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Forgive what ?

Dear Reader,

It has come to my attention that the Swedish prosecutors have chosen to give up on the Julian Assange case. Now Julian is upset and angry, he is saying that he will not “forgive and forget”. I have to ask the question what has he to “forgive”.

My understanding of the word “forgive” that it is a verb (action word) which means to decide that someone or something which has done some wrong to you should not be punished or pursued for that wrong. Instead you have chosen to allow to let the thing go. For example if you catch your child eating your slice of cake out of the fridge, rather than holding it against them for the rest of time you might (and I hope you will) choose to forgive them for this act of theft instead of chasing them for it for the rest of time !

So my reasoning is that to be able to forgive you have to be the wronged party, I have to ask the question of “how has Julian been wronged”, and “who has wronged him ?”.

He complains about having his name “slandered”, being detained for seven years and having his family life disrupted. Now I will go through these points one by one.

Now Mr Assange has been accused of a serious crime which is quite rightly repulsive to decent people, I am not able to make a judgement in a legal sense here as legal judgement should be made in a real court with a real judge and not in the “court of public opinion”. Thank goodness we do not have trial by media !

But if Julian had wanted to he could have gone to Göteborg or Stockholm to get the matter over with. If he had been so sure that the case against him was a tissue of lies then he could have made steps to clear his name, I am sure that in terms of reputational harm that his cooperation with the police / legal system would have counted in his favor. He could have painted himself as the sad victim of a malicious accusation, rather than a person who attempts to avoid justice.

Mr Assange has been involved in a thing called Wikileaks, and he wants openness in goverment. Now a intellectual hero of mine (Louis Dembitz Brandeis) who was a Judge in the USA commented

Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants

Now I am sure that it would be hard for Julian to disagree with the idea that a goverment official accused of some crime should cooperate with the criminal justice system and either clear his / her name or accept whatever fate (sentence) they get if they get rightly convicted. Consider Jonathan Aitken, he was an immoral man who lied in court and he was sent to jail. But he did clean up his life in jail. Equally it is hard for anyone to argue that Jeffrey Archer should have been allowed to escape justice.

I am sure that if Jeffrey Archer had run off and hidden someone rather than going to court that Wikileaks would have been unlikely to have approved his action. I reason that if Julian is so keen on openness that he should have applied the principle of openness to himself and cooperated fully with the legal system.

The next thing which he complains about is his “detention”, some UN body (a rather misguided one) has stated that “Mr. Assange had been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth Prison in London, followed by house arrest and then confinement at the Ecuadorean Embassy

The “confinement at the Ecuadorean Embassy” was not ordered by either the Swedish or UK state, it was self imposed.  hit the nail on the head perfectly when he pointed out that Mr Assange has hidden himself away from justice rather than having been confined by the state.

Maybe by the same logic of most of the panel I have also kidnapped myself by going for a walk, a walk I wanted to go for. To my mind the logic of the UN panel is deeply wrong and twisted. It is interesting that one member of the panel (who disgreed with the others) Vladimir Tochilovsky who is a law academic quite rightly expressed the view that “Mr Assange’s situation amounted to “self-confinement” – and was therefore outside the panel’s remit” (Summary on the Telegraph‘s site).  It is at the end of the opinion issued by the UN panel. For anyone who wants to read it here it is

“Individual dissenting opinion of WGAD member Vladimir Tochilovsky

  1. The adopted Opinion raises serious question as to the scope of the mandate of the Working Group.
  2. It is assumed in the Opinion that Mr. Assange has been detained in the Embassy of Ecuador in London by the authorities of the United Kingdom. In particular, it is stated that his stay in the Embassy constitutes “a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
  3. In fact, Mr. Assange fled the bail in June 2012 and since then stays at the premises of the Embassy using them as a safe haven to evade arrest. Indeed, fugitives are often self-confined within the places where they evade arrest and detention. This could be some premises, as in Mr. Assange’s situation, or the territory of the State that does not recognise the arrest warrant. However, these territories and premises of self-confinement cannot be considered as places of detention for the purposes of the mandate of the Working Group.
  4. In regard to the house arrest of Mr. Assange in 2011-2012, it was previously emphasised by the Working Group that where the person is allowed to leave the residence (as in Mr. Assange’s case), it is “a form of restriction of liberty rather than deprivation of liberty, measure which would then lie outside the Group’s competence” (E/CN.4/1998/44, para. 41(e)). Mr. Assange was allowed to leave the mansion where he was supposed to reside while litigating against extradition in the courts of the United Kingdom. As soon as his last application was dismissed by the Supreme Court in June 2012, Mr. Assange fled the bail.
  5. The mandate of the Working Group is not without limits. By definition, the Working Group is not competent to consider situations that do not involve deprivation of liberty. For the same reason, issues related to the fugitives’ self-confinement, such as asylum and extradition, do not fall into the mandate of the Working Group (see, for instance, E/CN.4/1999/63, para. 67).
  6. That is not to say that the complaints of Mr. Assange could not have been considered. There exist the appropriate UN human rights treaty bodies and the European Court of Human Rights that do have mandate to examine such complaints regardless whether they involve deprivation of liberty or not.
  7. Incidentally, any further application of Mr. Assange may now be declared inadmissible in an appropriate UN body or ECtHR on the matters that have been considered by the Working Group. In this regard, one may refer to the ECtHR decision in Peraldi v. France (2096/05) and the reservation of Sweden to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
  8. For these reasons, I dissent.”

The comments about his family life are rather silly, Mr Assange choose to isolate himself from his family. I am sure that if he was sent to a Swedish prison that he would be allowed to be visited by his family.

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