Friday, 17 August 2012

Julian Assange: Some Thoughts

So, Julian Assange has been granted diplomatic immunity by Ecuador and Britain stands accused of threatening to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in order to forcibly remove him and extradite him to Sweden.

Assange is a divisive figure - and not just between the establishment and the extreme left. He is divisive even amongst those who would consider themselves liberal. The added complication of rape allegations - which he denies and are seen as a proxy for American moves to seek his extra

This divisiveness has led to two of the Liberal Democrat bloggers I follow most closely publicly disagreeing: somewhat of a rarity as Caron pointed out when I tweeted about it:

You can read Stephen and Caron's respective views here and here

I'm going to qualify my remarks by saying that I've not followed the Assange case particularly closely. Also, while I believe that leaks can be justified, I believe the wholesale dumping of information into the public domain is irresponsible. Anyway, here are some thoughts that sprang to mind earlier:

1. We shouldn't be storming embassies in order to extract people we wish to extradite. Doing so would undermine the integrity of the diplomatic system and, potentially, put British Embassy staff at risk if similar circumstances were to arise elsewhere.

In any case, the statement reads more as a bit of sabre rattling - applying thumbscrews - rather than as a serious threat; it has, of course, somewhat backfired on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

2. ...but we should be extraditing Assange. Whatever you think of the motivations of the two woman involved in the allegations against him. Whatever they alleged political backgrounds and former pronunciations, rape allegations are serious and should be thoroughly investigated. Ironically, this is one of those issues that many supporters of Assange would otherwise be adamant about. 

As to the seriousness of the charges: whether or not the acts in question would fall under the definition of rape in this country, whatever happened to "When in Rome?"...

It is alleged Mr Assange left Sweden when his lawyer was informed of his imminent arrest. It is a fact that he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy when extradition proceedings were due to start. As things stand (and as far as I understand it) there is no US Arrest Warrant outstanding. Even if their was, Sweden is a fellow liberal democracy with a robust legal system - and is a co-signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. I see no reason not to allow it follow due process and - should the US issue a warrant - deal with it appropriately.

3. Should we really be taking Human Rights Lessons from Ecuador? Caron's blog contains a link to the Amnesty International pages and reports on the country - do take a look. I find myself wondering what the regime of President Correa would have done if Wikileaks had leaked embarrassing or harmful Ecuadorian documents.


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