition policy.  It is amazing how government salaries and privileges and ministerial limousines are worth far more than any belief to these people.  I cannot now conceive how I was a member of that party for over thirty years, deluded into a genuine belief that they had principles.