Assange Conundrum 78

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.

All tickets are absolutely free.

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?

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78 thoughts on “Assange Conundrum

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  • Komodo

    The Diamond defence:
    1. It wasn’t me, it was 14 other guys.
    2. It was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong,it was……..
    3. When I give people instructions. I don’t expect them to obey them.
    4. It was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong, it was wrong,it was……..
    5. In response to your question, I didn’t hear it. It was wrong…

  • TIM

    Minor correction – Embassies are not “extra-territorial”. The law of the host nation applies inside them. It is just that the VCDR says that the local police cannot enter without permission and diplomats themselves cannot (normally) be prosecuted by the host nation.

    Also (see comments) Karl Rove is an ethnic Norwegian, which is supposed to explain why Hans Blix was so distrusted by the White House when IAEA DG. Sending Rove to fix the Swedes would be about as sensible as sending Mandelson to fix the Scots.

  • Richard Gadsden

    It’s a bit spy film, but the flat’s only on the third floor – you could probably get a convertible flag car and then have Assange jump out of the window into a car with the roof down.

    Of course, that only gets him into a car – transfer from the car to a TAME plane would be the next challenge, and TAME doesn’t have anything capable of flying direct from the UK to Ecuador – they’d need to refuel either in the USA (or near, e.g. Bahamas) or in West Africa.

  • Komodo

    Maybe so, Tim, but it is alleged that Bildt is an old friend of Rove’s. “Ethnic Norwegian?” Nah, he’s just one of the millions of Americans who, having little history of their own, borrow that of their European grandfathers. Like the pissants who wear kilts when they do Scotland in two days. The Norwegian-Swedish relationship explained here –
    If Mandelson could represent Hartlepool for years without being crippled for life, I doubt he’d feel threatened in Scotland…slimy bastard that he is.

  • Komodo

    Doesn’t have to be TAME, though, does it? Just needs to be Ecuadoran registered, or even just not too bothered. Transfer to Vigo (eg), new docs and grow a beard, car ride to Madrid and off on LAN to Santiago or somewhere. From whence…
    I should do this for a living.

  • Komodo

    A Gulfstream, for choice. Just another rendition flight- no awkward questions…

  • Herbie

    Well now, Timmy old plum.
    Karl tells us himself in his bio on his site:
    “His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional, and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states, as well as the Moderate Party of Sweden.”
    He’s not “fixing them”. He’s not telling them what to do under pain of US sanction. He’s helping them because they employed him, and now he’s a mate of their PM.
    I know, I know. Why should we believe the lying old scroat. But there you go, that’s what he said.
    Nice touch that, eh. The Moderate Party of Sweden. They changed their name from something rather more apt. On Karl’s advice no doubt. The really dodgy parties all seem to have motherhood and apple pie names, don’t they.
    Anyway. Here’s a debate on the matter.

  • Clark

    Jay’s advice to defrag won’t help with connection problems anyway. And it’s doubly irrelevant to anything but M$ Windows systems, which are the only ones that need defragmentation. Even Windows Vista and Windows 7 defragment themselves on a schedule, which is probably what knackered Craig’s lost file a while back.

  • Komodo

    That Diamond is being economical with the truth (assuming he owns any) can be clearly seen here –
    Because Barclays’s actions as the swindle became inescapably obvious were based firmly on deepening media suspicion, it is absolutely inconceivable that senior staff were unaware of what was going on. Diamond knew. And, rather than taking timely action to investigate and remove the culprits, the orders from on high amounted to “Cool it, chaps, it’s getting a bit too visible”.
    Diamond claims he knew nothing until a month ago. Given that the CFTC’s investigation started around 2009, and that top management, nervously eyeing the bloodhounds sniffing round Compliance, MUST have been aware that there was a problem then, this looks like a straight lie.
    Also, the FSA’s report makes it clear that Barclays’ traders were operating in collusion with the staff of other banks. The practice, in other words, was industry-wide, at least in the UK. Diamond, whose reputation in these circles is as a fully-clued-up investment banker, adept in derivatives trading, MUST have been aware of this, and had no objection to its continuance – subject always to its not hitting the headlines.

  • Mary

    WikiLeaks (@wikileaks)
    05/07/2012 07:24
    WIKILEAKS MAJOR RELEASE PRESS CONF TODAY: London Thu Jul 5 10.45AM BST for 11AM start Frontline Club. Live stream:

  • Abe Rene

    “We share common values..” Certainly the invasion of Iraq was a huge mistake, and the continued unjust treatment of Palestinians cannot help Israel’s security. It will be restitution for the injury caused to so many innocent people in the Middle East, and enhancement of the quality of life for Palestinians, that will help the security of America and Israel in the long-term.

  • Komodo

    Scrub that – it’s something that happened last night at the FC. Sorry.

  • macky

    @Richard Gadsden, yes it is a bit spy filmy, but having recently watched V for Vendetta, Assange may consider as an escape plan, the scene where the hero gets out a similar cornered situation by making all the people he is holding hostage wear an identical mask to his, and then getting out unnoticed in the crowd as they rush through the police lines; for this to have a chance of working, it will need as many people as the Embassy can possible hold, everybody of course wearing masks; it will also need a massive crowd of supporters outside as well, ready to don masks & rush to break the police lines at the exact time that the masked crowd try to break through the police also.

    A long shot for sure, but wouldn’t it be it great for life to imitate art for a change !

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