Thursday, 16 August 2012


WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has been held up in Ecuador's embassy in London for about two months, seeking asylum from the government in Quito. The allegations that Assange is facing in Sweden are sexual assault, so the Swedish government has requested that UK extradite the WIKILEAKS founder. I have written in in past that Assange is an flamboyant individual whose work does have very positive journalistic value. That Ecuador offered him asylum is a political issue, but so is the case against Assange by Sweden. Regardless of the merits of the sexual assault case against Assange, the larger issue is that Sweden would likely extradite Assange to the US where he could face a military or a special court without any due process is what could amount to a trial no different than those reserved for 'enemies of the state'.

Ecuador requested that Swedish officials and lawyers interview Assange inside the embassy in London, and that the merits of the case pending against him be made much clearer so that there is no appearance of a political witch hunt. Ecuador further asked for assurances that if he were extradited in case the evidence legitimately pointed against him, Sweden would guarantee that his human and civil rights be respected and he would not be extradited to the US to face a political trial, in essence trumped up charges related to the publication of secret documents that have proved embarrassing to US foreign policy. Sweden has refused to cooperate. The UK has similarly refused any cooperation with Ecuador in order to arrive at a political/diplomatic solution to the Assange case that the US wants to use as an example to anyone wishing to follow the type of  blatant WIKILEAKS journalism exposing government secrets. 

Ecuador has similarly asked the US for assurances that it would respect the human rights of Assange and follow international law and not deny him due process; in other words not treat him like a Guantanamo Bay terrorist. The US has refused any cooperation with Ecuador, placing government privileges to secrecy above human rights, due process, freedom of the press, or freedom of speech. In a surprising move, the UK boldly threatened that it would capture Assange, violating international law and falling into the trap of a double-standard, given that UK has been an outspoken defender of embassy compounds as integral parts of the sovereign nation they represent.

Why would Britain commit such a blunder, given that so many former UK diplomats argue this is not the way to proceed? Why would Britain knowingly risk Ecuador mobilizing the friendly nations of Latin America and others around the world against it? Why would Britain be so blatant about such a high-profile matter when it really does not impact its national interests in any manner other than the fact that Assange is in London? Even if the UK intended to storm the Ecuadoran embassy or capture Assange on route to the airport, why not just do it; why make an announcement about it and give both domestic and international critics time to mobilize and place the entire strategy in doubt?

1. Did the Foreign Office acted in such a direct manner in order to bring the issue out into the open and take the pressure off itself, while proving to the US that it 'really tried', knowing all along that it cannot possibly violate international law without consequences down the road? After all, the UK has many enemies that can easily use this case to storm embassy compounds around the world.

2. Did the Foreign Office issue a imperialist style warning to a small Latin American nation that is close to Venezuela so that it can 'fish out' the level of international support, including US and Swedish reaction? Ecuador immediately appealed to its Latin American neighbors, placing the US in a very difficult position, because an extra-continetal power has in essence threatened to violate the sovereignty of an OAS member. The US is obligated by treaty to vote with Ecuador on this issue, but it cannot, thus finding itself in a defensive position with the rest of its neighbors.

3. Did the Foreign Office act on orders from Washington, or at least in consultation after it had an agreement with Sweden to test the waters of violating international law? If so, was this intended to force the government in Quito to negotiate a solution before giving asylum? Even after Ecuador announced its decision on Assange, the Foreign Office remained committed to a negotiated settlement - in theory, while unofficial sources hint at no change in UK policy, until further notice as domestic and international mounts against London.

4. Did the UK deliberately choose this confrontation, knowing that Russia and specifically Vladimir Putin's circle would use the case to argue that the West is guilty of a double-standard and must be condemned for not respecting human rights, freedom of speech, due process, or international law? Would not other governments not so friendly to the West not do the same and with justification? Can one imagine the US or UK trying to make a human rights case against China or Iran? Would the West have any moral authority to say a word about the behavior of any government violating international law and human rights, if it is also guilty of the same crimes?

There may be other scenarios and eventually some truth will surface. For now, what we have before us is a case of a small nation accusing a former colonial power of behaving like a neo-colonial bully. Disrespecting international law, human rights, freedom of the press and freedom of speech, while resorting to force reflects poor judgement on the part of the Foreign Office, assuming the threats were in earnest and not in essence intended to rid the case by undercutting the position of the US in a sly way.

Stand up in court is the central issue for those seeking justice in this case, but what kind of court, in what nation, under what conditions, etc. so that it is genuinely a fair trial to determine guilt or innocence on the charges of sexual assault. Neither the UK or Sweden 'US puppets', for they have enormous leverage and can easily resist US pressure on issues of vital national interests, so we cannot place the UK and Sweden in the same category as a weak Third World country over which US pressure can easily work. The WIKILEAKS issue simply means that there is 'policy convergence' between US, UK and Sweden. The informed reader on the WIKILEAKS issue knows that it smells of political persecution.
That there has been such an immediate and immense outcry against the handling of the case by former UK diplomats, to say nothing of the media that is leaning more toward Assange and less toward the Foreign Office only helps Ecuador that has stood up to the UK and US that appear to want to violate international law but insist the rest of the world must not do so. The larger question is the one of a double-standard, or as they say in the US 'EXCEPTIONALISM' in policy - policy only applies to the smaller and weaker nations, while the great powers are exempt!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

de Tocqueville wrote that the real American character is exceptional due to physical conditions that shape it vs. the force of history that had already cultivated Europe; this is at least one definition as originally used.

Might you be describing a progression of an element while not the other?

Questions can be posed on whether a standard is breached; however, the question on whether
there are exceptional Americans goes without saying.

In America, Some are teachers.