Bergen, Norway
15 February 2011

Marianne Haslev Skånland:

If Assange is extradited to Sweden

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is wanted by Sweden. Two women there have accused him of rape and Swedish authorities have issued a warrant and want him extradited.

One should not underestimate the possible emotional motives of revenge, power and triumph especially in cases concerning sex. I am not only talking of motives on the part of people who claim to have been raped, but equally of officials who have a possibility of attacking a world celebrity and clearly an attractive man. Officers of the courts are not above emotionally motivated actions and the justice system of Sweden is without safe-guards against it. Besides, in people of every nation an extra dose of adrenalin and triumph tends to be released when one can pick on someone from another country and thereby assert one's own country's importance.

Britain has certainly not been free from crazy cases and flagrant miscarriages of justice against innocent people, especially in the areas of sex and family affairs, neither have Assange's Australia and numerous other countries, of course. A few examples from Britain:

Case at the Court of Human Rights:
P, C and S against the United Kingdom, admissibility
Judgment, press release: P, C and S against the United Kingdom

The Rochdale Case of alleged 'satanic abuse'
(the heading is in Norwegian, but most of the articles are in English)

Cleared: the story of Shieldfield
Richard Webster / Guardian, 2002

Cleveland child abuse scandal
Wikipedia, latest ed 4 February 2011

Article collections:
Welcome to Barnas Rett
The Nordic Committee for Human Rights - Archives

Nevertheless, in the Nordic countries people are perhaps in a particularly bad situation in cases of this sort, especially because freedom of speech has been under attack for a long time and court cases and verdicts are kept as secret as it is possible for the authorities to make them. Secret court cases, censorship in the publication of verdicts, prohibition against any reporting of how the cases are really conducted and how individuals are treated by the authorities, are all standard. Norway and Denmark are bad, Sweden even worse. The only protection of Assange will probably be that this case is so well publicised that Swedish super-moralistic certainty that sex equals rape, may backfire: if he is extradited and has to stand trial, the Swedes may be reluctant to run the case in the way such cases are ordinarily conducted, since it will affect their image abroad.

An article in The Guardian on 11 February, "Julian Assange's lawyer makes graphic defence during extradition hearing", reports:
"- - remarks this week by the Swedish prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, in which, Robertson said, he had vilified Assange as 'public enemy number one' in Sweden and created a 'toxic atmosphere' against him. Reinfeldt is reported to have said that Assange's defence team had patronised Swedes by criticising its legal system."

I am not a bit surprised, this is exactly what one would expect and Reinfeldt may very well have been quoted accurately. Any bit of criticism of the way Sweden has arranged its society leads to counter-attack from Swedes - even on an official level, even by the prime minister. One might ask why they are afraid of criticism - if everything is as perfect as they claim then surely allegations to the contrary can easily be shown to be without a basis?

Debates in Britain about the possible extradition of Assange have frequently held Sweden up as a reputedly perfect country where an innocent man would risk nothing and a guilty one would receive utterly humane treatment. If one sees the Swedish - and generally the Scandinavian - justice system in operation in the field of sex or family cases, one is led to revise any such assumption and conclude that it is the result of propaganda and naïvety.

Sweden is definitely the most authoritarian of the Scandinavian countries, in the attitude of people employed in official functions as well as the general population. A large majority of Swedes are very subservient to the state and admire their perfect welfare state unreservedly whatever happens in documented cases. "Adjustment" to the will of the state is everything, the individual nothing. They have not even needed Olof Palme to teach them this bit of collectivist ideology and are very hesitant about standing up for any individual's rights. There is a belief that any criticism is bad manners showing insufficient "socialisation". There are frequent denials that miscarriages of justice ever occur in the judicial system or in the administrative decisions of the bureaucracy of their society. The opposite is true. I know a few oppositional lawyers in Sweden and have seen close to the way their clients have been treated by the bureaucracy and the courts, the courts in such cases not being in the least interested in facts or proof. I have myself functioned as an expert witness in one such Swedish case, in which the procedure certainly made me feel I was somewhere in the Soviet Union.

In a case like Assange's, we should not ignore what has happened to so many innocent people in Scandinavia jailed on accusations of incest, abuse and the like, frequently on the strength of an accusation alone and often backed by psychobabble ideology, which has invaded the political and judicial systems completely. As prosecutor Clare Montgomery has stated: "If Sweden says it is rape, then it is rape." (my translation, from "Assange advokater kritiserar Reinfeldt"). At the same time, Swedes are surprised, defensive and hurt that Sweden's legal system is criticised, and prime minister Reinfeldt, as we heard, is upset and angry. – Here in Norway, too, a prominent (female) lawyer has stated that when someone is indicted on a charge of rape, then he
is guilty.

Swedish retired judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman, who has testified in the Assange hearing, has for years been outspoken about very serious defects in the Swedish justice system. She has also written about it, including the very illuminating book
Rättsstaten åter! ("Back to the Rule of Law!"). Her testimony in the Assange case, as reported in the press, seems a fair, actually moderate, assessment of the facts. I would in the present circumstances not put Assange's chances of a fair and sensibly conducted trial all that high if he is extradited to Sweden. Further extradition to the USA is not the only threat here.


Assange Swedish prosecutor ‘is anti-men’
Times of Malta, 8 February 2011

Assange's extradition is only the tip of the iceberg
Guardian, 8 February 2011

Julian Assange's lawyer makes graphic defence during extradition hearing
Guardian, 11 February 2011

Assange should have been allowed to 'give his version'
ZDNet, 8 February 2011

Assange advokater kritiserar Reinfeldt
Svenska Dagbladet, 12 February 2011

Justice for Assange