© Ben Stansall / AFP
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Despite dropping the case Sweden refuses to clear Assange of the rape allegations, purporting to blame him instead for the failure of the case, whilst Britain is still violating his human rights as a refugee by preventing him from travelling to Ecuador.


Three weeks ago I wrote an article for The Duran in which I pointed out (1) that Julian Assange has never been charged in Sweden with rape (2) that the extradition proceedings Sweden brought against him in Britain were supposedly brought in order to compel him to come to Sweden to be questioned about the allegations of rape made against him there (3) that this purpose was fulfilled in November 2016 when Assange was questioned by the Swedish prosecutor about the rape allegations in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain and (4) that the continued failure of the Swedish authorities in light of this either to bring charges against Assange or to drop the case against him - leaving him trapped in legal limbo - was an outrage, all the more so since the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council had already said that his treatment violated his human rights.
It is now the last day in April, five months since Assange was questioned about the rape allegations in Britain. However there is no word from Sweden either of the case against him being dropped or of the rape charges against him being pressed.

Meanwhile the European arrest warrant been not been cancelled, and the extradition request to Britain has not been dropped, even though their purported purpose - to have Assange questioned about the rape allegations - has been fulfilled in Britain.

Meanwhile the British authorities have taken no steps to review their grant of the Swedish extradition request notwithstanding that the purported purpose of that request - to return Assange to Sweden so that he could be questioned about the rape allegations there - has been fulfilled in Britain.

This is despite the fact that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has said that the treatment of Julian Assange by the British and Swedish authorities already violates his human rights.

The result is that Assange remains trapped in limbo in the Ecuadorian embassy despite the fact that there are no charges against him, despite his having complied with the Swedish request that he be questioned about the rape allegations, and despite the fact that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council says his human rights are being violated.

It should be said clearly that this is completely unacceptable and wrong, and further violates Assange's human rights, which have already been violated, but does so to an even greater degree.
I also said what the Swedish and British authorities should do, and without further delay
What is now important is that this disastrous episode should be brought to an end.

If the Swedes have grounds to bring charges against Assange, then they should do so, and do so without further delay. If they do not intend to press charges against Assange, then they should say so publicly and without further delay, clearing him of the false allegations which have been made against him, and which have done so much damage to his reputation. Basic principles of human conscience and of justice, and fundamental principles of law and due process, demand no less.

The Swedes and the British should in the latter case also provide clear explanations for their actions, explaining why Assange was subjected to legal proceedings when it was possible to question him in Britain, and why they delayed so long in dropping the case against him after it became clear following his questioning that there was actually no case against him when there was already in existence a legal ruling which said that his human rights were being violated.
Three weeks after these words were written the Swedish authorities have announced that the case against Assange has been dropped. However in every other respect they and the British authorities have failed to [do] the things I said they should do and their statements today compound the violations of Assange's human rights.

Firstly, the Swedish authorities whilst dropping the case against Assange, are refusing to admit his innocence. Instead the Swedish prosecutor has said in public comments that she is not pronouncing on his "guilt (!) or not", whilst her formal statement announcing the dropping of the case says the following
The motive is that there is no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.

Almost 5 years ago Julian Assange was permitted refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has resided ever since. In doing so, he has escaped all attempts by the Swedish and British authorities to execute the decision to surrender him to Sweden in accordance with the EU rules concerning the European Arrest Warrant. My assessment is that the surrender cannot be executed in the foreseeable future, says Marianne Ny.

According to Swedish legislation, a criminal investigation is to be conducted as quickly as possible. At the point when a prosecutor has exhausted the possibilities to continue the investigation, the prosecutor is obliged to discontinue the investigation.

- At this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted. In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him. We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this. Therefore the investigation is discontinued.
The statement goes on to say that if Assange were to return to Sweden at any time before 2020 - when the Statute of Limitations in respect of the offence he is alleged to have committed expires - then the case against him may be revived.

This statement misrepresents the facts.

The European Arrest Warrant was not issued in order to bring Assange to Sweden to face rape charges. It was issued in order to bring Assange to Sweden so that he could be questioned there about the rape allegations which have been made against him. The Swedish prosecutor was then to decide following his answers whether she had grounds to bring charges against him or not.

Far from Assange "escaping all attempts by the Swedish authorities to execute the decision to surrender him to Sweden ....(so that) the surrender cannot be executed in the foreseeable future....", following Assange questioning by the Swedish prosecutor in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain in November, the purported purpose of the European Arrest Warrant has been fulfilled.

The Swedish prosecutor's statement nowhere refers to this fact, and is written as if the questioning of Assange in the British embassy in November never took place.

Rather than admit that the purpose of the European Arrest Warrant has been fulfilled, and say whether in light of Assange's answers there are grounds to bring a case against him or not, the Swedish prosecutor is saying she has dropped the case because "there is no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed".

This is mendacious and unworthy of a prosecutor. It misrepresents the purpose of the European Arrest Warrant, and instead of resolving the question in the light of Assange's answers of whether there is a case against him or not, it tries to blame Assange for the failure of the case.

As for the prosecutor's reported comment that she is not pronouncing on the question of Assange's "guilt or not", in the absence of charges against him he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and this comment straightforwardly violates it.

As for the British authorities, despite the ending of the Swedish case against him, they continue to say that if Assange leaves the embassy they will arrest him on the minor charge of refusing to surrender to the court on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates' Court on 29th June 2012. This despite the fact that the extradition proceedings in which that warrant was issued have now closed.

This is a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs. It means that though no charges have been brought against Assange, and though he has complied with the Swedish prosecutor's demand that he answer her questions, his name has not been cleared, and the authorities in Sweden continue to insinuate his guilt.

Meanwhile he remains trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy with a British arrest warrant still hanging over him, with the certain prospect that the moment he leaves the embassy he will be the subject of an extradition request from the US.

I suspect that the reason the Swedish prosecutor decided to drop the case is because her failure to bring charges so many months after Assange was questioned had exposed her to a legal challenge.

It was after all only because of a court order that she agreed to question Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the first place. Had she continued to prevaricate for much longer a further order from the court obliging her to make a decision would have been a certainty.

That it was fear of a legal challenge that was her real motive is all but admitted by these words in her statement
According to Swedish legislation, a criminal investigation is to be conducted as quickly as possible. At the point when a prosecutor has exhausted the possibilities to continue the investigation, the prosecutor is obliged to discontinue the investigation.
Professor Mads Andenas who chaired the UN working group which found that the treatment of Assange violated his human rights says the same thing
The Swedish supreme court laid down strict requirements and warned the prosecutors to speed up or drop the case. The UN working group on arbitrary detention found (4-1) violations of international law.
As does the head of the Swedish Bar Association, Bengt Ivarsson, who has told Svenska Dagbladet
A government official has a responsibility to push an investigation forward. It has not happened in this case. Quite early on it was clear that Assange was not going to allow himself to be questioned in Sweden...

The investigation has had a major impact internationally. And how this has been handled is not an advantage for the Swedish legal system. It has created a negative image of the prosecution service.
Terrible though the handling of this case has been, and deeply unsatisfactory as is the announcement today in almost every respect, something might at least be saved if the British authorities now at last accede to Ecuador's demand that Assange be allowed to go to Ecuador unhindered.

That is no more than his right as a refugee who has been granted asylum, a fact which the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has been at pains to point out.

Britain's previous failure to do this was a gross violation of Assange's rights as a refugee. Britain's continued failure to do so now after the Swedish case against Assange has been dropped would compound it.

Unfortunately the handling of Assange's case to date, and the statements of the Swedish and British authorities today, give little cause for hope that even this proper and necessary thing will now be done.