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Julian Assange: Australia's silence « Previous | |Next »
August 17, 2012

Ecuador has granted Julian Assange political asylum Ecuador says that Assange is at risk of an unfair trial or the death penalty in the United States, that Sweden might extradite him there, and that Australia has abandoned him.

The UK is not pleased.The latter claim that the UK has a "legal duty to extradite" Assange and that it can do so under its Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987. The act gives ministers the "power of de-recognition" of the Ecuadorian embassy — which would allow Assange's arrest in the embassy regardless of whether Ecuador grants him asylum.

BellSAssange.jpg Steve Bell

It is now quite clear that the UK will not facilitate Assange's safe passage out of the country, and that it remains committed to executing the European Arrest Warrant. The police presence, the Ecuadorian Government noted, had risen from two or three to around 50, with officers on the embassy's fire escape and at every window.

Australia remains silent. They are not even saying that it is unacceptable for the UK to take unprecedented action and perpetrate a likely breach of international law in order to seize an Australian citizen. The reason Australia should speak out in a diplomatic sense is that whilst Assange has violated his bail conditions, he is merely a suspect before charges that have not been formally laid.

The gravity of Assange offences hardly qualify as matters of terrorist import, and it would be questionable whether the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act is being appropriately used since Assange's presence in the embassy is not a threat to the British public. The Ecuadorians had offered Swedish authorities full access to question Assange about the possible charges of sexual assault, but the Swedes turned it down, as they did when Assange made the offer previously while on bail in England.

Secondly, arresting Assange inside the embassy without Ecuadorean permission would be against international law. Australia should clearly state that it accepts the international rules because they are essential for the conduct of business between states, and point out that though the British Government can break the rules, the consequences of embassy premises being no longer guaranteed immunity, means that doing normal government business would be impossible.

Does Assange faces the risks Ecuador claims? Australia's diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents. Yet the Australian Government has no in-principle objection to Assange's extradition. That is the action of a client state.

There must be a lot of pressure on the UK, Australia and Sweden from the US, given that neither the UK and Sweden will not guarantee that Assange will not be extradited to the US from Sweden. That is what is needed.

What I find problematic in the commentary is the view that makes light of the possibility that, if Assange is sent to Sweden to face his allegations, then he will be extradited to the US.

It's an odd state of affairs given that Sweden could have agreed to question Assange in Britain and Britain could have promised Ecuador that it would extradite him only if Sweden agreed not to send him to America. Or Sweden could have agreed not to send him to America, since Swedish law would not permit Assange to be extradited for political offences such as espionage or treason and that Swedish law would never extradite him to the death penalty, and probably not to a military trial.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:24 PM | | Comments (34)


I don't understand why Sweden refuses to question Assange in the UK, given that he has not been charged with any crime. The Swedish legal experts talk in terms of preliminary investigations into alleged rape.

The government of Ecuador agreed with Assange that he had a reasonable fear of a second extradition to the United States form Sweden, and then persecution in the US for his activities as a journalist. A persecution based on being prosecuted for espionage, which carries a potential death penalty or life imprisonment.

I am inclined to put Assange into the category of "Attention Seeker". Then next into "Not having the courage to face up to his actions".
I dont feel that Wikileaks changed the world any. It made headlines for a while but is all a bit boring now. This latest story about Julian is on page 22 of the paper.
Get on the plane a man not a kitten that thinks everything is after it.

Is there any diplomatic or foreign policy issue on which the ALP has shown independece from the American line?

We have slavishly followed them with regard to:
free [sic] trade
other nations
Military bases in Oz
Anti-China rhetoric

Are there more examples?

"The Ecuadorians had offered Swedish authorities full access to question Assange about the possible charges of sexual assault, but the Swedes turned it down..."

Not disputing this point, but it's the first I've heard of it. I doubt that important point is not widely known....

"Not having the courage to face up to his actions"

What actions are you talking about Les? The alleged sexual assault? Or some vague crime against the US, that nobody seems to be able to put their finger on??? Something undefined, which would probably apply to all the MSM news outlets which published the Wikileaks document? How is Assange supposed to face his actions when nobody can pinpoint to his misdeed or outline the penalty?

AFAIK.... Embarrassing the US empire is not a crime.

As far as Sweden is concerned, they can interview him and bring charges as they wish.

Declassified diplomatic cables, released under freedom of information laws show that the Australian embassy in Washington reported in February that the US investigation into possible criminal conduct by Mr Assange has been ongoing for more than a year.

The embassy also reported the existence of the grand jury as a matter of fact. It identified a wide range of criminal charges the US could bring against Assange, including espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to classified information and computer fraud.

Les says "I am inclined to put Assange into the category of "Attention Seeker"."

WikiLeaks is an organisation that has exposed some of the dark crevices of Western power. The leaking of 400,000 documents about the Iraq war in October 2010, for example, exposed widespread torture and the deaths of thousands of civilians.

Western governments preferably want WikiLeaks crushed.

Re the two Swedish women have both accused Assange of rape.

In the Swedish legal system defendants are not charged until very late into proceedings, and just before prosecution. Assange cannot be charged until he is arrested, which can only take place in Sweden.

re the alleged rape allegations:

Assange appears to have forced unsafe sex on two women without consent.

"Ecuador has granted Julian Assange political asylum "

Unlike Ecuador, Britain does not recognise the old concept of political or diplomatic asylum, which is different from modern ''refugee'' status.

Sue, that is not sufficient reason to have Assange in the same condition as Brad Manning, or dangling from the end of a rope.
As the recent 4 Corners made clear, the sort of proposition you offer is hardly born out by the facts.
There are no charges and the Swedish government has refused to interview Assange.
Did you not read Sauer Thompson's final para in the thread starter as to the REAL reason for this ugly and costly event?
I wish people would try to be better-informed as to this; in a dictatorship you can be raped, murdered, tortured; whatever. Some may want this for themselves and the globe, but not a sane person.

Yes you appear to be correct. There is also some evidence of a disease being transfered. Whether this is a minor disease or major isnt the issue. It is whether the person knew of it before the penetration that is important. (Remembering that this is another countries legal system and that legal system is presented in another language)
Getting this event mixed up with the U.S affair is perhaps showing an inclination to conspiracy theories.

Les says "Getting this event mixed up with the U.S affair is perhaps showing an inclination to conspiracy theories."

So the Australian embassy in Washington has an inclination to conspiracy theories, when it reported the existence of the grand jury as a matter of fact? What they reported is that the evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange is substantial.

an inclination to conspiracy Les?

Ecuador has been proposing that it would be prepared to accept an undertaking from the UK and Sweden that, once Julian Assange has faced the Swedish investigation, he will not be extradited to a third country: specifically the US.

Doesn't sound like an inclination to conspiracy to me. Sounds more like a legal issue to be resolved through diplomacy between sovereign states.

It has been alleged by the two women that Assange committed rape, by which is meant that he is alleged to have forced unsafe sex on the two women without consent. He’s someone the Swedish authorities want to ask questions of about the complaint. The accusations made against him are serious ones, and deserve to be taken seriously and accorded a fair and legal resolution.

I do not know why the Swedish authorities cannot question Assange in the UK. The reasons are not being given from what I can make out. So it's a puzzle.

You are not implying that the allegation or complaints of sexual assault is a fiction or a trumped up charge are you? It is not possible at this stage to form a judgment one way or the other as to whether Assange is guilty of anything in Sweden.

Show me the evidence ( not speculation or opinion) the U.S government has issued an arrest warrant for Julian.

Show me the evidence (not speculation or opinion) the U.S government has sort to extradite Julian for England.

Declassified diplomatic cables show that the Australian embassy in Washington has reported that they have good evidence that the US seeks to prosecute and extradite Assange. That is the advice they gave to the Australian govt--and its good enough for me. The Gillard Government has also confirmed its Washington embassy is preparing for the possibility of Assange's extradition.

Assange is quite entitled to invoke all of his legal rights, and it's irresponsible and wrong to suggest, that he has done anything wrong by doing so.

Oh excellent point Les! Because recent history has clearly shown the the US government does everything above board and by-the-book.

Now Les, show me the evidence that Assange has a strong legal case to answer in the US...

Sue,what is it with you?
Did you not recognise my reference to the 4 Corners episode?
Or, since you obviously missed the episode, sit down and have a view.
I take it Les expresses the rest of your views on this and you see no deeper implications (eg press freedom/state censorship), beyond the issue of the rigid surveillance/policing of a given human being's sexual behaviour?
What do you think would show up if everyone's behaviours were were followed with the microscopic attention to detail devoted to Julian Assange?
Does it not seem any more than a coincidence that Assange's private life has been subjected to abnormally intense scrutiny of a type that anyone else, surely including yourself, would resent?
Is there some thing else at play in the trumped up sexual smear campaign allotted Assange by his enemies beyond seeing sexual conduct refereed to ensure hygenic sexuality?

Assange has not been charged, let alone tried or convicted, of sexual assault, and he is entitled to a presumption of innocence. Currently Assange is wanted for formal questioning (on probable grounds), which is a mandatory pre-condition before he can be referred to court. On "probable grounds" means the prosecuters are pretty confident they will secure a conviction - of a crime that carries a minimum custodial sentence of 1 year and on average gets you around 4 years.

However, the legal process re the allegations of rape in Sweden needs to be worked through to achieve a fair and legal resolution. I accept that the legal process by Swedish judicial system has been handled in a way that is questionable.

The Swedes can simply guarantee not to extradite Assange to America once they legal process has sorted out the allegations of sexual assault. I can imagine he could stand trial in Sweden for the rape allegation with guaranteed immunity from extradition.

Assange's fear of ending up in the clutches of the US, where he faces possible charges of treason and espionage , is rational and well-grounded.

In the period immediately following the Wikileaks document dump, there were calls for Assange to be tried under the Espionage Act of 1917. The Americans seem to have given up on that angle...

On "probable grounds"..
How long is a piece of string?
Yet, you can admit the reality in your second para.
If it was that simple, why did they not do this so much earlier, before all this grief time effort and money was wasted?

You's havent blamed Murdoch yet.

it is unfair of you to say that I have adopted a right wing anti-Assange position, when you say:

I take it Les expresses the rest of your views on this and you see no deeper implications (eg press freedom/state censorship), beyond the issue of the rigid surveillance/policing of a given human being's sexual behaviour?

I have argued that Assange needs to face the alleged sexual assault charges (rape) in Sweden, and that this Swedish judicial system needs to do this in a fair and just way. It is an independent judicial system.

Four Corners claimed that the Swedish case against Assange is very weak and appears largely confected--so let it be sorted in the judicial system. I have said that Assange is quite entitled to invoke all of his legal rights, and it's irresponsible and wrong to suggest, that he has done anything wrong by doing so.

At no point have I said that Assange should be extradited to the US, nor do I think that he should be. It would be wrong for Sweden to do so.

You do appear to know that Assange is not guilty of anything in Sweden prior to the women's allegations being tested by the Swedish judicial system. That he doesn't have any case to answer. Four Corners cannot know this either. Nor do they say that.

Sue has been quite clear in what she has offered.
You seem to have the mindset that as you think Wikileaks was a good thing ( and I am not saying it wasnt) that Julian Assange is innocent of "all things"
Courts do that job. You are being silly.

Are we still considering that this isn't a farce to gain the 'legality' to extradite Assange to America?
I'm afraid its way too late to stop this, all we should should be worrying about now is where this road is leading, because if the "democracies" of the west allow these further breaches of personal liberty, then I don't think I'll want to live in the UK anymore.

From the Guardian.

Ecuadorian diplomats have been in regular discussions with both the Swedish and UK governments.

The senior legal adviser said that under extradition law, the concept of "specialty" ensures an individual can only be extradited to one country – in the case of Assange, Sweden. Once legal proceedings in that country have been completed, the individual is given a 45-day leave, during which they are free to go where they want.

Assange should, therefore, be free to travel to any other state – including the UK, Ecuador or Australia – once legal proceedings against him are completed in Sweden.

However, specialty can be waived by the country granting the initial extradition request – in this case the UK – thereby allowing an individual to be extradited to a third country.

The senior legal adviser to the Ecuadoreans said that the home secretary, Theresa May, would need to waive specialty under section 58 of the Extradition Act 2003, before Assange could be extradited from Sweden to the US.

Despite repeated requests from Ecuador, the Foreign Office has not said whether or not May intends to exercise her powers to allow for any potential future extradition to the US.

The sexual assault charges are as follows:
The rape accusations, not charges are roughly as follows:

"Gemma Lindfield, for the Swedish authorities, ... said the first complainant, Miss A, said she was victim of 'unlawful coercion' on the night of August 14 in Stockholm. ... Assange is accused of using his body weight to hold her down in a sexual manner.

"The second charge alleged Assange 'sexually molested' Miss A by having sex with her without a condom when it was her 'express wish' one should be used. The third charge claimed Assange 'deliberately molested' Miss A on August 18.

"The fourth charge accused Assange of having sex with a second woman, Miss W, on August 17 without a condom while she was asleep."

If proven true, these constitute rape only under Swedish law.

To issue a European Arrest Warrant and an extradition request seems a little strange, especially when Assange offered to be interviewed by Swedish prosecutors here in London. They refused, giving no reason whatsoever. That too is strange.

These are serious charges that require a court. Not just a police interview.

A new interview at "New Matilda" with legendary US intellectual Noam Chomsky debunks the furphy that Assange needs to be interviewed in Sweden; that Assange is right to fear for his safety rethe USA, and contends that far from the unfair vilification Assange has received from certain quarters, he should receive, "A Medal of Honour".

Again Les... Currently there are NO criminal charges. The Swedish police want to interview him. If they determine that he has a case to answer, he will be charged.

We will see
Eventually all will be known.

Yes Les... what we will see is how the Swedish, Australian and British authorities proceed with this issue.

Whether or not "all will be known" is another story... Remember a chap named Mamdouh Habib?