Monday, November 24, 2014

Julian Assange’s Misrule of Law

MADRID – The uproar surrounding Ecuador’s grant of political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has obscured huge inconsistencies. Only by examining them can we understand what is truly at stake in the case.

For starters, a government with a dubious record on freedom in general, and press freedom in particular, is waving the flag of rule of law and respect for freedom of expression while casting doubt on Sweden, a country that leads the world in its respect for due process and international law.

That is not all. The head of Assange’s legal team, Baltasar Garzón, has been a fervid champion of the narrowest interpretation of political asylum, gaining international standing with his successful petition to extradite Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Now, however, he is advocating exactly the opposite.

Assange’s rejection of extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual assault is based on the supposed interference in the case by the United States. But no such interference has materialized in any way, shape, or form. So, while Ecuador waves the banner of anti-colonialism against Britain, the bottom line is that Assange, Garzón, and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa are simply playing the old “blame America” card to evade a properly issued European Arrest Warrant (EAW), upheld by the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court.

Beyond the facts of the Assange case, its significance consists in the current rise of a brand of populism that cloaks itself in the rule of law while invariably undermining the law’s reach and enforcement. Ecuador’s stance on the case has been echoed by other members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), including Cuba and Venezuela. And yet, according to Reporters without Borders (RWB), Ecuador ranked 104th out of 179 countries for press freedom in 2011-2012. Similarly, the 2012 Freedom House Index (FHI) classifies Ecuador as “partly free,” and on a declining trend.

It is also worth noting that Venezuela, ALBA’s leading member, ranks no better (117th on the RWB scale and also “partly free” on the 2012 FHI). In marked contrast, Sweden leads the RWB’s rankings, and is one of only two states to receive excellent scores on both political and civil liberties from Freedom House.

Beyond the numbers, RWB and Freedom House have noted a decline in freedom in Ecuador recently, pointing to Correa’s persistent campaign against media critics, his government’s use of state resources to influence the outcome of a referendum, and the reorganization of the judiciary in blatant violation of constitutional provisions. Meanwhile, a recent report on Venezuela by the International Crisis Group notes unfair conditions established in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election and the absence of a level playing field for the media.

Correa’s recent statements embody these contradictions. As recently as May 2012, he pontificated that “[t]he governments trying to do something for the majority of the people are persecuted by journalists, who think that by having a pen and a microphone they can direct even their resentment against you. They often insult and slander out of sheer dislike. These are mass media serving someone’s private interests.”

And yet this statement came in an exchange with none other than Assange, the self-proclaimed crusader for freedom of expression, during a recent TV show aired on a Russian channel controlled by President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Unfortunately, the sham rule of law pushed by Assange, Correa, and other populists is gaining adherents in today’s globalized world. This is dangerous, because their signature approach is the selective and inconsistent application of legal or quasi-legal principles and precepts, which is the very opposite of the rule of law’s dependence on generality and predictability. By distorting reality and impugning the Swedish legal system – a standard-bearer for legal certainty, fairness, and professionalism – the champions of this subversion are undermining the foundations of an international system that serves as a bulwark against totalitarian impulses.

Yet the strangest aspect of the Assange affair is the deafening silence on the part of those actors and institutions whose existence and legitimacy emanates from the completeness of the rule of law. The European Union’s silence is perhaps the most disturbing. The official Web site of the European External Action Service includes a plethora of pronouncements and condemnations on issues ranging from Syria to Madagascar to Texas, but a keyword search of “Assange” returns a single entry from April 2012 on Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s reaction to WikiLeaks.

Indeed, no EU leader – not the verbose European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, the ever-grey president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, or the cautious High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton – has seen fit to counter unfounded attacks on two EU members. Nor have they bothered to defend a much-heralded cornerstone instrument of the Union – the EAW, under which the UK first detained Assange.

How is it that the EU, much criticized for its proclivity for declarations and statements, is silent on an issue where its voice not only would make sense, but also could make a difference? Whatever the reason, it is time that the Union’s leadership reverse course and speak out, loudly and clearly, taking the initiative that other international leaders and organizations would, one hopes, heed and emulate.

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    1. CommentedNicklas Sundström

      Dear Ana Palacio,

      I feel the need to comment on some of the thoughts, assumptions and presuppositions that appears to form the foundation of your arguments and opinions in this case.

      Sweden were once one of the richest countries in the world, we once had a fantastic school system, public and free healthcare. We were secure and acted with pride and integrity and stood for our ideals, and we even faced down USA and protected desserters during the Vietnam War.

      Home to the Nobel price, we were the paragon of industry and science, and the epitome of freedom, democracy and justice, spiced with beuatiful blond girls and tall handsome vikings, fantastic nature and meatballs. This was the country of Björn Borg, Ingmar Bergman and Anita Ekberg.

      This is a public national image that Swedes are increadibly proud of, and a heritage which is now guarded with reverent pride that borders on manic obsession, and nothing is allowed to tarnish this image.

      This has been instrumental in creating a society with an ever deepening rift between the public image of our society and the hard facts of reality.

      We fool ourselvs for the sake of a phantom image of the past, and try our very best to fool everyone else, a spell which I fear you have fallen victim to in this case.

      Let me stress this a little more, under the blanket created by this image, things are deteriorating at a increasing speed, for example even many swedes dont know that

      * Swedish schools and pupils performance are in a freefall and in the last PISA studies Sweden scored below OECD average, and in mathematics did even worse then USA on place 29! One of the most dramatic declines in performance for any country in recorded history.

      * Swedish public healthcare has been one of our main prides, and it still ranks fairly high in regard to quality, but this has been to the deteriment of accessibility. Sweden now has the longest ques and waiting times of any country in Europe. Even waiting lines to begin treatments for agressive cancers can be measured in months.

      * Swedish police only solves around 4% of all break ins compared to 25% in for example Finland, and the number of solved crimes has continued to decrease over the last years even as the police force has been increased with 3000 new officers, an increase of roughly 15%

      * Sweden has the highest number of cases per capita taken to the The European Court of Human Rights
      for flout­ing Art­icle 6 -- the right to a fair trial.

      * In a survey conducted this spring in Southern Sweden, 90% of all small entreprenurial businesses reported having been targeted with fraud attempts, destruction of property and thefts, and 75% contemplated quiting or relocating their businesses due to this.

      * Corruption on all levels in the society are increasing dramatically, which has begun to be noted by international organizations and OECD issued an alert on this just a couple of month back.

      and the list goes on and on...

      We were great once, but under the spell of this image, corruption, greed and incompetece has been festering.

      We are truly a "twilight country", maybe on of the first in the modern era, on a downward trajectory and I would urge all observers to reconsider preconcived notions and opinions and to take a closer critical look.

      I apology for the length of this post, but I hope that it can maybe give some clues to the behaviours and strange inconcistencies in this case.

    2. CommentedEfad Huq

      Dear Ms. Palacio,

      Here's an urgent reading material for you:

      Best wishes.

    3. CommentedRichard Prins

      "And it's why nothing triggers their rage like fundamental critiques of, and especially meaningful opposition to, the institutions of power to which they are unfailingly loyal."

    4. CommentedE. de Mas

      Madame Palacio also (unethically) did not disclose that the administration she worked under was embarrassed by Wikileaks when cables leaked by Assange in 2008 demonstrated the complicity of the administration she was a member of and illegal extraordinary renditions.

      Her behaviour here makes Niall Ferguson's little fraudulent episode look like child's play.

    5. CommentedE. de Mas

      Madame Palacio also did not make the disclosure that she was part of the Aznar administration that twice tried to intervene to prevent Pinochet's extradition to Spain.

      I wonder how she would (if she were brave enough to answer) justify the duality of her position?
      Mass murderers who commit crimes against humanity should not be extradited, but people who have questionable complaints made against them and are only wanted for questioning should be extradited.
      Again, she made no reference or defence in the case of illegal extraordinary renditions in which Sweden and the USA were complicit. I wonder what she could possibly be hiding?

    6. CommentedE. de Mas

      Of course Madame Palacio will not address any of the comments. There is no valid intellectual defence for the use of fallacies.
      She throws around the ad-hominem fallacy accusation disregarding the fact she herself used a fallacy in her flawed argument and badly written article with bad analogies.
      She has not, and I'm quite certain, will not address the issue that Ecuador's internal politics bear no weight in regards to whether Assange should or should not be granted asylum.
      She used that argument deceptively to feign a pro law & order position.
      I suspect that what the Madame didn't know is that unlike in Spain where her party can silence reporters like Ana Pastor and Xabier Fortes, she cannot silence us here. She cannot silence us like her fascist party is trying to silence FACUA.

    7. CommentedOdysseas Argyriadis

      Ms. Palacio,

      There is no need to respond to the parts of the comments that are ad hominem arguments since there are serious issues presented in the comments apart from attacks to your person. It appears, for example, that there is no trust in the legal system of several EU countries as well as the US. It also appears that people distrust the allegations against Mr. Assange due to the fact that, should the allegations prove true, Wikileaks will cease to exist and should the allegations prove wrong, Wikileaks will cease to exist due to the smearing of its paragon's name.
      I don't know if this is a logical fallacy or not, but see what happened with Mr. Dominique Strauss-kahn. Yes, it appeared that he was guilty of rape but at what a convenient time. The accusations came when he was a favori for the presidency of France, not at an earlier time. And that really was an ad hominen attack against him.

    8. CommentedHermann Alvino

      Mrs. Palacio is right in invoking the common rule of not being involved in a sort of ping-pong arguments regarding the (her) person; this is a healthy and legitimate priviledge, and besides that, to discuss ad hominem does not add any knowledge to the main issue. The ad hominem point in this case does not have the intention of insulting –at least not for me- but it is useful in providing a possible explanation for the incomplete perspective provided by the author. Her professional expertise is solid enough to know that the Assange case may -and must- be read from different points of view, some of them very obvious - omitted in the essay- and some others being more sophisticated and not so clear; all of them useful to provide an excellent opportunity to the author to add tools and data –i.e. value- to readers. And that lack of content is what triggers the inmediate suspect that the perspective provided is interested; and based in that suspect, the ad hominem commentaries are a legitimate explanation for the biased –in my oppinion- perspective provided.
      We all know the contradictions in applying some sort of “international law” regarding asylum. Mr Chávez in Venezuela is the best example of it when his regime is constantly asking the deportation to Venezuelan citizens lucky enough to have escaped the chavista political violence; the venezuelan police has even transmitted false information about people in order to get eventually detained by the Interpol. Mr. Correa in Ecuador tries all the time to minimize the space for the free press, and now he presents himself as defender of Assange as the champion of the information transparency. But if Mr. Assange eventually accepts to be judged in Sweden accused of very different matters than politics, what are the real possibilities to be sent to the USA to face an almost certain life sentence -or even death penalty- accused of conspiracy against the USA national security? What is he afraid of? Does he just distrust Sweden’s justice system being –he claims- innocent or is he afraid that this is an excuse to get hand on him to be deported to the USA? What about the coherence of the UK decisions compared with the Pinochet case? Why the UK government allowed Pinochet to leave having being accused in an EU country –Spain, and again, Garzón- on very firm grounds of crimes against humanity? Is there a real difference between these two cases?. Etc. These are the issues to be presented in deep to readers. Without bias.

    9. CommentedCARLOS IGLESIAS

      I would like to express my surprise at the hostility of the comments against this article of Ms. Palacio, person with a real pedigree and knowledge in law and political International affairs for the last 30 years.
      Neither we should be critical of the UK Supreme Court by deciding to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden, where he is accused of very “serious offenses” and therefore claimed by its authorities, or question the integrity of the Swedish legal system or even more to dispute Ms. Palacios accurate description of the case.
      Instead we should be more critical of Mr. Assange behavior, who is accused of possible sexual assault in Sweden and with a proven record of misusing third parties confidential information with divious intentions.
      Finally I would like to mention that the misuse of diplomatic facilities to escape and challenge the mandate of UK Supreme Court when someone does not get a favorable decision is something that anyone should be proud of and that should be the real target of this non independent criticism

    10. CommentedIv Vasev

      Ms. Palacio should know that being a public figure and a columnist, it exposes her to critique and criticism (regardless of whether it is ad hominem or refers to the arguments). This does not mean she should (although she can and she does) dismiss them all as ad hominem attacks. Her response to Mr. Argyriadis shows only one thing - she has no counter arguments and her thesis is fallible. And yet again, she will label this comment (conveniently) as an ad hominem attack.

        CommentedE. de Mas

        Spanish right-wingers don't comprehend the concept that is dissent. The last time it happened Manuel Fraga had people shot and killed in Vitoria.

    11. CommentedOdysseas Argyriadis

      So Ms. Palacio, how about replying to any of the comments? It appears that every commentator has the same thing to say about your position in this matter. Or are the peasants always wrong?

        CommentedGeorgi Popov

        Just saw Madame Palacio's answer to the allegations of bias. She says that such claims are Ad Hominem and therefore bare no relationship to her position expressed in the article.

        Ah, the irony. If her participation (as part of the Spanish government, indeed a foreign minister) in the very events she mentions in her article are an Ad Hominem attacks, than how can we qualify her whole thesis:

        "For starters, a government with a dubious record on freedom in general..."

        "...Baltasar Garzón, has been a fervid champion of the narrowest interpretation of political asylum..."

        "Similarly, the 2012 Freedom House Index (FHI) classifies Ecuador as “partly free","

        "Meanwhile, a recent report on Venezuela by the International Crisis Group notes unfair conditions established in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election"

        So madame Palacio refuses to answer to supposed ad hominem attacks, but that does not prevent her from basing her whole article on such arguments.

        Portrait of Ana Palacio

        CommentedAna Palacio

        Mr. Argyriadis -

        The critical comments below have one thing in common - for the most part, they are ad hominem attacks.

        As a rule, I do not engage in this type of debate.

    12. CommentedDaniel Gomes

      This extreme right wing lady does not even understand how her arguments advocate the opposite of her thesis.

      Take the case of Pinochet, a confirmed criminal of the worse kind.

      When his extradition was requested to the UK, the iron cow Margaret Thatcher pulled all the strings she could to prevent justice from happening.

      In the end the process dragged for many months and eventually the "independent" judicial system of the UK, gave in to the wishes of the UK government and against all the principles of a democratic state invented a supposed health condition to avoid extraditing the criminal...

      Obviously, the moment the decision was announced, Pinochet made an amazing recovery and immediately became ready for an intercontinental flight.

      Now the same judicial system of the UK is so eager to fulfill the extradition mandate for Julian Assange, that it even seriously considered invading the embassy of non-hostil country just to expedite the extradition of an individual accused of a very poorly explained rape accusation. (seems the woman involved claimed it was consensual sex but the use of preservative was not)

      It is a well known fact that there is a high chance that he will end up being extradited to the U.S. after a deal is penned with the U.S. giving up on the death penalty in order to be able to get their hands on Assange and torture him in the same way they did to Bradley Manning and later jail him for life.

    13. CommentedE. de Mas

      Mrs. Palacio,
      Did you ever study logic? Your article mangles the most basic notions of forming rational arguments.
      Firstly, Ecuador's record has no bearing on whether Mr. Assange deserves asylum or not. In this case you'restarting your argument with a fallacy.
      On the other hand Sweden was implicated in illegal extraordinary renditions carried out by the USA. People were tortured and they were condemned to pay fines.

      Let's be clear, you're a political opportunist hack, peddling fascist franquist policy. You are from the party that is the agnatic child of a dictatorship and who has always stood against freedom of speech and dissent.

    14. CommentedFrancisco Alves

      Perhaps the absence of comments from the EU speaks louder than any comment at all.
      Silence usually means one thing: something stinks.

    15. Commentedjuan carlos

      does this mean that Assange's case is supposed to be exactly as that of Pinochet's? One is wanted for questioning about an absurd rape case, the other oversaw the killing of thousands of people. what a ridiculous comparison!

    16. Commentedjuan carlos

      once again another biased article full of ridiculous statements, undermining real freedom, conveniently ignoring facts such as USA's obvious involvement in Assange's case, ignoring other cases of real criminals which where given asylum by the US, attacking Garzón... ignoring Assange's involvement in uncovering uncomfortable truth's and the obvious relation with the US wanting to punish this man.
      and she dares to say "playing the old blame america card", this coming from a foreign minister of spain during the invasion or irak! no shame at all.

    17. CommentedHermann Alvino

      Mr. Assange is already into a trap as propaganda instrument of the semi-fascist governments of Ecuador and Venezuela, and that’s a sad story because he already has made a real contribution to a more transparent information world. May be he opted for a wrong choice, and may be he should have accepted to be judged for whatever he is accused in Sweden. The dilemma in this article is that even most of Mrs. Palacio’s statements are true, including the innecessary remarks regarding Mr. Garzón and Mr. Van Rompui, she did not not say a word about the real possibility of Mr. Assange being extradited to the USA together with the real possiblity of being sent to death chamber in that country, nor a parragraph about the negative of the USA -or any other country- to extradite many criminals to the place requiring them to be judged. And that makes sense after all, because when the USA illegally invaded Irak, Mrs Palacio was Foreign Minister of a closed ally for that war, such as Mr. Aznar spanish government; not exactly the best example of international order praised now by Mrs. Palacio. Perhaps it is also useful to remember that among the would be benefits commented by Mrs. Palacio derived from that -still going- butchery provoqued by the leaders pictured in the infamous Azores photography was something such as …a “cheap oil”.
      Unfortunately she does not seems the best messenger to talk about the Assange case.

    18. CommentedAlexandros Liakopoulos

      Conceptual hypocrisy and propagandist display of the core-based American Imperial Interests (or should I better say Global Corporate Interests of American Origin?) against Freedom of Information, against the very Rule of Law itself in so many occasions that it gets pointless to start counting - this is what the article is and it is constructed in a very "clever" manner, aiming to "lead" the less "trained" readers to specific populist conclusions. In that sense, it constitutes the example of a perfect "white-operations material", seeking to start responding from the point of view of US MoD and MoJ to the battle for the stance of the international public opinion on the subject. An excellent documentary on the subject was put on air by the ABC's Four Corner's, labeling "sex, lies and Julian Assange". Numerous articles have been written in Europe about the US involvement in prosecuting Assange and those are in arithmetical contest with some other articles aiming to underline the - let's call it - "obeisance" of the Swedish government towards US requests, either directly, or indirectly transmitted. Julian Assange's prosecution is a political prosecution against the Freedom of Speech, against the very notion of Journalism and the very essence of Liberal Democracy. Whoever neither sees that, nor recognize the necessity for Liberal Democracy to fight back against Imperial Imposition of a World Big Brother Regime with the law being subjected to specific interests and their power to influence the public opinion and to form legal decision, or - moreover - suggests that the EU and other institutional actors, governments and "players" should take a much more active role in pushing forward this misconception of legality with which a new world fascism is being masked over in order not to be conceived as such till it is well placed and accepted "by the masses", is a clear threat to society and most probably acts due to personal convictions, specific "training", invested political and economic personal interests and a hidden agenda, either his/her owns, or his/her respective boss' s one.
      The only question remaining after "enjoying" the whole article and reading between the lines, aiming to focus more on the "hidden messages" than the expressed ideas, is where the main structure was formed. Could that be somewhere around Virginia?

    19. CommentedIv Vasev

      No matter what they do and how many "soldiers" (such as Ana Palacio) they employ to supposedly show the hypocritical standpoints of Assange and Ecuador, they will not convince the free-minded people that the U.S. and Sweden (even more so) are better. Countries have refused to extradite real criminals, even murderers, and yet, look at the pressure they exercise over an alleged sexual assault case! And why did this case appear when WikiLeaks became "national security threat" for the U.S.?
      The so-called western world cannot hide any longer and the more they try, the more transparent they are!

    20. Commentedjames durante

      There are so many red herrings in this article it smells like a cannery. As others have noted, it's the "sham rule of law" in the U.S. (rendition, torture, black sites, drones, illegal invasions, coups, extrajudicial murder, military tribunals, suspension of habeas corpus, illegal surveillance, etc.) which makes Ecuador's and Assange's claims of persecution credible. Bottom line: Ecuador's granting of asylum to Asange is perfectly within their power under international law.

    21. CommentedCamden Cornwell

      Criticizing the Ecuadorian government and Assange for their selective (mis)use of the rule of law seems like a good way to foster popular dislike. However, in view of the current situation, this seems like ad hominem critique- the rule of law should come in a case by case basis, in which Ecuador's "dubious record on freedom" and Assange's "brand of populism that cloaks itself in the rule of law" is irrelevant to this merits of this case.

      It is curious that these rape charges conveniently came as the US was pressuring its friends to freeze Wikileaks operations and assets. It is a clear that these charges may be contrived as state powers use any and all means to arrest Assange and stop Wikileaks.

      You can criticize Assange and Ecuador for being inconsistent across time, sure. Irregardless, however, of whether you find Assange hypocritical, in this particular case, the extent of US influence and methods to track down someone it simply doesn't like and completely arrest their actions with seemingly trumped up charges seems a bit Orwellian.

    22. CommentedUsha Abramovitz

      From the US, perhaps we should all remember here, that it is the very governments themselves via our elected leaders who have severely undermined the rule of law.

      Why knock Equador, when a giant of a country like the US itself shows scant respect for the laws and indeed for the lawmaking process?