I’ve just completed another episode as a guest pundit on the The Week In Football on the El Punt Avui TV channel. The show covers football in Spain and England and the conversation often goes off in different directions. This week I compare Delia Smith to Ferran Adria, we discuss the ongoing debate about technology in football and take a look back and forwards to football in La Liga, Copa del Rey, Premier League and FA Cup. You can find more of my appearances on the show in the TV section of this site. Enjoy!
There’s an interesting online debate currently ranging about whether Sweden can grant Julian Assange any assurances that he will not be extradited to the USA. The debate erupted after the New Statesman’s legal commentator David Green wrote an article entitled Legal Myths about the Assange extradition. The article made several points, all of which merit further analysis, but the most contentious was his claim that it would not be possible for the Swedish government to give any legal guarantee about possible future extradition. Green claimed that:
Any final word on an extradition would (quite properly) be with an independent Swedish court, and not the government giving the purported ‘guarantee’.
This is supported by Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt who recently said that the government could issue no assurances:
The Swedish court system is independent. I cannot make any declaration that bind the court system in any way. I would then be violating the Swedish constitution.
American critic Glenn Greenwald picked up on Green’s article claiming it was false and demanded that Green issue a clarification and apology to New Statesman readers. Greenwald quoted Swedish legal professor Mark Klamberg who had earlier addressed the issue on his personal blog saying:
Even if the supreme court has found that there are no obstacles, the government can refuse extradition. This is because section 1(1) provides that if certain conditions are fulfilled, a person ‘may’ not ‘shall’ be extradited. In other words, even if the prosecutor-general and the supreme court finds that all conditions for extradition are fulfilled the government may veto such extradition.
Klamberg then hit back saying he had been misquoted by Greenwald. In a post entitled Sequencing and the discretion of Government in extradition cases, he claimed that the situation was not as straightforward as Greenwald claims. Klamberg writes:
In essence (Greenwald) is arguing that the Government should have the first and the last say with the Supreme Court in the middle. That would make the Supreme Court redundant which is contrary to the sequence that is provided for in the Extradition Act which I have tried to describe. It may also violate the principle of separation of powers.
Klamberg also quoted fellow international law professor Ove Bring interviewed in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter who says:
The Supreme Court can not predict its own decision. If such a request is asked for it must be processed pursuant to the established manner. Subsequently the Government may deny extradition even if the Supreme Court has said yes but the Government can not issue any guarantees at the current stage. That would mean that the Government bulldozes the judicial system and says that it is irrelevant. It does not work that way in a democracy.
Finally, Klamberg also highlighted US-Swedish extradition treaty obligations which may complicate the issue further.
Greenwald wrote a repost to this on his personal blog this time quoting the Swedish government website which seemed to agree with Klamberg’s original assessment. Greenwald later took aim at Klamberg on Twitter questioning his objectivity on this issue because he is married to a Swedish government minister.
It does seem therefore that although the Swedish government would have final say, it can’t do anything until an extradition request has been made and the Swedish Supreme Court has considered that request. The question is then, can the Swedish government even issue any kind of worthwhile statement to Assange? Perhaps a simple public statement of the law is all that’s possible.
I suggested this possibility to Klamberg several days ago in the comment thread of most recent post:
Thanks for this detailed analysis Mark. Would it be fair to say then that the Swedish government could issue a statement along the lines of: “The government has discretion on any Supreme Court ruling on extradition but it should be remembered that it is also bound by international extradition agreements that may take precedent.”
So far there has been no reply. Greenwald made a similar point in his post:
Swedish authorities could, for instance, publicly state that they view espionage charges for the “crime” of reporting on government secrets to be a “political crime” not subject to extradition, but still reserve the right to formally decide upon any extradition request if and when they receive one.
However, you can understand the Swedish government’s reluctance to simply state Swedish law. In their view, the law is the law and it would be applied to Assange the same way as it would anyone else. Making an exception for him with some kind of public statement would be simply unnecessary in their eyes. If Assange really is asking for something impossible from the Swedish government, it seems the situation will remain deadlocked for a very long time to come.
Media interest in the Julian Assange case reached fever pitch again this week with the Ecuadorian government’s decision to grant him asylum. As usual though, much of the coverage continues to ignore important facts and context, spin the story in a way that suit their own political and economic agendas or simply attack Assange and anyone that disagrees with them. It’s important to highlight some important facts that are routinely being ignored in the media regarding the current plight of the WikiLeaks founder.
1. Assange has already been questioned once in Sweden.
The prosecution is perfectly within its right to re-question Assange but hardly a single media outlet offers any context by mentioning the fact that he’s already been questioned once in Sweden and released without charge. Shortly after, the interview transcript was mysteriously leaked to the Swedish press. Nor does the media highlight that Assange waited for 5 weeks before being granted permission to leave the country and continue his work on the War Logs and Cablegate releases with The Guardian in the UK. Some newspapers, especially in Sweden, instead say that he “fled” the country implying that he is somehow “on the run” from the allegations.
2. Assange is willing to return to Sweden but prosecutors can also question him in the UK.
Assange has stated his willingness to return to Sweden if a legal guarantee is made that he will not be extradited to the USA for his work with WikiLeaks. However, there is no compelling reason for him to be in Sweden for questioning. It is standard Swedish practice that when there is no charge and someone is merely wanted for questioning, it can be conducted anywhere in the world including over the phone and via video call. Swedish prosecutors also frequently travel to other countries to question suspects as they did recently to question a man suspected of murder in Serbia. In Assange’s case however, Swedish prosecutor Marianne Nye is insisting that Assange must physically be in Sweden to be questioned. No reason has been given for this inflexibility but Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter justifies it by saying it is “a matter of prestige” for Sweden.
3. There is mounting evidence that the US are compiling a criminal case against Assange.
There is enough to suggest that Assange’s legal team’s fears are justified. Australian diplomatic cables released to the Sydney Morning Herald under the freedom of information act reveal that the Australian government has confirmed that WikiLeaks has been the target of a US Justice Department investigation in Australia “unprecedented both in its scale and nature”. The Australian government also suggests that media reports that a secret grand jury has been convened in Alexandria, Virginia, were ”likely true”. In addition, the WikiLeaks Stratfor Intelligence releases revealed that the Stratfor vice president Fred Burton claimed that: “We have a sealed indictment on Assange“. Besides this, considering the atrocious treatment of Bradley Manning currently in a military jail in the US for allegedly leaking documents to Assange, you don’t have to wear a tin-foil hat to believe that the US will do whatever it takes to get their hands on Assange and make an example of him.
4. It’s actually easier for the US to extradite Assange from Sweden than the UK.
Many people dismiss Assange’s US extradition fears on the basis that if it wanted Assange, it would be easier to get him from the UK anyway. However, it’s actually considerably harder to extradite him from the UK for various reasons. One is that the UK does not have the “temporary surrender” extradition agreement that exists between Sweden and the USA which can be used to override current international extradition agreements and effectively give the US “instant” extradition powers. Another problem is that if the US were to issue an extradition order for Assange from the UK to the US, it would put the UK in a very difficult position because normally, the first extradition request received from Sweden would have to be honored first. In addition, the more diverse media and greater public support in the UK are factors that would make it harder for the US to extradite from the UK. And for all those that think that the Swedish justice system is somehow the best in the world, the Human Rights Watch archive on Sweden makes some interesting reading.
24-08-12: It’s since come to my attention that the “temporary surrender” agreement also exists between the US and UK which is definitely something that many of Assange’s supporters don’t seem to be aware of. However, the same problem would apply – since Sweden has already issued an extradition request, it would put the British Government in a very tricky position. There’s an interesting discussion on this here.
There are many more examples of facts and context routinely left out in media coverage that are important to understanding the Assange case. These are some of the more important ones but as the propaganda war goes on in this increasingly dramatic legal battle, they surely won’t be the last.
Postscript: If you want a really revealing and disturbing insight into how the sex allegations against Assange in Sweden unfolded, read the comment thread on my original post about Assange written almost exactly 2 years ago today.
Tomorrow morning Julian Assange will start his final legal battle over extradition to Sweden in the UK Supreme Court. The liberal media that were once in bed with him however passed judgement a long time ago during his 400+ days under house arrest without charge.
In fact, it seems certain liberal journalists have now declared some kind of media fatwā on both Assange and anyone who dares stand-up for him. Even I, hardly a high profile target, was recently called an “Assange apologist” by renowned American investigative journalist Heather Brooke who slurs his supporters as “Assangistas”. Meanwhile her former colleague at The Guardian David Leigh has called Assange “some sort of dirty, flaky hacker from Melbourne”.
Other liberal journalists have joined in on the Assange gang-bang. The Guardian’s Nick Cohen has dismissed him as nothing more than “an attention seeker”. In The New York Times, John Burns described him as “On the Run” and “Trailed by Notoriety”. And in Sweden, Aftonbladet’s Dan Joseffson called him “a lonely and broken neo-liberal who wants to tear down democracy.”
How things have changed. Little more than a year ago, all of the above journalists and their newspapers welcomed Assange with open arms to publish the War Logs and Cablegate. In the case of Aftonbladet, they were even about to sign-him to write a regular column. Now they think he stinks – some of them quite literally. Is this really a particularly strong delayed reaction to Assange’s alleged hygiene or it something to do with the fact that the most powerful government in the world and its corporate backers would like to re-write the law books and charge Assange – and some of those that allegedly collaborated him with him – with espionage?
The way the liberal mainstream have abandoned Assange says a lot about how it operates when power really hits back – it becomes very reactionary. This is because the same corporate interests that own the liberal media, either directly through ownership or through advertising, are under attack from organizations such as WikiLeaks. In liberal societies, a certain amount of dissent has to be tolerated to give the impression of a critical and democratic mainstream media that holds power to account. But there are permissible limits to this dissent as the case of Assange and WikiLeaks has shown.
Some of the journalists and publications involved are also understandably worried. If the US can re-write the rulebook and somehow extradite Assange on “espionage” charges for merely giving whistleblowers a voice, then Leigh, Brooke, Burns and all the other newspapers that worked with him can theoretically be implicated as well.
This hostility from the liberal end of the media spectrum in the West means it’s no surprise that Assange has had to turn to Russia Today in order to continue his work. Assange will surely be under no illusions that he won’t have the freedom to critically discuss anything that compromises Russian interests when working for the Kremlin’s propaganda arm. But he will have the freedom to go beyond what the Western mainstream media are willing to discuss on their own doorstep.
Which only reiterates why WikiLeaks, and projects like it, are still so desperately needed in the West to extend the acceptable spectrum of dissent in the mainstream media.
Definitely worth watching from a great historian.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the UK must “build a better economy” that is fair and worthwhile.
Deputy PM Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband have also made speeches on the faults of unrestrained free markets.
But, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm told Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman that capitalism was concerned only with growth and making profit, not responsibility.
The rise of Islamophobia in Europe and the US is the manipulated product of a toxic blend of economic insecurity, unprotected mass migration and the consequences of a decade of western-sponsored war in the Muslim world: from Afghanistan to Iraq, Pakistan to Libya.
It has become the new acceptable form of racism – far outstripping in opinion polls the level of hatred for any other religious or racial group, and embraced by those who delude themselves that anti-Muslim bigotry has nothing to do with ethnicity – and even represents some sort of defence of liberal values.
For those who failed to deliver decent jobs, wages and housing, and encouraged employers to profit from low-wage migrant labour, how much easier to scapegoat minority Muslim communities than deal with the banks and corporate free-for-all that triggered the crisis? The attempt to pathologise last Friday’s slaughter and separate it from the swamp that spawned it can only ratchet up the danger to all of us.
One of the “sacred cows” of British society is its National Health Service (NHS). Former politician Tony Benn once quipped that if any British government tried to fully privatize it, “there would be a revolution”. A recent public opinion poll showed a whopping 89% of British people support the NHS over an American style private system. You’d therefore think it would be pretty big news if a decision was taken for a private company to run an NHS hospital for the first time.
Not according to most of the liberal media, particularly the BBC. The main story on the BBC six-o-clock news this evening was that £8 billion pounds of investment is to be made in Britain’s railways (the fruits of which, we’re told, won’t be enjoyed for at least 10 years and that travelers will start paying for in the New Year with fare increases of up to 10%). The second story was that a Conservative Peer, says that poor people living in benefits will be encouraged to “breed” (you know, a bit like dogs do – but dogs on benefits). The third story was that Labour leader Ed Milliband concedes it’s their “fault” that there’s too many of these breeding poor people living on benefits.
Here’s a snapshot of the BBC’s main stories this evening:
No mention of the fact that private company Circle is to take over the running of Cambridgeshire’s Hinchingbrooke hospital to become the first to be entirely run by a private business after it beat another bidder, Serco, to the contract. I think that’s pretty big news that should be one of the main headlines on the evening news or at least on the front page of the BBC website, not tucked away in the Health section.
Of course, it’s only natural that the state-corporate liberal media see it as their role to provide a smokescreen for the corporate takeover of the British state. The BBC may not be a private company but its governors are appointed by the Government – a conflict of interest if ever there was one. Usually they’re a little bit more subtle than this however. With the student protests yesterday for example, their tact was to focus on the isolated instances of violence by a minority. Other methods they use include limiting a debate to two very narrow alternatives which both support state-corporate power or featuring opinions predominantly from only one side of a debate.