This article appeared in The Nation on December 15, 2010.
Sweden’s appeal of a British magistrate’s decision to grant bail to Julian Assange is likely to be decided tomorrow. The first hearing on Sweden’s demand for extradition is scheduled for January 11 in London.
The feeling is growing among WikiLeaks watchers that “someone is pushing Sweden”, as one attorney says. There are two examples cited:
- First, the original rape case against Assange was announced by a prosecutor in Stockholm in August, then immediately dropped by a higher Stockholm prosecutor, then reinstated in Gothenburg, after an enterprising lawyer apparently shopped for a friendlier jurisdiction. Bottom line: the Stockholm prosecutors, where the alleged sex offense occurred, have no apparent interest in the case. It would be as if a New York prosecutor declined a case in New York and the prosecutors sought a friendlier court in Mississippi.
- Second, after the British magistrate granted bail to Assange this week, Swedish prosecutors at first demurred from appealing, then abruptly toughened their stance by appealing the bail decision. The British lawyers for Assange were taken aback.
Sweden is seen by many in Europe as a pawn in the United States’ plan to have Assange extradited and placed in custody here by January. That will require an extradition decision by the UK. Then, if Assange is extradited to Sweden, it will require additional British consent for him to be extradited to the US. It is possible the European Commission on Human Rights might intervene. The commission is empowered to review extraditions from European countries, but the question is whether Assange qualifies as a “European person” under the convention.
Sweden is not your father’s Sweden. Far from a haven of conscience, the Stockholm government was condemned by Human Rights Watch in 2006 for its complicity with the CIA going back to the Sept. 11, 2001 period. The United Nations Commission on Torture in May 2005 found Sweden in violation of Article 3 of the torture convention when it turned over two individuals to the CIA who were rendered to Egypt where they subsequently were tortured. Sweden remains in non-compliance with the UN findings even today.
While not technically in NATO, Sweden has 500 troops serving in Afghanistan, and a Swedish diplomat, Staffan de Mistura, is the UN’s special representative for Afghanistan, having served in a similar position in Iraq.