By Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli
[originally published in Newsmill, 3 April 2013]
The University of Adelaide’s Law School, Australia, has publicly announced that Justice Stefan Lindskog “Chairman of the Supreme Court of Sweden, Sweden's highest Court of Appeal will deliver a keynote public lecture on the Assange affair, and freedom of speech, from the Swedish perspective. As one of Sweden's most eminent jurists he is uniquely able to provide an authoritative view of the Assange affair.“
It is of course not completely known what will be the final content of his address at Adelaide. But the fact that the event has been announced as officially sponsored “in association with the Embassy of Sweden” clearly indicates a new interference by the Swedish government in the juridical case.
Stefan Lindskog has himself declared in Financial Review that his public note will be dealing with such political issues (i.e. human rights, freedom of expression) “from the Swedish perspective” and specifically relating to the case Assange. Considering that this is a case under investigation and by nominally lower ranks in the Swedish legal system; and that they have manifested they are studying the possibility of indictment (Assange HAS NOT been charged), the public statements of a chairman of the Supreme Court prior to that formal decision from the prosecutors is highly noteworthy.
It must be noted that Stefan Lindskog is himself of the opinion - as referred by Justice Marianne Lundius – that “the role of (Supreme Court) judges, by a matter of principle, is not compatible with the role of engaging themselves in criminal investigations”. This was said in the context of declarations with regard to the investigation of Olof Palme assassination.
Since the instigation of this case against Mr. Assange, Swedish media has worked as an arm of the Swedish State and perpetrated a Trial by Media, which has been widely marked by hearsay, misinformation, and attempted character assassination of Mr. Assange (see my article in Newsmill, English text, “(Swedish) Media reports on Assange are untruthful and identical”). The fact that the chairman of the highest court in Sweden is being sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden in Australia to opine publicly on a case that may come before his court has been widely commented in social media reaching millions of international viewers and participants, yet neither the Swedish media nor the Swedish authorities have mentioned the issue at all to the Swedish public. The silence is deafening.
I recently delivered an invited lecture on human rights at The University of Örebro, about some similar topics that are to be taken up by Stefan Lindskog in Adelaide. In the presentation I listed facts that seriously contradict the message of the “Swedish law and order” abiding principle that Justice Stefan Lindskog is generally conveying in his column “Julian Assange: Swedish Justice”.
In the first place, the Prime Minister of Sweden, followed by prominent political leaders and journalists, has made declarations on behalf of the accusers of Assange, directly intervening in the process, which, as mentioned above, is still in the pre-investigation stage under one prosecutor.
Secondly, this prosecutor unilaterally decided to reopen the “case against Assange” at the initiative of the law firm run by the Swedish politicians Thomas Bodström (former Minister of Justice) and Claes Borgström (former Ombudsman on gender issues). They, together with the prosecutor of the case, Marianne Ny, have been directly involved in government appointed committees studying the enhancement of the sexual-offences legislation in Sweden. However, when the prosecutor was reported for alleged irregularities in the case Assange, this was rapidly dismissed on technical grounds by the “Swedish legal system”.
Thirdly, in Sweden, “according to the law”, it is forbidden for prosecutors to reveal the identity or details in cases of sensitive accusations like the one against Assange. Once more I remind that these are only allegations under investigation, not charges, no trial. However, one prosecutor revealed the name of Julian Assange and details of the accusations directly to the tabloid Expressen, which ran a front page smear article on the basis of uninvestigated allegations. The prosecutor was reported by human right organizations, but the Swedish legal system dismissed the case against the prosecutor on technicalities.
Then we have the facts that are better known in the international community about the interrogation-issue of Mr. Assange in London, a procedure that has been flatly denied, without any juridical grounds, by the Swedish prosecutors. Swedish prosecutors are fully able to go abroad to pursue cases, including questioning. In fact, Swedish prosecutors and judges travelled during 2012 all the way to Africa to put up a hearing in situ (in Africa) regarding allegations against a person living in Sweden.
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in an initiative revealed after the visit of Foreign Minister Carl Bildt to Australia, is behind the unethical, opportunistic sponsoring of Justice Stefan Lindskog, of the Supreme Court, traveling all the way to Australia in a bid to counter the international embarrassment Sweden has suffered through its own actions in the case Assange. They have chosen this route instead of ending the embarrassment by ethically (and totally according to the Swedish law praxis) conducting the interrogation of Assange in London, which is just a couple hours’ flight from Stockholm. It is left to see whether Associate Professor Stefan Lindskog will have an independent stance in spite of the official embassy sponsoring, and whether such stance would or not represent prospective rulings of the Supreme Court.
Let us make clear that Mr. Assange, through his legal representatives, has stated that it is his wish to clear the Sweden case and that he would come to Sweden if they guarantee no onward extradition to the United States. Indeed, Ecuador’s decision for granting Mr. Assange asylum is based in part on Sweden’s refusal to grant such assurances. In the case that Mr. Assange would face extradition from Sweden, it is the Supreme Court, chaired by Justice Stefan Lindskog, who would decide the legality of any extradition. If extradition is ruled legal, then it would be up to the government to decide whether to allow extradition. Nevertheless, there are cases in which the Swedish government has facilitated extrajudicial extraditions at the behest of the United States. These are the cases of “extraordinary renditions” authorized by the Justice Ministry and of the Foreign Office of Sweden. One of these cases was exposed and occasioned the sanctions from the part of the UN against Sweden, for serious violations against the Absolute Ban on Torture, which Sweden had signed.
Justice Lindskog has announced he will be arguing around the extradition-issue of Assange to the US. For that, he has prepared a long list of law-paragraphs that he presented in Financial Review. Let me just remind that in contrast with the legal wording of documents signed by Sweden on matters of extradition, we have the praxis of the Swedish government. These facts cannot possibly be washed away with a fancy lecture or a pseudo panel of arranged questions and deceptive responses.
Sweden is not a neutral country. Rather, it is now fully committed to Intelligence and military operations led by the US armed forces
Sweden participated actively with logistical and engineering aid in the US bombardment of Iraq. Sweden participated in the military surveillance of the bombardments of Libya, an initiative from the government, which received the support of all the Swedish established political parties, from the conservatives (Moderater) to the Left Party (Vänster). Sweden is actively participating, under the command of US, in the military occupation of Afghanistan.
In connection to the above, WikiLeaks has exposed that the Swedish surveillance-legislation (FRA-lagen) which, in spite of great controversy, the government put forward in 2008, was a “made-to-order-job” directly requested by the US government. Most recently, a legislation initiative was put forth by the Swedish government aiming to protect the interests of the countries with which Sweden has on-going collaboration. The proposed legislation is also known as the anti-WikiLeaks legislation.
Whatever the concrete formulation of an indictment of Assange in the US, it will be inevitably related to allegations of whistleblowing military secrets, etc. Sweden, as a close military partner with the US, has largely complied with and even collaborated on matters of renditions of individuals regarded as enemies of the US. Swedish reporters have revealed very recently, with sources independent of WikiLeaks, that Minister Carl Bildt has been an informant of the US government for decades. These episodes have irritated his old political partners of previous government coalitions, who claim they did not know, and that they do not approve of Bildt’s position as it has been revealed. However, it is none other than Carl Bildt who is deciding extradition and rendition matters in Sweden. Let’s recall that the recent rendition to the US of Swedes in Ethiopia, was done with the knowledge of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and in spite that Swedish prosecutors have cleared these individuals from suspicions of being terrorists.
The words printed in the Swedish law books tell that agreements with foreign powers compromising sovereignty-issues should be known and approved by the Swedish Parliament. The current praxis has been, however, that military intelligence endeavours such as gathering of information about Swedish nationals is nowadays controlled by agreements of officials of the Justice Ministry and of the Foreign Office of Sweden with US government Intelligence organizations. This, totally unknown by the Swedish Parliament, is one of the items exposed by WikiLeaks. A prominent journalist from Expressen wrote about these Intelligence tasks led by the US that the “Swedish government officials got the impression that they were working under direct orders of the CIA”.
Sweden’s real praxis on political extraditions is not concerned with judges or legislation
If we now examine the praxis of Sweden in the issues of political extraditions that Professor Stefan Lindskog will be referring in his address:
To start with, referring to the US requests on extraditions: Regardless of what is written in the multiple extradition agreements mentioned by Stefan Lindskog, the reality in Sweden regarding extradition is that, since over a decade, ALL THE CASES requested by the US of individuals in Swedish territory to be extradited to the US were approved by Sweden. Additionally, there are further treaties ruling extraditions issues between US and Sweden, and which would enable Sweden to deliver Julian Assange to the US, such as in the case he would be requested as a witness in the trial against Bradley Manning.
Does the government of Sweden really need any written law or agreement to comply with political requests of extraditions from the US, particularly in the frame of “terrorist” accusations – such as Assange has been named in the US, for instance Vice President Biden had likened Julian Assange to a “high-tech terrorist”; and his Republican counterpart Sarah Palin, former US Vice Presidential Candidate declared, “Julian Assange should be targeted like the Taliban”.
Sweden’s unsavoury behaviour regarding political extraditions can be traced through the historical record. Over half of the 4 000 Russians refugees that Sweden secretly extradited at the request of Stalin were soldiers in the Red Army who fled to Sweden after being confined in German camps, for which they were refugees in Sweden (see “Interpellation 2001/02:12” of the Swedish Parliament; the corresponding link Interpellation 2001/02:12 Riksdagen has now been removed). Also in the post war year Sweden extradited ca. 150 Baltic soldiers to the Soviet Union, and they clearly were political refugees in Sweden. These extraditions proceeded despite there being “no legal ground for the extradition according to the Hague Conventions”, which Sweden had also signed.
Episode after episode (see my article “In the history of Swedish extradition of political prisoners to foreign powers“) indicate that what Sweden signs about extraditions, what is “written in the law” and the jurists repeat, are in drastic contradiction with the praxis executed by Sweden in their secret agreements with foreign powers.
During the last years Sweden has been taken countless times upon the European Court for the extradition/deportation of political refugees that have face such ominous fate at arrival in their original countries, after being airborne there with the escort of Swedish police. In many cases the deported have encountered immediately arresting upon arrival. I know about also because I have professionally participated in the past with documentation on diagnostic assessments on behalf of those refugees, whose cases have eventually been taken to such European tribunals.
Politically appointed judges
Further, in Sweden, the majority of judges in the lower courts (of the kind that would eventually try the Assange case if it goes to court) are appointed by the established political parties. It must be understood here that those established parties – according to the Swedish praxis of political consensus on issues of foreign policy - are backing the government on geopolitical issues according to the Bildt doctrine, and it is alleged that the organization WikiLeaks and his founder Julian Assange are compromising the national interests of Sweden. In these lines, the Swedish military establishment spreads (i.e. the statements of Mike Winnerstig, at the time Deputy Director of Research, Swedish Defence Research Agency – institution under the Swedish Ministry of Defence) in the state owned television the false notion that WikiLeaks and Assange are “blackmailing Sweden”, and also suggesting that WikiLeaks would be favouring Russian interests while focusing in the exposure of NATO. The state-owned Swedish National Television (SvT), in its turn, has equated Julian Assange “Sweden’s No. One Enemy”. The Trial by Media against Assange has been compact. So far no judge, no prosecutor, no legal authority whatsoever has protested about these events, and we therefor wondered: What guarantees of a fair trial could Assange expect in Sweden?
Now Judge Lindskog have declared abroad, although - to the best of my knowledge - not in Sweden:
"At the end of the day, many years from now, I think Assange will not, even in Sweden, be associated with his efforts to escape the laws of Sweden. He will be thought of as the person who made public some pieces of classified information to the benefit of mankind. Crimes against humanity such as the [WikiLeaks images of Iraqi civilians being killed in a] helicopter shooting need to be made known. The good made by leakage of such information cannot be underestimated. It should never be a crime to make crimes of state known."
This may be a promising development. We will listen with much care and interest to Justice Stefan Lindskog’s keynote public lecture on the Assange affair. And we really hope that, in honouring the Swedish perspective, he will be addressing also the issues mentioned here. The mismanagement of the Assange case has been devastating to Sweden’s international reputation and to the credibility of its legal system. A positive outcome of Justice Lindskog’s public presentation would be to tell the international community the complete truth about this case. Justice Lindskog may have an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate that at least Swedish professors, such as him, have independent academic voices and are not, as otherwise customarily read in Swedish media, instruments and actors of an uncritical consensus, which definitely do not help this noble Nation.
I thank @treisiroon for valuable comments
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