Assange; Where from here?

So, Julian Assange has holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  Now what happens?

This is far from obvious.

  • Ecuador grants him asylum? Possible, but then there is still a problem: how to get him from the embassy onto a plane? The UK police has said that they will arrest him the moment he steps out of the embassy door.  Even if they could get him into a car, how could they get him from the car into a plane? In the old days of the iron curtain, people were sometimes holed up in embassies for years, unable to get out.  So that does not look too likely.
  • The Brits change their minds about sending him to Sweden? Unlikely.  Too embarrassing, having to gone to all the trouble of the courts deciding that the European Arrest Warrant is valid.  Then again, the Brits will want to find a solution.  This is a serious embarrassment for them. And the Europhiles will hate the idea that having to kowtow to European rules has turned the UK from a champion of human rights to a nest of political persecution.  Instead of being a place where people seek asylum, the UK has been turned into a place from which people seek to flee.
  • The Swedes change their minds about wanting him? Sensible.  After all, they have not charged him with anything: they are just saying that they want him in order to question him.  No doubt arrangements could be made for them to question him in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.  A lot cheaper and less troublesome than the other options.  And again, all this is deeply embarrassing for the Swedes, because the whole episode focussed attention on the Swedes’ appalling record of handing people over to the bad guys.  But still, this would a climb down by the Swedes.
  • The Americans promise not to try to extradite him from Sweden? Or even promising not to grab him by their well-oiled “special rendition” programme?  Unlikely.  The American government seems to have no conception whatsoever of how much hated and feared they are around the world. The red necks in the US military/CIA empire want Assange, it seems.

So, so I have any suggestions? I do, yes. The Brits could charge Assange with something trivial, like breaking his bail conditions, and issue a European Arrest Warrant against him.  The Swedes could promise to comply that warrant as soon as they have finished with him. So, with these arrangements in place:

  • Assange goes to Sweden;
  • The Swedes question him and conclude as per their original enquiries, that there is no plausible case against him;
  • Assange is extradited back to the UK, in priority to any US extradition request (anyway, the Swedes would probably keep Assange in custody until they could put him on a plane back to the UK);
  • Assange gets a discharge, or a $50 fine;
  • Assange makes a note of all the countries whence America has performed its “extraordinary renditions”, and stays out of all of them.

This last one is not so easy.  The USA has recently kidnapped people from quite a few countries. These countries include (in alphabetical order)

  • Afganistan (many examples)
  • Italy (eg Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (aka “Abu Omar”))
  • Pakistan (upteen)
  • Scotland (well, Glasgow, anyway, as a staging post; for details, see Statewatch. The Scottish authorities have coughed up their sleeve, but my advice to Julian, in the unlikely event that he is tempted to try grouse shooting, is “Don’t risk it”)
  • Sweden (eg Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery)
  • Tanzania (eg Laid Saidi)

And lots of other places.  These are not just wild allegations; see the European Parliament resolution on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners, adopted midway through the work of the Temporary Committee (2006/2027(INI))

16.  Considers it implausible, on the basis of the testimonies and documents received to date, that certain European governments were not aware of the activities linked to extraordinary rendition taking place on their territory; in particular, considers it utterly implausible that many hundreds of flights through the airspace of several Member States, and a similar number of movements in and out of European airports could have taken place without the knowledge of either the security services or the intelligence services and without senior officials from those services at least giving thought to the link between those flights and the practice of extraordinary rendition; notes that this assumption is supported by the fact that senior figures in the US administration have always claimed to have acted without encroaching on the national sovereignty of European countries;

17.  Considers it equally implausible, in the light of the results of the judicial enquiries and of the testimonies and documentation examined, that the abduction, by CIA agents in Milan on 17 February 2003, of the Egyptian national, Abu Omar, who was subsequently taken to Aviano and later to Ramstein, could have been organised and carried out without the Italian authorities or security services being informed thereof in advance;

18.  Calls on the Italian Government, assuming that the conditions which prompted the earlier decision are no longer deemed to apply, to seek the extradition of the 22 CIA agents implicated in the abduction of Abu Omar in order to assist the judicial proceedings in progress and help establish the truth;

19.  Condemns the abduction by the CIA of the German national, Khaled el Masri, who was held in Afghanistan from January to May 2004 and subjected to degrading and inhuman treatment; notes further the suspicion – not yet allayed – that Khaled el Masri was illegally held before that date, from 31 December 2003 to 23 January 2004, in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and that he was transported from there to Afghanistan on 23-24 January 2004; considers the measures that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia claims to have taken to investigate the matter to be inadequate;…

23.  Deplores the fact that the Swedish state relinquished control of law enforcement on 18 December 2001 at Bromma airport when the Government’s decision to expel two Egyptian citizens, Mohammed Al Zary and Ahmed Agiza, was executed and US operatives were allowed to exercise public authority on Swedish territory, which, according to the Swedish Chief Parliamentary Ombudsman, is not compatible with Swedish law;

24.  Deplores the fact that Sweden’s expulsion of the Egyptian nationals, Mohammed Al Zary and Ahmed Agiza, in December 2001, was based solely on diplomatic assurances from the Egyptian government, which did not provide effective safeguards against torture;

25.  Urges that investigations be continued to clarify the role of US soldiers, who were part of the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR), in the abduction and transfer to Guantánamo Bay of six Bosnian nationals and/or residents of Algerian origin, contrary to a binding interim decision by the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina and despite the decision by the Bosnian Supreme Court to release the suspects, as testified by Manfred Nowak, who was a member of the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia-Herzegovina at that time; calls for the possible role of the Bosnian government in this case to be examined further; highlights the need for more information on the possible involvement of NATO and the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF) in this connection;

Does this suggest that all Americans are bad? No, of course not. What it suggests is that the governmental system of the USA is failing in this regard. Take, for example, the case of the murder by American soldiers of many people, including a Reuters cameraman and a Reuters driver, in Baghdad in 2007.  This is well reported by WikiLeaks: they show really shocking footage, taken from a US helicopter, of US troops murdering several innocent people in the street, and then when the ambulance arrived to collect the injured Reuters reporter (well, the next best thing they had in Baghdad, with children in the front seat) they shot that up as well, killing a load more innocent people.  What is, in a sense, even more shocking is that, according to WikiLeaks (who appear to be more factually reliable than the US military on this matter)  the Americans then apparently lied about it:

The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.

Well, the video shows that the US military knew all along exactly what happened, and chose to protect their own army personnel who apparently committed these murders instead of the innocent Iraqis. And that is the thing. As long as the Americans are unwilling or unable to police their own, they will never be welcomed as “policemen of the world”, but will be hated internationally.  The smart thing for the Americans to do, instead of persecuting Bradley Manning (who may well have been this leak: who knows?) and Julian Assange would be to try the murderers. In public. And if they be found guilty, do not send them to the electric chair. A dishonourable discharge would probably do. But as long as the American military and CIA machine keeps killing, torturing and lying, and remaining in real terms wholly unaccountable, it will never win the hearts and minds of the world at large.

Meanwhile, what is Assange’s native Australia doing to help him? Absolutely nothing , it seems. According to reports, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has written what Assange’s lawyers describe as an “Australian declaration of abandonment”:

Australia would not expect to be a party to any extradition discussions that may take place between the United States and the United Kingdom or the United States and Sweden, as extradition is a matter of bilateral law enforcement cooperation…

should Mr Assange be convicted of any offence in the United States and a sentence of imprisonment imposed, he may apply for an international prisoner transfer to Australia.

This is the same Nicola Roxon who is currently coping with the High Court of Australia’s recent decision that putting taxpayer-funded chaplains into state schools is unconstitutional. About which, more in another post.

 

 

 

 

 

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