The Assange case is strange in the sense that many people really want Assange to be treated differently – as if he were not subject to the same laws as everyone else – this is odd since the whole point of Wikileaks is that there are groups that believe themselves to be above the law. But the idea that many people may stem from the problem that many people do not know the way in which the rules work.
It is also helpful to remember to think of the rules objectively. No matter what you think about Assange: what kind of rules would you like to be applied when a person is accused of sexual assault or rape.
The two arguments of the defense are (1) the Swedish prosecutor has not got the authority to issue the arrest warrant, and (2) that Assange is only wanted for questioning and not wanted for trial – you have to be wanted for trial to be able to be extradited.
The answers are:
- A Swedish prosecutor has the authority to issue the warrant
- The prosecutor has been clear that Assange is wanted for trial in Sweden. But if he can demonstrate his innocence before the trial then he will not be tried.
There have also been questions to whether the charges (rape and assault) are extradition offences? The details show that the women present cases where a degree of force has been used. Using force in these contexts would constitute rape or sexual assault in most countries (including the United Kingdom, Australia & USA).
Finally there is the question of the danger of a violation of Assange’s human rights if he is sent to Sweden.
- If Assange is extradited to Sweden he will be sent on to the USA where he could face the death penalty (but the USA will most probably guarantee not to apply this penalty) or imprisonment in a place like Guantanamo.
This is a useless argument. It’s more of a smoke screen or a public relations scam by the Assange legal team.
- In Sweden elements of trials involving sexual offences can to an extent be held behind closed doors (i.e. not open to the public).
The argument that the trial would not be fair usually means that the trial would be a complete farce and this would not be the case even if elements of the evidence may be heard without a public to protect the victims.
What if the USA brings charges against Assange?
If this is done while Assange is in the UK the Home Secretary would have to decide which charges were to take precedence based on different criteria (who made the request first, which is the most serious, what are the penalties faced). Therefore the Home Secretary could decide to put the Swedish process on hold and go ahead with the US request.
If this is done while Assange is in Sweden then the Swedes would not be able to extradite him without the consent of the United Kingdom. Therefore the Home Secretary would again be able to decide to give or to withhold consent to extradite.
At present Assange has lost the first round and is appealing. But it is interesting to note that if he wins the appeal he is still under a European arrest warrant. In other words if he wins the appeal he will not be extradited to Sweden but it also means that he could not travel anywhere else in Europe as the arrest warrant still stands. If he were to go to another European country he would be arrested – and have to appeal the decision to extradite him from that country.
Realistically his only chance is to come to Sweden and stand trial. No matter what happens his arguments that the USA is behind all his legal problems is false as they could bring charges against him wherever he happens to be.