Assange – a matter of rights.

The following is an ‘improved English’ version of French to English online translation. No guarantees that it is entirely accurate. Please suggest corrections @WISEUpAction.

Eva Joly MEP writes following the decision by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that Julian Assange has been subjected to arbitrary detention by Sweden and the UK, and comments on the case and the response of Sweden and the UK to the findings.

Assange: a matter of rights.

Find the original french here: Google translate here. (The version below was formed by consulting several online translate services).

15 to févr. 2016 By Eva Joly. Blog: The blog of Eva Joly

The decision of the UN working group on arbitrary detention is a breath of fresh air for Julian Assange. This decision has two effects. First, it reminds the United Kingdom and Sweden of their obligations. Obligations of two supposedly exemplary countries within this judicial system who are charged with arbitrary detention. That these two countries try unsuccessfully to say that the decision is not binding shows nothing less than their violation of the international conventions which they promised to respect. And were they to ignore the recommendations of the Committee it would sound a further death knell to international justice, already under threat.

Then, it puts the revealing delays in the legal proceedings under a searchlight. While Julian Assange should be wholly supported in his work for press freedom and freedom of information and for promoting a transparency essential to the proper functioning of democracies, the United Kingdom and Sweden, as well as François Hollande in his turn, would instead deny him either his right to justice without fear of extradition, or his right to seek asylum.

Beyond the defence of the person who founded Wikileaks, and the fundamental importance of not losing democratic freedoms, there is the need to consider the human situation. Because Julian Assange is inextricable from this issue and France is not the only European country whose action – or rather inaction – shows them up.

Already for several years Swedish justice has been bogged down in this legal matter without being able to provide the slightest credible explanation. Without succumbing to the worst traits of conspiracy theories, it’s a strong bet that what paralyses Swedish justice is very similar to what it was that pushed François Hollande last July to to take less than one hour to arrive at a decision* in what is usually a long and tedious administrative procedure – ie pressure from the United States, which, since February 2010, has been pursuing an unsurpassed national security investigation against Assange. That is 3 months before the publication of the video ‘ Collateral Murder’ video. That is 6 months before he even set foot in Sweden…

I have been personally aware of this case for several years. I met Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he is confined, seeing his living conditions with my own eyes. I travelled to Sweden without being able to meet the prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who refused to receive me. In all truth, I do not know what happened there. It is not down to me to try the case. But what I do know is, on the one hand an individual is supposed innocent until found guilty, and on the other that it is the right of all suspects to be assessed within a reasonable period of time. As it is also absolutely right for victims to be able to turn the page. In order for any of that to happen, an investigation is necessary. An investigation requiring that Assange is heard. Which the prosecutor has obstinately refused to undertake for some years, under numerous pretexts – mostly spurious.

Let us hope therefore that the decision of the working party of the UN will relaunch the legal proceedings that have been deliberately stalled.

In fact everything in this affair is a mess. And it has been from the very beginning.
When the original prosecutor in charge of the case decided to close it, Marianne Ny decided to open again it some days later. Nothing illegal about that, for sure. But it was, at the very least, an unusual decision.

Today, she does not content herself with continuing to accuse Assange of wanting to escape Swedish justice. She also shows an appalling contempt for the Ecuadoran authorities, suggesting in barely veiled accusations that they are shielding a criminal who is escaping justice from this important democratic country so respectful of human rights – Sweden.

She pretends to be ignorant of the true reasons which forced Assange to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Contrary to what is spread about, he did not run away from Sweden. He left with the written agreement of the prosecutor. It is only when he feared for his life, having spent several months first in prison and then under house arrest, that he decided to take refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy. He continued to make clear his willingness to submit to Swedish justice. With one reservation: he could not take the risk of going outside the embassy. An obstacle easily overcome: the prosecutor could go inside to question him. And Ecuador gave its consent to the cross-examination taking place within its London embassy.

The refusal of Assange to go to Sweden to be heard by Swedish justice is far from capricious.

Since the revelations of Edward Snowden, the reality of the threats towards him leave no further room for doubt. Assange who, let us remember, is a journalist and an editor, is on the United States’ most wanted list, with the worst of terrorists. The reality of this is that at any time he could find himself in a high security prison in the United States for the rest of his life, the United Kingdom having never formally undertaken not to extradite him to that country.

That the prosecutor, Marianne Ny, pretends to be ignorant of these dangers says a great deal about her intransigence in this.

She refused to envisage any alternative – by undertaking her cross-examination by video-conference or (?) delegating the public action to Ecuador – preferring to allow the file to remain inactive.

Her intransigence, that is either strictly personal or the result of pressure, has lasted far too long. It is an indelible stain on the reputation of this country, always so progressive, in the forefront of respect for human rights and in instituting civil rights, as is widely acknowledged. So serious a body as the UN, even before the decision of its working party, had already leaned on them over the problem that the omnipotence of the prosecutors in Sweden produces decisions which are not sensitive to appeal. Sweden – this country which, in 1776, was the first to commit itself to the freedom of information and the press and to abolish censorship – must not now foul up about 250 years of history spent struggling for human rights by contributing directly or indirectly to the persecution of Julian Assange.

In no way do I like questioning Sweden. That this country more than any other has legislation which upholds the rights of women is marvellous. We have greater expectations of Sweden, that it is a model of tolerance and social avant-gardism from which our justice should draw inspiration. But this legitimate battle for the protection and rights of women should not disregard other rights.

Assange is being subjected to arbitrary or even cruel treatment. Last June, sadly, he celebrated his third year of confinement in the Ecuadoran embassy in London where he requested political asylum persuaded that neither United Kingdom nor Sweden would protect him from a politically motivated extradition to the United States.

The United Kingdom refuses to allow him access to the outside, for health care amongst other essential fundamental rights. Rights granted to every prisoner. One of the rights which we all enjoy in the event that we are suspected of a crime is to be charged and tried within a reasonable period of time, or to be set free and cleared of any suspicion.

It is for this which Julian Assange waits. It is to this respect for his rights that Swedish justice must subject itself today.

Rights have been derided for a long time in this affair. The national prosecutor of Sweden must sort out the casefile in the shortest possible time. She must decide to undertake an inquiry in the normal way or to (?) delegate the public action to Ecuador.

I hope that this decision of the United Nations working party on arbitrary detention is the first step towards the resolution of an affair which has gone on for far too long. Otherwise the United Kingdom and Sweden are putting at risk any credibility they have in respect of human rights.

[*presumbly the decision not to consider the asylum Julian Assange requested from France in an open letter in the summer of 2015. See letter here.]