Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Shall Sweden grant to US the extradition of Julian Assange?

Updated 5 April 2012

As the media campaign against Assange have increased the Swedish government desperate hopes for a judgement which would they believe would distract domestic opinion from the scandalous arms-agreements with Saudi Arabia. Professors blogg was first in Sweden in drawing attention to the sensitive issue of the then phantom funding of the cover company used for the intelligence and weaponry-trade operation with the Saudis. It has been now disclosed it was one of the Defense Intelligence apparatus which put up the financing to FOA. When the scandal was in the eve to break FOA accused Assange and WikiLeaks of blackmailing Sweden to create nationalistic momentum. Now that investigations pursues regardless the resignation of Minister Sten Tolgfors, the government of Sweden expect anew to play the chauvinistic "Assange card" with the help of the MSM. For own political purposes the extradition of Assange is pressed upon more than ever by the Swedish authorities. It has become indeed the Swedish government  case against Assange.

The perils posed by these revelations on a prospective indictment, makes urgent to re-consider political issues of the situation Julian Assange would face now in Sweden, in case been extradited there.  In spite of Sweden’s official silence, and the denial by the mainstream media articles, the extradition of political prisoners in Sweden is ultimately decided at a political level. Ergo, the risks for an extradition of the Wikileaks founder to USA - in case it will be requested - cannot be assessed solely attending to juridical arguments.
According to the interview with Julian Assange and lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Geoffrey Robertson [1], the USA shall most certain seek the extradition of the Wikileaks founder. The reason - as mentioned in the interview - being that a US Grand Jury investigation has been on-going in Washington since last year - preparing aggravating charges on espionage. Such charges, most likely in connection with the Wikileaks Pentagon-disclosures, would entail for Julian Assange "up to ten-years in a maximum security prison", according to the legal experts. Meanwhile, a recurrent misconception - or deliberately misinformation - published in the international media, is to consider the deportation of Julian Assange from Sweden to the USA as, statistically speaking, "highly unlikely". 
But facts reveal the contrary: Regarding the open extradition requests from the USA since 2000, Sweden has granted such extradition in the TOTAL OF CASES in which the prisoner was in Swedish territory. This is based in statistics according to Sweden's Justice Ministry (see below "The myth on that Assange's extradition from Sweden to US is not likely"). 
I put forward the above also in a brief interview conducted at the Royal Court's premises in London on December 5th, after the verdict on the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's appeal to the Supreme Court [Click on this Youtube link for this brief "interview"]:
It is exactly this risk of extradition/rendition to the USA from the part of Swedish officials that made Julian Assange reluctant to come to Sweden (after the Swedish extradition request and the smear campaign that ensued in Sweden). I also refer the reader to the post This is Why, in which the reasons for this apparently Swedish revenge are summarized. This analysis was previously treated in the Professors blogg's article "Sweden will grant extradition of Julian Assange to US if not stopped by international political pressure NOW"

By Marcello Ferrada de Noli

From the part of official Sweden and the geopolitical interests this country represents, the reasons for the "legal" actions and corresponding smear campaign against  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, are solely political. This, aside Sweden's own vengeful campaign motivated by the Wikileaks revelations with regard to some government wrongdoings. 

Corollary, the situation (confronted by Wikileaks) should not be understood as primarily juridical. Together with a brief review of the actual Swedish statistics on extradition cases as requested by the US, the aim of this article is to call for the examining of political answers around the extradition-issues. In my opinion, the debate has maintained a quasi-excessive focus on the legal aspects. 

Obviously, the tremendously positive impact that Wikileaks have already in the world developments is to the highest extent political. Further, it is precisely Wikileaks geopolitical potential for revolutionary changes (not only regarding changes in government-ethics or local redistribution of political power, but also changes in the economic distribution and in societal structures) what also might explain the participation of the various NATO-countries (full members or vassal countries) involved in the current offensive against the Wikileaks organization. 

The bottom-line here, regarding the juridical discussion on the extradition "risks", is that Sweden does not really need sophisticated legal arguments to comply with its own part of the geopolitical assignment.  If asked to, they will extradite Julian Assange, in one or another formula.

Different political traditions and legal systems 

The second source for confounding in this (international) debate is to equate the legal system or legal traditions of Sweden - and the Swedish modality of implementing justice or legal matters - with what occurs in the USA or some other countries in Europe including the UK.  USA and the UK enjoy highly legal or even "legalist" traditions. In Sweden the administration of justice is not that clear-cut, and sentences or evidence gathering in the onus probandis are not that restrictive like in USA or UK courts. 

Things in Sweden work out more in the searching of consensus, and for consensus to be reached among a variety of opinions (in Sweden interests are called "opinions") the determinant is not the objective truth (which one might eventually find in a rigorous application of known law). The determinant is to find compatibility of the interests involved. Sweden is a highly pragmatic country. This pragmatism might help to explain the enormous economic success and international prestige Sweden achieved by wavering the "neutrality" position in the post World War II era. 

No wonder why Sweden is still the second largest weapon export-country per capita in the world; or that Third World countries - at least until a few years ago - opted for the purchasing of Sweden's manufactured goods irrespectively of other disadvantaged items, such as economic or technical, which normally are included in such decisions. The idea of making business with the "right" country, with a neutral and non-aligned Sweden, was paramount. But now we painfully now that from the Swedish part, it was pure pragmatismo

After the Berlin wall collapsed, as  the so-called Campo Socialista collapsed, also as consequence of the revolutionary apathy in the rest of the world (meaning, the cause was not only the political decimation from-within of the domestic Soviet power), facts started to be known - in much thanks to the Wikileaks cables - bringing unequivocal clarity on the issue of Sweden's "neutrality". In fact, the emerged truth was that Sweden's real political sympathies had always been actively for the Americans; at least among the right-wingers that now rule both government and the leadership of the main opposition party - the social democrats. 

Minister Sten Tolgfors may have summarized the pro-American devotion of the Swedish leadership - even if symbolic expressed - when he declared openly at the times of the drastic increasing of Swedish troops in Afghanistan under US command: "I love America".  According to a US Embassy cable disclosed by Wikileaks, the Ambassador reports that Minister Tolfors had expressed (in a meeting at the US Embassy in Stockholm) how easy is for him to gather political support for Swedish troops in the war (Afghanistan) under NATO command.  The Cable further states that "Tolgfors told the Ambassador that he loves the USA" (”Tolgfors berättade för ambassadören att han älskar USA”). [Published here in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet the 2 December 2010]. [2]

But Sweden's pro-US commitment is far far more concrete than such candid declarations of sympathy from the part of its current rulers. It has much more to do with corporate, multinational ownership or common profit interests, than with purely cultural identifications - or imitations. And it has to do with the loyal status of Sweden in the NATO, as clearly demonstrated elsewhere in the fields of Intelligence and civil-population surveillance [See Note 3, FRA-lagen), or in direct large-scale military operations with Swedish occupation troops under USA command, as in the case of Afghanistan; or in the Swedish participation in the Iraq war with artillery-weaponry assistance; or in the Swedish Air Force direct participation in the recent NATO operations in Libya. The Sweden democrats (Sverige demokrater) was the only party which opposed the Swedish intervention in Libya. All the rest, from left-wingers to right-wingers endorsed the pro-NATO government proposition).

Sweden will surely comply with a US request for the extradition of Julian Assange, if so asked.  Who knows if this is already scheduled. This would correspond exactly with both Sweden's record and statistics on this matter (at least from 2000 and onwards), but paramount because this correspond to the current Sweden's direction in the context of a legendary line of "pragmatism" in international politics.

Some illustrations. At the time of Tolgfors' love declarations above, which were political words stated in a political context, we witnessed the drastic increasing in Swedish troops, under US command, in the military occupation of Afghanistan. And at the same times the Swedish Parliament approved the Surveillance Law (FRA-lagen) as it has been requested to the Swedish government by the US.  And the trial against The Pirate By went on. And it went on at the same time that America put pressure on the Swedish government on such legislation to preserve American music/film industrial interests. Bottom line: Official America put forward American business and interests, capitalists have always done the same and why would they do different in the name of surplus-value, which is capitalist's God and raison d'etre. And Sweden? Sweden's rulers apparently run in Sweden also America's rulers interests. What is the explanation of this? I will come back to it in another post. 

And, who doesn't "love America" Minister Tolfors? I heard Julian Assange himself saying in the CBS 60' minutes interview that he praises the American Constitution, from the early libertarians. And I happily agreed. Nevertheless, one main reason of my respect for those people, my American colleagues or friends (I lived in Boston in several periods during the 90's, while researching and lecturing at Harvard Medical School) it is exactly because no one there would ever accept, or even think, that their government and Parliament would change or shape some American legislation because the Embassy of another country is asking them in secret to do so. Do I explain myself clear?

Sweden's record in extradition, deportation

Looking back into history in the record of Sweden with regard to political extraditions or political deportations, we find unfortunate, nasty illustrations. We might find Russians forced to deportation to the former Soviet Union during the Stalin era. We might find political refugees deported with Swedish police escort to their countries of origin to stand torture and death. And we might find asylum seekers delivered in secrecy at Stockholm airports to the US intelligence services for being transported to torture elsewhere that in the USA. 

What I mean is that Sweden has been capable - for political reasons in the believe of own national interest (I do not accuse Swedes of bad or "diabolic" intentions) to crucify their own juridical principles when it comes the moment of international political transactions that are judged critical. The history of Finland is a living proof of that. And the reference to the deals with Germany during the 40's, which I recently took in my article Sweden, NATO and Assange, should also be considered in the context of Sweden's realpolitik when it has come to decide matters of political extradition or deportation in the context of international governmental pressure. 

That is why I have said that - In response to the risk of Assange's deportation to the USA - the most effective answer has to come in the form of an international political pressure. This means that Wikileaks supporters must try to find echo in their local political parties, their own constituency and their elected people. To knock the doors of the mass organizations, trade unions, student organizations, the offices of decent people with position in government, decent journalists, etc. To get and build support out of the box.

With the above I do not mean that the legal efforts would be secondary. Not at all. Just put them together in a political strategy. The main struggle is in the political arena and its rules have not been designed by us. Otherwise we would have chosen the ideological front, why not philosophy. But rules of engagement are not decided by our dreams. The reality of this important episode in the young life of Wikileaks has been decided by old and experimented masters of political confrontation and psychological warfare.

The myth on that  Assange's extradition from Sweden to the US is not likely

In the labyrinth of news around the court deliberations in London on the Assange-extradition, I have traced the origins of such myth to a dispatch by Malin Rising, a Swedish journalist working as correspondent for Associated Press. 

The journalist had published time ago a “Question & Answers” article headed “Questions and answers about the Julian Assange sex crimes case and Swedish extradition rules”. The piece was also distributed word-wide by Yahoo news and it is found in numerous sites among other ABC News, Salom.com, etc.

To start with, Julian Assange has not been convicted of any crime at all. He has not been in trial for such crimes, at all. He has not even charged with any such crime. 

On the extraditions issues, one of the items read:

 “Q: Assange's lawyers say there's a "real risk" that Sweden would hand him over to the U.S. How likely is that?

“A: . . . Swedish legal experts say he would be no more likely to be handed over from Sweden than from Britain. Because of the current extradition proceedings between Sweden and Britain, handing him over to a third country would require approval from both countries, says Nils Rekke, legal chief at the Stockholm prosecutor's office. Rekke notes that Britain is a closer ally to the United States.”

However, Sweden has not excluded it would be willing to go along with a US demand on extradition:

Rekke did not deny that Sweden would be willing (or “like”) to hand over Assange to the USA, what he really said is that “Sweden cannot do as Sweden likes” in that specific matter “before asking Britain first”!

This is instead what Christian Science Monitor wrote quoting Rekke:

"If Assange was handed over to Sweden in accordance with the European arrest warrant, Sweden cannot do as Sweden likes after that," and, "If there were any questions of an extradition approach from the US, then Sweden would have to get an approval from the United Kingdom”.

Is there any doubt that the meetings held in London by top government leaders of USA, UK and Sweden - exactly on the days of the verdict on Assange's extradition, were also a top opportunity to decide issues on the above?

The fact is, regarding the “open” requests of extradition from the USA, Sweden has granted extradition to the USA in ALL OF CASES in which the asked person was in Swedish territory:

“Q: How common is it that people are extradited from Sweden and Britain to the U.S.?

A: Since 2000, the U.S. has requested the extradition of seven citizens from Sweden, according to the Swedish Justice Ministry. Five of the requests were approved, and two were rejected because the suspects were no longer believed to be in Sweden. Britain and the U.S. signed a fast-track extradition treaty in 2003 intended to speed the transfer of terror suspects. Since it came into force in April 2007, 23 people have been extradited from the U.K. to the U.S., according to British government figures. Extradition lawyer Karen Todner said Assange would probably stand a better chance
of resisting extradition to the U.S. if he were in Sweden than if he were in the U.K.”

Again: Regarding the “open” requests from the USA, Sweden has granted extradition in the TOTAL OF CASES in which the prisoner was in Swedish territory. This is a fact.

"Death penal" argument

Another argument is that Swedish law would ultimately inhibit any deportation or extradition to a country that - like in the case of USA -  exercise death penalty.

But it also has been put forward that Sweden - thanks to international agreements of Temporary surrender [4] could be able to legally "borrow" a convicted person for interrogation elsewhere. 

It would be certainly a way for Sweden to by-pass the legal restriction referring to "Death-penal countries".  What it would happen afterwards with Assange - for instance if he is taken to a military trial and sentenced to ten years in a maximum-security prison elsewhere - it would be claim by the Swedes it is not their responsibility as they acted in "good faith". 

Nevertheless, the "death penalty" argument is also negated by known, proven Swedish praxis. Sweden had in fact deported individuals (even refugees applying for asylum in Sweden) to countries with full active death penalty. We have also the case of the extraordinary renditions to USA of people under arrest in Sweden (see below). Let us not forget that Sweden has in fact been sanctioned by International Human Rights organizations due to this praxis. Just one illustration on those events: The United Nations Committee Against Torture ruled 19 of May 2005 that Sweden had violated the International Ban of Torture. This, for Sweden's direct collaboration in the CIA rendition flights, rendering to the Americans asylum seekers while those were under the "custody" of Sweden.

Deportation by illegal “rendition”

Sweden has a record of giving – in clandestine operations - prisoners categorized by USA as terrorists. That was during the so-called rendition, or extraordinary rendition times. As a matter of fact, Julian Assange has been already signalled as such in the USA (see below). 

The most notorious among these cases was the rendition in Stockholm of political prisoners that were taken by CIA personnel and taken Egypt.

A particular aspect in he context of the “legal” processes agitated in the case Assange is that as main collaborator with the mentioned CIA operation was signalled the lawyer and former Minister of Justice Thomas Bordström. He is the co-owner and legal partner of Claes Borgström, the lawyer representing the nominal accusers of Julian Assange. In fact, Claes Borgström was the instigator of the re-opening of the case against Assange. And also the fact is that Thomas Bordström has publicly bragged in his blog from USA “Bordström samhället”, that is his company (“our law firm”) the one representing the plaintiffs in the Assange accusations.

Thomas Bordström’s responsibility in the secret arrangements arises with the times clearer and clearer. Bordström first denied direct involvement or knowledge of the events. However, Margareta Zetterström, who was a close associate to the late Anna Lindh -Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time of such events -, revealed in her book that Boström did know about it.  Zetterström’s article in Aftonbladet [5] mentioned that Thomas Bordström declared in an interview in Dagens Nyheter, that even if he had the information before the rendition took place,

“That it should not have made any difference, we would not have stopped anything” (Thomas Bodström). 

In regard to the praxis of “rendition of terrorists” from the part of Sweden to the USA – and for which no of such legal niceties as extradition agreements or permissions are required - the question would be to which extent Julian Assange is also considered being a “terrorist”.

Well, a “Cyber terrorist” Assange has been already called, and by no less than the Pentagon, according to this report. And it gets “better”. Vice President Biden, who actually was the one attending the above-referred conference in London representing the USA government, had likened Julian Assange to a “high-tech terrorist” according to the Guardian.

Let us hope that neither in this case the Guardian is saying the truth.

La lotta continua

Marcello Ferrada-Noli


[1] Foreign Correspondent Andrew Fowler's interview with lawyer Jennifer Robinson, Journalist/Publisher Julian Assange and lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. The interview has been recently aired by Youtube. Follow this link to see the interview.

[2] Josefine Sköld, "Moderaterna: "Vi älskar USA". Aftonbladet, Stockholm, 2 December 2010

[3]  M Ferrada-Noli, "The Swedish Surveillance Law (FRA-Lagen) debate". The Professors blogg, 22 September 2008

[4] Sweden Versus Assange. Extradition/ US Extradition 

[5] M Zettersröm, “Vi har rätt att få veta”. Aftonbladet, Stockholm, 20 January 2009

Other articles on the Swedish case against Assange in the Professors blogg

1 comment:

treisiroon said...

Kudos for an excellent review of the situation as it stands now.