FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Assange and Sweden’s Shame

by MARK WEISBROT

It was like a scene from a Hollywood movie, where the kidnapper walks up from behind, with a gun protruding from his trench coat pocket. “Keep walking, and don’t say anything,” he warns.

Such was the U.K. government’s threat three weeks ago to Ecuador, that British police could invade the Ecuadorian embassy if necessary to arrest WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange. But Ecuador’s foreign minister didn’t keep walking, and said something, to the great embarrassment of the U.K. Foreign Office. The Foreign Office tried to say it wasn’t a threat—although it was now available to the world in writing – and then took it back.

But the unprecedented threat to violate the Vienna convention that protects diplomatic missions brought serious criticism from the Union of South American Nations, and then – despite being watered down by Washington – another rebuke from the Organization of American States.

The U.K.’s threat also made it clear that this case was not about questioning Julian Assange regarding a possible criminal case in Sweden. Few could believe that the U.K. government would have resorted to such extreme and illegal measures if this were just a matter of extraditing a foreign citizen to a foreign country where he is not even charged with a crime.

But what about Sweden’s role in this sordid affair? Most obviously, Sweden has had the opportunity to interview Assange in the U.K., but has repeatedly refused to do so. The Swedish government also refused Ecuador’s offer to interview Assange at its London embassy. As in the past, no justification was offered.

The Swedish government also refused to negotiate with Ecuador for an extradition under which Assange would go to Sweden but not be subject to extradition to the U.S. This would be very easy for Sweden (or the U.K., for that matter) to arrange. Once again, the Swedish government offered no reason for its refusal to consider this obvious solution to the diplomatic impasse.

Contrary to much press commentary, there is no need for conspiracy theories here to draw the logical conclusion. If the Swedish government really wanted to pursue the investigation of sexual offense allegations against Assange, they could do so. But instead, they are deliberately abandoning the criminal investigation – which is getting older and more difficult to pursue – for other reasons.

This also casts serious doubt on all the people who have opposed Assange’s asylum on the grounds that they care about the two women who have accused Assange. (It is worth noting that neither of the two women accused Assange of rape; although that is one of the allegations that has been spread throughout the media and the world). Anyone who was really concerned about pursuing this case would aim their fire at the Swedish prosecutor, and at least ask her why she has abandoned the investigation.

This includes the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, Claes Borgström, who was reportedly instrumental in getting the third prosecutor (Marianne Ny) to go after Assange. (The previous prosecutor assigned to the case had dropped it because the evidence is so weak). Borgström has been in the media defending the United States and its allies, rather than his clients, asserting that Assange “must know” that the case “has nothing to do with Wikileaks.” But Borgström must know that there is awealth of evidence that the United States is very much interested in punishing Assange, and it keeps growing: on August 18, the Sydney Morning Herald reportedthat Australia’s foreign service was aware that U.S. authorities had been pursuing Assange for at least 18 months. And on August 24, Craig Murray, a former U.K. ambassador and 20-year career diplomat there, reported that his colleagues at the U.K. Foreign Office knew better than to make the unprecedented threat of invading Ecuador’s embassy, but did so under pressure from Washington.

Like many European countries, including of course the U.K., Sweden’s foreign policy is closely allied with that of the U.S. government. This is not the first time that Sweden has collaborated with its Washington allies to violate human rights and international law. In 2001, the Swedish government turned over two Egyptians to the CIA so that they could be sent to Egypt, where they were tortured. Sweden’s action brought condemnation from the UN and the government was forced to pay damages to the victims; both were later cleared of any wrongdoing. Polls showed that Swedesconsidered this crime the worst political scandal in their country in 20 years.

Sweden is a highly developed social democracy that has many guarantees of civil rights and liberties to its citizens. The people of Sweden should not allow their government to continue to disgrace itself in another international governmental crime – this one a pernicious attack on freedom of expression – simply because Washington wants them to do so.

Mark Weisbrot is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

This essay originally appeared in Al Jazeera.

 

COMING IN SEPTEMBER

A Special Memorial Issue of CounterPunch

Featuring recollections of Alexander Cockburn from Jeffrey St. Clair, Peter Linebaugh, Paul Craig Roberts, Noam Chomsky, Mike Whitney, Doug Peacock, Perry Anderson, Becky Grant, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Neumann, Susannah Hecht, P. Sainath, Ben Tripp, Alison Weir, James Ridgeway, JoAnn Wypijewski, John Strausbaugh, Pierre Sprey, Carolyn Cooke, Conn Hallinan, James Wolcott, Laura Flanders, Ken Silverstein, Tariq Ali and many others …

Subscribe to CounterPunch Today to Reserve Your Copy

 

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

February 22, 2018
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail