On 18th August 2010, Julian Assange applied for a residence permit to live and work in Sweden, hoping to create a base for Wikileaks there, because of the country’s laws protecting whistle-blowers. Swedish law prohibits extradition for political crimes: Swden have repeatedly said that the ECHR would intervene if Assange were to be extradited to face inhuman or degrading treatment, such as Assange claims to fear in the US.
If Julian Assange were genuinely afraid of being extradited to the US more than anything else, he would have stayed in Sweden. He fled because he did not want to be questioned by the Swedish police about the allegations of rape made against him by two women in August 2010. He has spent two years trying not to go back to a country where he wanted to live and where he would be safe from being extradited – but where he might well spend up to six years in jail for rape, if the Swedish authorities decide to charge him and if he is convicted.
Government sources in Quito, Ecuador, confirmed today the President, Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, intended to grant Julian Assange asylum in Ecuador. They also admitted that the offer of asylum was made to Assange several months ago – before he walked into the Ecuador embassy in Knightsbridge on 19th June, following “confidential negotiations” with senior staff at the embassy.
Apparently the British and Swedish governments were aware that Julian Assange had requested asylum in Ecuador and their embassy in Knightsbridge had discussed this.
- The British government: “discouraged the idea”
- The Swedish government: “not very collaborative”
On Monday 13th August, President Correa had told the state-run ECTV that he’d make a decision this week whether he would give Assange asylum, claiming “a large amount of material about international law had to be examined to make a responsible informed decision”.
Since 19th June, Julian Assange has been living in one room of the embassy – with a high-speed internet connection.
Ecuador’s foreign minister Ricardo Patiño indicated that the president would reveal his answer once the Olympic Games were over. But it remains unclear if giving Assange asylum will allow him to leave Britain and fly to Ecuador, or amounts to little more than a symbolic gesture. At the moment he faces the prospect of arrest as soon as he leaves the embassy for breaching his bail conditions.
“For Mr Assange to leave England, he should have a safe pass from the British [government]. Will that be possible? That’s an issue we have to take into account,” Patino told Reuters on Tuesday.
Two weeks ago Christine Assange, Julian’s mother, was invited to Ecuador on an official visit. She met with the President and the Foreign Minister and with Fernando Cordero, head of Ecuador’s legislature.
Other top political figures in Ecuador have been vocal about the government’s support of Assange’s bid. “Our comrade the president, who leads our international policy, will grant Julian Assange asylum,” said María Augusta Calle, a congresswoman of the president’s party, and former head of the Sovereignty, Foreign Affairs and Latin American Integration Commission during the 2008 Constitutional Assembly, during a meeting with Ms Assange.
Well, I don’t believe Julian’s capable of rape, and the women themselves have stated that the sex that they had was consensual and non-violent. You need to remember that in Sweden the definition of rape can include categories under consensual and non-violent sex. The tweets between the women and their friends indicate that they had no problem individually regarding their sexual contact with Julian. In fact, Woman S.W, when she was being interviewed by the policewoman Irmeli Krans was so upset that the police were going to allege that Julian was wanted for rape that she couldn’t finish her interview and didn’t sign her statement.
penetrating one woman while she slept without a condom, in defiance of her previously expressed wishes, before arguing that because she subsequently “consented to … continuation” of the act of intercourse, the incident as a whole must be taken as consensual.
In the other incident, in which Assange is alleged to have held a woman down against her will during a sexual encounter, Emmerson offered this summary: “[The complainant] was lying on her back and Assange was on top of her … [she] felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … [she] tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. [She] says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly.”
As in the case of the first incident, Emmerson argues that subsequent consent renders the entire encounter consensual, and legal.
No. There’s no evidence the two women consented, merely that they decided not to fight back. If events happened as Julian Assange’s own defense lawyer says they did, and presumably his version of events is from Assange himself, then Assange raped those two women.
Rape isn’t about gender so much as it’s about power and privilege; but power and privilege are so completely tied to gender that that can sometimes get lost. I think sometimes it can be clearer to see how horrifying rape is, and how much it really is rape, when it’s done to somebody with power and privilege, somebody it isn’t supposed to be done to, somebody it’s not okay to do it to.
But mostly, I related this story because when Guy 1 told me why he didn’t fight back, that was the first time I really understood why some girls don’t. He put it so well: when somebody you knew, somebody you trusted, does something so frighteningly outside the boundaries of normal and expected behavior, that person becomes a stranger who is capable of anything. And, more importantly, a stranger who has already proven that they are willing to do anything.
I think if Julian Assange prefers to live in a room in Knightsbridge for the next few years, with access to the Internet, instead of facing the consequences of his actions in Sweden, well: let him stay there. In effect he has sentenced himself to jail without appeal. I can’t say it’s what he deserves, but it’s some consequence for his actions.
Had it been her own son accused of murder, she just cannot believe she would have tried to protect him from justice. “I couldn’t live with myself, because that would be living a lie. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to – and my children know this.” [Decca Aitkenhead] asks if Lawrence thinks they truly believe in their sons’ innocence. She sighs.
“Well I think those types of people, they’re…” She breaks off. After a long pause, “It’s like they feel that they have the right, or their sons have the right, to do whatever they want to do.”
Update, 23:46pm: “Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa on Twitter Tuesday denied reports in the British media that he has decided to offer Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum.” (NBC) Apparently the decision has not been made yet – the Guardian may be getting ahead of itself (or may be plain wrong, though I can’t think it’s likely).
Update, 15th August: Apparently Correa is going to make an announcement Thursday, and the UK have let Ecuador know that:
You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.
We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange’s presence in your premises, this is an open option for us.
It went on:
We need to reiterate that we consider the continued use of the diplomatic premises in this way incompatible with the Vienna Convention and unsustainable and we have made clear the serious implications that this has for our diplomatic relations.
In effect, if Ecuador continue to shelter Assange, the UK may decide to temporarily break off diplomatic relations with Ecuador. This would be an extreme action, and it is open to the government of Ecuador to describe it as an “unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act” but Ricardo Patino is not truthful when he says it would be “an attempt against our sovereignty”: that would only be the case if the UK entered the embassy while it was still legally an embassy.
If it ceases to be an embassy, and the diplomatic staff are allowed to leave peacefully, then there is no action against Ecuador sovereignty by entering a building in Knightsbridge to arrest a man wanted for questioning in Sweden.
(But see Carl Gardner on Julian Assange: can the UK withdraw diplomatic status from the Ecuadorian embassy?. Recommended.)
Update, 16th August. Julian Assange has been formally offered and accepted asylum in Ecuador. He is, of course, still inside the Ecuador embassy in Knightsbridge.
Of course, a martyr can be a political asset like any other, and many people are assuming that’s why Ecuador has taken him in (and now granted him asylum) – to make a grand statement and stick two fingers up at the United States. If I were them (and if I were Assange) I’d be more wary. The value of assets varies over time. Can he really guarantee that Ecuador won’t choose to sell him on in the future? In 2006 the IVK PAX study found that Ecuador had the fourth highest kidnapping rate of any country in the world. In such a context it would be easy for a valuable asset to disappear and turn up in American hands without anybody being able to prove who was responsible. No law could protect Assange from this.
He is wanted for rape. People are still saying that he is wanted for “sex without a condom” which is an offence only in Sweden. Wrong. The European Arrest Warrant issued in respect of him clearly gives four offences that he is wanted for. They are one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one of rape.
In other words, if a man-shaped diplomatic bag is seen emerging from the Ecuadorean Embassy and we prod it with a pitchfork to confirm that it contains only diplomatic items, a squeak of ‘Ouch!” would give us all the legal options we need to ask the Ecuador Embassy politely to undo it and show us what or who is therein. …..
By the way, I also gather that IF Assange is extradited to Sweden and then a US extradition request is sent to Sweden, HMG still have the legal right to be consulted on how that application is processed. Strange but true. So not only would Assange have the benefit of all Sweden’s legal and human rights checks and balances – he’d have ours too.
(Update: My own thoughts on Could the US extradite Assange?)
So Assange is stuck indefinitely in a poky little building in Knightsbridge. If he so much as sets foot outside, he’ll be arrested and extradited to Sweden. In his bid to avoid accountability and due process, he has chosen to imprison himself. – Julian Assange has imprisoned himself indefinitely without trial
So let’s leave him there.
Update, 7th September
Why was there nobody at the Ecuador Embassy tonight for #Assange ? When I went there was only police. It felt odd!
— Kay Kanabar (@KayKanabar) September 7, 2012