Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, has just renewed her call for Julian Assange to be prosecuted for espionage. This a week after US puppet and Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr claimed there was “not the remotest evidence” that Assange might be prosecuted in the US. As a grand jury has already been convened in the US, Carr’s statement, justifying the Australian government’s refusal to intervene to help its citizen, is a transparent lie.
Feinstein herself has made plain where her loyalties lie. As she said during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed over 500 children:
“…we stand in support and solidarity with the state of Israel. The United States and Israel have been staunch allies now for over 50 years. We share common values: freedom, democracy, massacre of innocent civilians from the air, the rule of law. And time after time we have rallied to each other’s side in defense of our values. “
I interpolated a phrase there to make her meaning more specific. Can you spot it?
If Assange is extradited to Sweden he faces a rape trial in which all evidence is heard in secret. There is no jury, and the case is decided by a judge and two lay assessors. The lay assessors normally get the job as members of the major political parties by whom they are nominated. (See page 255 of this New Zealand law commission report).
It is therefore entirely understandable, given the long history of sexual slurs by western governments against dissidents and whistleblowers of which I was myself so spectacularly a victim, that Assange has felt pressured into fleeing to the Embassy of Ecuador to escape the tentacles of what looks like a conspiracy of neo-con politicians in international power against him.
However understandable, I fear it is a mistaken move.
However well-disposed, the Ecuadorean government had plenty of problems of its own without handling this one. While it does have a very good record of accepting refugees, its own internal liberties are less than well established. And there are – and I say this from certain knowledge – those within the CIA who are quite keen on having Assange in Ecuador where certain types of operation are easier than they are in Sweden.
There have been a number of joyous articles in the right wing media pointing out that Assange is now in effect stuck in the Ecuadorean Embassy. I am sorry to say they are right. I have direct personal experience as an Ambassador of trying to protect people’s human rights by having them on Embassy premises or in my flag car with me (see Murder in Samarkand). It is a very difficult area indeed.
There is no agreement in international law that being offered asylum in one country protects you from criminal prosecution in another country, and such law would in fact be highly undesirable. Otherwise tax havens could start offering political asylum and immunity from prosecution to the Bob Diamonds and Bernie Madoffs of this world – and believe me they would, like a shot.
The Ecuadorean Embassy is a flat. It is nonetheless Ecuadorean sovereign territory, which can only in logic extend to the floorplan of the flat itself. The other businesses or residences in the block are not operating under Ecuadorean jurisdiction. I am afraid it seems to me Assange is subject to arrest the minute he leaves the door of the flat and enters a shared corridor.
I would argue that once in the flag car of the Ambassador, if the Ambassador is also in the car, it would violate the Vienna Convention for the British authorities to detain the ambassador and open her vehicle to remove Assange. I succesfully took that line as British Ambassador in Uzbekistan, which would make it hard for the British government to argue otherwise. But the Ecuadorean Embassy is not a compound and I don’t see how you get Assange to the vehicle.
I might state that I would have played the whole affair differently. I would have voluntarily returned to Sweden and faced down the charges, insisting on making all the risible details of these plainly mocked up allegations fully public, publishing all the evidence on Wikileaks, even if it meant jail for contempt. The political motivation of the whole episode would have been immediately apparent and made extradition to the US very difficult when the whole Swedish pretext is so obviously fake.
But my analysis of the hidden motives and machinations of governments against Assange is no different to his and that of his close supporters. I would merely have adopted different tactics to combat the threats. There can be no higher principle of justice involved when a politically controlled justice system is trying to set you up on false charges. I accept his choice to avoid the snares rather than try to slash through them.
Flight was a legitimate choice for Assange in these circumstances. But I am afraid the direction of flight was mistaken.
For a stunning portrayal of the real evils of government, an exploration of the absolute depths of human behaviour, and of the extraordinary pressures on dissidents from western governments of exactly the kind which bear down now on Assange, book now, immediately, to see One Turbulent Ambassador on NOW at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.
Robin Soans’ (The Arab-Israeli Cookbook; Talking to Terrorists) new play is the most profoundly moving experience on the London stage this year, and the best free theatrical experience you will have in your life. The play is not by me or about me, but is about the things that I witnessed and things that were done to me. Be warned, the play is very emotionally wrenching and contains vivid scenes of rape and torture. It is squarely based on actual events.
A reader of this blog named Ken saw the opening last night and posted this comment:
This evening I went to see:
One Turbulent Ambassador.
Go and See It!
Powerful images from strong dialogues. A few surprises along the way.
On the train home I chatted to an Australian – he’d been to Wimbledon. He asked where I’d been. I explained the play and that part of your life. He seemed hooked, wrote the details down, said he would see it.
It’s so good I think I’ll go again too.
You have just one week left to go and see it. Did I mention that it’s free?