Assange and the European Arrest Warrant
Yesterday, following the debate – or rather non-debate – on the European Arrest Warrant in the House of Commons, and the press commentary on it, I was surprised that the Julian Assange case wasn’t cited as one of the more contentious instances of the warrant’s use.
Assange’s extradition was granted on the say-so of a Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, without any charge being laid, and on the basis of flimsy evidence, much of which he was not allowed to see. This was after he had voluntarily submitted to examination by the Stockholm police, after which he was let go and allowed to go to Britain. Ny stepped in afterwards. Assange objected to returning to Sweden at that point because he feared he might then be re-extradited to the United States to be tried in connection with his WikiLeaks revelations. (I think that’s unlikely, but I wouldn’t rule it out.) He might also have feared certain features of the Swedish legal system which appear less than satisfactory to Anglo-Saxon eyes, and which many Swedish legalists are critical of too. In this case it seemed to me that the EAW, originally promoted as a way of protecting us from terrorism and organised crime was being abused, as ‘counter-terrorism’ measures often are.
I wrote a short comment mentioning this on Shami Chakrabarti’s excellent piece in yesterday’s Guardian, only to find it deleted by a moderator for not abiding by ‘community standards’. Probing further, I found that other mentions of Assange had also been deleted; and that because of my perseverance in trying to raise the issue three times, any comments I post are now ‘pre-moderated’. I find that puzzling (and upsetting: it seems to place me in the company of trolls). All the ‘Assange’ comments, including mine, were polite, non-racist, non-sexist, non-defamatory and relevant; though the moderator apparently thinks not. He explained in an email to me that ‘the Assange case is off topic in the context of the article in which you were commenting’. He also suspected my comments of being ‘obviously commercial or otherwise spam-like’ because I included links in them. All very odd.
More seriously, the controversy over the EAW is being presented primarily as a pro or anti-EU thing, which is why, as I understand it, Labour will be voting for it in the debate they have scheduled for next Wednesday. Certain parts of the EAW should be a source of worry to all liberals and libertarians, and opposition to them must not be hijacked by Ukip and Tory Europhobes. At the very least Theresa May should be able to provide solid assurances that the EAW will only be used in the future in the most serious, urgent and convincing cases. And maybe consider reviewing the English court’s judgment in Assange’s case, so permitting his liberation from his (no doubt pleasant enough) Ecuadorian prison.