WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, wants out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he’s been holed up for the last two years. Sweden, of course, want him extradited from the UK to face up to allegations of sexual assault, while Assange believes that if he gives himself up to Sweden, he will then be extradited to the United States to be crucified over the WikiLeaks saga.
Frankly, I’m not sure how Assange’s claim that he can’t go to Sweden because they’ll extradite him to the US holds much water. If the US wanted him, they could have applied to the UK while he was going through his appeals against being extradited to Sweden. And, until the Swedish criminal proceedings are complete, Article 28 of the 2002 EU Council Framework Decision requires Sweden to gain Britain’s consent to an extradition to the US. Further, it’s my understanding that neither the UK nor Sweden will extradite anyone to a country where the accused is in peril of the death sentence if convicted, which would surely cover Assange’s situation.
Assange has reportedly said that he will leave the embassy “soon”, but hasn’t given specifics as to why, how or where to. It seems that nothing is in fact arranged, and he’s simply hoping that the British Government takes pity on him, given that living almost 24/7 in an air-conditioned building with no natural lighting is apparently destroying his health. At his most recent press conference inside the embassy, Assange said:
“How can it be in Europe that a person is held, effectively, without charge and kept from their family.”
Well, Assange isn’t exactly being held without charge. He’s sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy of his own free will precisely because he doesn’t want to be charged. Being on the run from authorities does not equate to being held without charge.
And kept from his family? I’m sure that his family are more than welcome to spend time with him in the embassy, where he resides (I repeat) of his own free will.
Setting aside the arguments as to whether the allegations in Sweden are manufactured, and whether Swedish law interprets rape and sexual assault differently to the UK, the simple fact is that the Swedish Government has a legitimate legal reason to interview Mr Assange, and, if the evidence warrants it, to charge him with rape or other sexual assault. Until the sexual assault allegations are resolved, it is more difficult for Assange to be extradited from Sweden than it is from the UK.
To my mind, this is purely a case of Assange attempting to evade justice in Sweden. If he therefore shelters in a London embassy and won’t come out because he’ll be arrested, he can hardly complain that his human rights are being violated.
So what does Mr Assange want to do, should the UK let him leave on his own steam?
“I would want an understanding – formal or informal – that I would be given time to leave the UK before the US puts in an extradition bid. And then I’d go to my children, like any father.”
Except that, as far as I’m aware, three of Assange’s four children live in Australia. So what would be stopping the US from making an extradition application to Australia, once Assange arrives there?
I suppose that for Assange’s supporters (and possibly Assange himself), his story doesn’t have to make sense – he can do no wrong, because he’s the guy who helped found WikiLeaks. Unfortunately for Assange, neither the British nor Swedish Governments see him as being above rape and sexual assault laws.