Assange, rape, and Ecuador

This is heroism:

PFC Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old Army intelligence analyst, is accused of releasing the Collateral Murder video, that shows the killing of unarmed civilians and two Reuters journalists, by a US Apache helicopter crew in Iraq. He is also accused of sharing the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and series of embarrassing US diplomatic cables. These documents were published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, and they have illuminated such issues as the true number and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq, along with a number of human rights abuses by U.S.-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and the role that spying and bribes play in international diplomacy. Given the war crimes exposed, if PFC Bradley Manning was the source for these documents, he should be given a medal of honor.

This is rape culture:

Instead, the Matrix plays dirty and lets loose a sex bomb upon our intrepid Neo. When you can’t contest the message, you smear the messenger. Sweden is tailor-made for sending a young man into a honey trap. Sweden has particularly thorny anti-rape legislation, where a conviction might be secured from something as thin as an anonymous accuser’s allegation.

In any case, our lucky Neo Julian Assange was only able to enjoy his fugitive-from-justice status for a few hours. By noon, the charges were already dropped, and he was free to be defamed from one end of Sweden to the other, not to mention the countless websites. It’s a simple system: the websites show the headlines, and the headlines report the web gossip. It’s Character Assassination 101, but why in Sweden of all places couldn’t the dirty tricks department make the accusations stick?

Swedish bloggers uncovered the full story in a few hours. The complaint was lodged by a radical feminist Anna Ardin, 30, a one-time intern in the Swedish Foreign Service. She’s spokeswoman for Broderskapsrörelsen, the liberation theology-like Christian organization affiliated with Sweden’s Social Democratic Party. She had invited Julian Assange to a crayfish party, and they had enjoyed some quality time together. When Ardin discovered that Julian shared a similar experience with a 20-year-old woman a day or two later, she obtained the younger woman’s cooperation in declaring before the police that changing partners in so rapid a manner constituted a sort of deceit. And deceit is a sort of rape. The prosecutor immediately issued an arrest warrant, and the press was duly notified. Once the facts were examined in the cold light of day, the charge of rape seemed ludicrous and was immediately dropped. In the meantime the younger woman, perhaps realizing how she had been used, withdrew her report, leaving the vengeful Anna Ardin standing alone.

From the New York Times, 18th November 2010:

“According to accounts the women gave to the police and friends, they each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual. One woman said that Mr. Assange had ignored her appeals to stop after a condom broke. The other woman said that she and Mr. Assange had begun a sexual encounter using a condom, but that Mr. Assange did not comply with her appeals to stop when it was no longer in use.”

Lindsay Beyerstein at The Big Think, 6th December 2010:

One accuser says she agreed to sex on the condition that Assange wear a condom, only to discover that he’d penetrated her without one. The other accuser maintains that Assange refused to stop having sex after a condom broke.

If consent is predicated on condom use and one partner surreptitiously avoids using a condom, morally, that’s a form of sexual assault.

Linnéa in Feminism and Tea “Sex by Surprise”, 6th December 2010:

Julian Assange’s UK based lawyer called what Assange was charged for “sex by surprise” and it is insinuated that this is a Swedish crime.

First of all, let me put this straight: there is no such crime as “sex by surprise” in Sweden. Assange is charged for rape, sexual harassment and duress, and this is, what is called in Swedish legal terms, on “sannolika skäl;” a classification that means that the prosecutor has enough evidence to make her believe it is likely the verdict will be in her favour. There is fairly strong evidence, then, it is not charge pulled out of thin air. “Sex by surprise” or överraskningssex as it would be translated in Swedish is slang for rape. It is a term that is used when speaking about rape, but jokingly, or keeping it light, a word that brings with it positive connotations, which makes the word inappropriate in itself, but it is nevertheless synonymous with rape.

Angus Johnston on Julian Assange: Condoms, Rape, and “Sex By Surprise” – Update, 7th December 2010:

The Swedish authorities have released details of the allegations against Assange. They claim that he used his body weight to hold one woman down during a non-consensual sexual act, that he had sex with her without using a condom in violation of her “express wish,” and that four days later he ”deliberately molested” her “in a way designed to violate her sexual integrity.” The other complainant alleges that he took sexual advantage of her while she was asleep, and that he did not use a condom.

I should note for clarity’s sake that Assange hasn’t actually been charged with anything. He’s been arrested, and the Swedish authorities have specified the charges they’re considering filing against him, but those charges have not been filed at this time. Sweden is seeking to extradite him for questioning, nothing more.

Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon, 7th December 2010:

The key here is “consent”, which was withdrawn. That means that the woman was non-consenting. Having sex with a non-consenting person is rape. This shouldn’t be so complicated.

I don’t know if Julian Assange is guilty, of course, but I’m deeply disturbed by the people who aren’t content with suggesting that Interpol is politicizing a crime that shouldn’t be politicized, but instead slurring the victims with the usual course of rape apologist tactics, including accusing a victim of the high crime of being a “radical feminist”. I suppose we should find this evidence against her, instead of evidence that Assange has sex with other people in the community of political radicals to which he belongs. I’m sorry, but why on earth is it so hard to believe that Assange is the kind of guy who power trips on women by promising to use a condom and then slipping it off during sex? This is one of the most common kinds of sexual assault there is, and a favorite way for guys with power issues to get cheap thrills at the expense of women, who they often feel are contemptible and weak. Are we to assume that someone who clearly gets a rise out of making the most powerful nation on the planet scramble around in a chickens-with-heads-cut-off manner doesn’t have a tendency to ego trip? Are we to assume someone who risks life and limb for this isn’t the kind of guy who might get smaller kicks out of smaller, less internationally interesting power trips? Why are we to assume that?

Nearly two years later, this is still all we know. Julian Assange has been living on bail in “a mansion in eastern England“, resisting returning to Sweden to face the charges of sexual assault, claming to believe that the US will extradite him from Sweden. Bradley Manning has been kept in a maximum security prison.

Birgitta Jónsdóttir on Bradley Manning, America’s martyr for open government on 29th May 2012:

Little did I know when I was helping with the preparations for making public the historic leak “Collateral Murder” – the 2007 footage of a US Apache helicopter firing at and killing a group of people claimed to be insurgents, which included a Reuters journalist, released by WikiLeaks in 2010 – that the person possibly responsible for the courageous act of bringing the war crimes exposed in that video into the public domain, where it belonged, would end up in a military prison, even subjected to torture for months. Today marks two years of imprisonment of Private Bradley Manning. Two years out of his 24 years is a long time in military prison. His treatment has been highly controversial, every step of the way.

Following every bit of information available during the first few months of his ordeal made it clear that the US government was going to use Manning as a warning to anyone else who might feel compelled to report on war crimes, or any other crimes they witness from within the system. Blow the whistle, goes the warning, and you will be buried alive by the state, shredded by the same secrecy machine a whistleblower would try to expose.

Today, hearing that his final appeal to the UK Supreme Court had been denied, Julian Assange walked into the embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, London, and asked for political asylum.

The official statement of the embassy is

“This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government. As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito.

While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government. The decision to consider Mr Assange’s application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”

Among other things, this means that the £240,000 bail bond posted on Julian Assange’s behalf by high-profile supporters (including Jemima Khan) is probably gone for good: Assange was supposed to be back at the mansion in Kent by 10pm, and he is now a guest of the Ecuadorean embassy until they decide whether to offer him political asylum.

Why did Julian Assange pick Ecuador? (It has an extradition treaty with the US.) Did he think they wouldn’t regard accusations of rape as all that serious?

By January 2012, over 100,000 people around the world had signed a petition on against torture clinics in Ecuador where lesbians were imprisoned and tortured to “make” them turn straight. On 23rd January:

the Ministry of Health was ready to meet with Fundacion Causana and take responsibility for the violence against LGBT. Now the Ecuadorian government is working hand in hand with Fundacion Causana to eradicate these clinics from Ecuador, free the women trapped inside, and launch a national public awareness campaign to fight homophobia.

“After ten years of outcry, the nation of Ecuador- through the Ministry of Public Health- has entered into a commitment with civic organizations and society in general to deconstruct the belief that homosexuality is an illness and root our the use of torture in these clinics. We extend our thanks to all the men and women who signed our petition. It has been invaluable to have this support in starting to change this reality.” – Fundacion Causana

The petition read:
Although over 30 “ex- gay clinics” have been closed this year, hundreds still remain open. These clinics which claim to “cure” homosexuality have decreased in popularity in recent years yet still remain a horrific reality for many. Escaping patients report cases of physical and psychological abuse including verbal threats, shackling, days without food, sexual abuse, and physical torture. Paula Ziritti, 24, spent two years in one such facility and for three months was shackled in handcuffs while guards threw water and urine on her. She describes numerous accounts of physical and sexual abuse. Ziritti says, “The closure of the first clinics by the government is good, but not good enough. Why is the clinic where I suffered still open?”

Bradley Manning and Wikileaks are worth supporting.

Julian Assange is not.

Update, 11:20pm:

Assange interviewed the president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, on the Russia Today TV channel last month. In their exchange, the Australian explained that he had been under house arrest in England for 500 days and elicited sympathy from the left wing populist leader.

By choosing Ecuador, he has alighted on a country that is clearly in accord with his political views, not closely aligned with the United States and, he will hope, beyond the reach of the European arrest warrant system.

Some legal commentators have doubted whether Assange would have strong grounds to take his appeal to the ECHR in Strasbourg. He may have decided on his dramatic switch in tactics having been discouraged about his chances of success in Europe’s highest court. (Guardian)

Also, Stavvers

Assange is not Wikileaks. For starters, Wikileaks is a large project which is staffed by many people other than Assange. Another difference is that Julian Assange is most likely a rapist, and Wikileaks is not. It is therefore perfectly simple to support Wikileaks while acknowledging what Assange did is completely and utterly wrong.

Update, 20th June

Ian Dunt, Assange has betrayed Wikileaks and its principles:

Assange’s dismissal of these charges, and that of his overly-eager supporters, is simply abysmal. It is part of a depressing tapestry, where violence against women – alleged or proven – is treated as a sub-plot to politics, music or sport. Chris Brown, who violently assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna, is now invited to perform at award events as if nothing had happened. Mike Tyson, who was convicted of raping an 18-year-old girl, announced yesterday he was bringing a show to Broadway with the help of celebrated film director Spike Lee. Assange’s supporters, who include some of the most respectable and impressive figures on the British left, seem to have the same blindspot. Unfortunately, his actions have smeared by association people as pivotal as film director Ken Loach and campaigning journalist John Pilger.

Assange has used the political sympathies of those who support him to protect himself from allegations which any moral society would take seriously. The very idea that it is easier for America to extradite someone from Sweden rather than the UK is laughable to anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the current extradition treaty. If you breathe wrong in this country, Theresa May will pack you off to the US for trial. That’s how subservient we have become to our transatlantic cousins.

Update, 13th August

Julian Assange missed the Olympics. Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, announced on Ecuador’s state TV that “a large amount of material about international law needed to be examined to make a responsible, informed decision” but that he hoped to be able to announce on Wednesday 14th August whether he will grant political asylum to Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden for questioning for (allegedly) raping two women. His defense is that he was afraid that Sweden, which has more stringent protections against extraditions to the US than either the UK or Ecuador, might allow the US to extradite him anyway, even though – Assange’s supporters claim – Assange is afraid he has already been secretly indicted and may face the death penalty. Which if it were true, would mean Sweden would never allow him to be extradited: he could spend up to six years safely in a jail cell, by which time Obama will be out of office, hopefully Bradley Manning will be free, and US politics could have lost interest.

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Filed under Human Rights, Justice, Women

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