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Sweden & The Rule of Law
It doesn't exist. It's not even properly defined.
Rule of law in Sweden: it doesn't exist. And it's not only the wacky judicial system that's corrupt - the citizenry and the jurists seem to have no clue either.
There. It's been said. And for Swedes growing up in a country long famous for its cradle to grave security and it's 'middle of the road' politics, it comes as a shock. But it's no less true for that. Swedes do not enjoy rule of law and most of them evidently don't even know what it is. Most of them will thankfully never have to confront their dictatorial judicial system. But those who do are in for the shock of their lives.
Several events have occurred in the past few days to bring this matter into full focus. Two extremely strange - and indefensible - trial verdicts were handed down; and colleagues of Björn Hurtig have gone out and written an op-ed about how great their judicial system really is. Sort of.
This latest event must irrevocably give one pause. For any jurist who's been outside the Duck Pond knows how wacky the Swedish system is. So why then would Björn Hurtig let two of his law firm colleagues publish tripe like that? Is it because he's losing clients because he's defending that dirty nasty Assange? Certainly it can't be because they actually believe the nonsense they're writing? And if they really do believe what they wrote: why in the name of Rule of Law does Björn Hurtig keep them on?
So what is wrong with the Swedish judicial system? Almost everything. As pointed out in a study by Henrik Alexandersson for TV8 a while ago, it's the prosecutors, the public defenders, the magistrates, and the system itself who are all nutters.
Swedish prosecutors are often found withholding exculpatory evidence so they can win convictions. This happens in every country but it happens in Sweden as well. And it happens a bit too often compared with other countries. The embarrassing da Costa case and above all the Thomas Quick case show this clearly.
The public defenders are most often asleep at the wheel in Sweden. They often can't remember the names of their clients and excuse themselves by saying 'but I have a lot of clients!'
Public defenders often do literally no work at all. Witness Claes Borgström, the public defender for Thomas Quick, who never talked with his client except right before a trial, and only then to chitchat about the weather, family life, etc - the same Claes Borgström who marched on silently with a corrupt judiciary, picking up his nice paychecks, even after his predecessor quit in protest against the corruption. No such qualms for Claes Borgström.
And of course it's the same Claes Borgström who today dons the mantle of the professional political appointee again, vying for position in the corridors of power and doing so at the expense of his clients and Julian Assange. It's this same Claes Borgström who organised a smear campaign against Julian Assange in the media, determined to turn the case into a show trial, something that would lead to a contempt of court ruling in any other country.
In a country with Rule of Law, Claes Borgström would have been disbarred, tarred, and feathered. But in Sweden he enjoys the perks of cronyism.
The magistrates are idiots. Pure plain and simple. Three out of four in any lower court have no jurist chops whatsoever - they're political appointees. And Henrik Alexandersson's study unearthed more about these clowns. A full 63% of the questions he gave them about basic jurisprudence were answered incorrectly; 50% of them think it's OK to skew a verdict to help one's own political party; 33% admit already having done so; and a bewildering number of them think it's still OK to mete out a guilty verdict if there isn't sufficient evidence to convict - just go lighter on the sentence.
This sounds like it comes out of a fairy tale. The malicious kind meant to scare little children. But it's not. It's the humdrum reality of the Kingdom of Sweden.
Swedish magistrates, prosecutors, and public defenders are pretty chummy. One of the big concerns of someone like Björn Hurtig is to never rock the boat too much - he can't go all out for his client the way a Leif Silbersky can. Silbersky is already retired and doesn't care what his troglodyte colleagues have to say; he's also a successful novelist: he doesn't need to pursue his career any longer or worry about the respect of Sweden's jurists.
With Hurtig it's different: he's in the prime of his law firm's success and even though 1/3 of Sweden's jurists agree with Assange about the judicial system, as many as 2/3 of them might want to defend it and be critical of Hurtig.
Sweden's a really small backwater. You don't want to make any enemies there if you're an entrepreneur. Better to do as all Swedish jurists do: keep a low profile, speak only when spoken to, do not under any circumstances criticise the system or your colleagues, and above all join the party. Magistrates, prosecutors, and public defenders regularly celebrate together after a big case - they go out together and eat well and get drunk at the taxpayer's expense. Court cases are so non-confrontational in Sweden that the jurists don't even stand up to plead their cases - everyone stays seated and relaxed. There's absolutely no reason to get worked up about a mere transgression of Rule of Law.
709 Swedish Jurists Agree with Assange
As reported by Rixstep on 19 April, 709 Swedish jurists agree with the Assange legal team about the shortcomings in the Swedish system. This was encouraging news for the famed whistleblower to be sure. But the survey was sent out to a total of 9176 jurists and only 2221 responded. Meaning 6955 didn't care to respond and a full 2/3 disagreed, thinking their system was just ducky.
Swedish Rape in Helsingborg
A most amazing case.
Anyone outside Sweden will wonder what's going on. It's the classic case of 'he said/she said'. No evidence whatsoever. None. But hand down a verdict anyway? Why not!
But what's really shocking is to see how the people in another thread at Flashback get their adrenalin pumping. 'I think he's guilty', 'everything points to him being guilty', 'I hope his business collapses', etc. As for proven beyond a reasonable doubt? One reads things like 'I tend to believe the claimant', 'I would seem that', 'I tend to think', and so forth. It took quite some time for one lonely soul to enter the fracas and point out that no evidence whatsoever had been submitted. One additional outsider finally chimed in to agree; but the vast unwashed masses never got it. They think the same way their jurists think - you can convict anytime you please and you can mete out a more severe sentence if there's actually proof the bad guy did it.
Swedish Rape on Gotland
Another bizarre case at the same time, this one involving minors all around who just wanted to have fun. Except the one of them actually turned 15 as they were frolicking. Again there's no proof whatsoever but the Swedish court can convict anyway. Staggering.
And both cases were discussed intensely at Flashback - not by the members famous for their Julian Assange thread but by another crew of indeterminate origin. That such lack of reason and outright bloodthirstiness should exist in Sweden must come as a shock to people anywhere.
And now to today's coup de grace. Published by two of Björn Hurtig's law firm colleagues in the Bonnier-owned DN.se.
The article starts out innocently enough, being titled 'Assange's Criticism of Sweden is Correct in Several Aspects', but that's only the lure. The article is signed by Jens Lapidus and Johan Åkermark. Both work for Björn Hurtig's law firm.
What's really amazing is that Lapidus (pictured at right) actually studied abroad for part of a year - at Queen Mary & Westfield College in London ten years ago - but evidently without packing a much of a clue in his suitcase for the ride home.
Johan Åkermark, more of an elderly gent and a partner in the firm, has no such international merits. He comes from good Swedish stock.
So what did Mutt & Jeff write? And note: this isn't about Julian Assange anymore. No, this is strictly about what a mess the Country of Absolut is in. That and nothing else. For if both the citizenry and the jurists don't understand what Rule of Law is, then how are they going to make it prevail?
'Generally speaking, the criticism is not well founded. The Swedish judicial system is a well functioning system and in many aspects is a good international model.'
Does that include detention without bail, trials behind closed doors, and rendering verdicts when totally lacking evidence?
'From a non-Swedish perspective, it may seem unreasonable to arrest Assange.'
Quite the mouthful. That means that Rule of Law and international expectations about how Rule of Law works in any one country have to be adjusted for Sweden. Presumably because Sweden is such a great country. One makes an exception. Much as the EU did for Sweden's state monopoly on spirits, something that's otherwise still illegal in Europe. Just adjust. Welcome to Sweden.
'Assange can't get the case files translated into a language he understands but this isn't uncommon.'
That, dear folks, is a European right. It's as basic and fundamental as they come. Mark Stephens knows this, Jennifer Robinson knows this, Geoffrey Robertson QC knows this, Julian Assange knows this. What do Björn Hurtig's two colleagues have to say?
'We never translate documents for suspects in Sweden.'
That should do it. Keep the illegal state monopoly and defy EU law. Go for it.
But hey - Swedes aren't totally without mercy.
'Sometimes the police let an interpreter read out specific passages of the charges to the suspect.'
Oh how nice. Crumpets and scones for tea? What a cosy little place!
'It's good to have political appointees on the bench - they come from all walks of life.'
This is so staggeringly ignorant that Mark Stephens or Jennifer Robinson might actually faint. It's already been demonstrated that they're judicially ignorant, defiant or clueless about Rule of Law and 'proof', and get 63% of their Law 101 exam questions wrong. How in the name of Rule of Law can anyone defend such a corrupt system? Björn Hurtig's colleagues evidently thought they'd give it a try.
'Closed doors is OK.'
They admit that closed door trials are much more common in Sweden. And they also admit that police and prosecutors are much more corrupt in that names are continually leaked to the media, something that happens in other countries as well but not on the same scale.
Lapidus and Åkermark end by claiming their judicial system 'functions well' but that there can be certain 'shortcomings' that need to be taken care of. Something that's bound to make Swedes and onlookers everywhere feel a lot better.
Despite the above article being mostly a 'cap in hand' plea to show more understanding and democracy, it's already being chewed to bits by Sweden's media elite. The piece has to be skewed because the both of them work with Hurtig. Note that such niceties have never stopped Claes Borgström - he goes off and gets special treatment from the media elite all the time and no one raises an eyebrow.
The fashionably wet-eared Eric Rosén does bring up additional points, revealing he's often in courtrooms where the politically appointed magistrates nod off to sleep right in the middle of proceedings - 'an experience I share with way too many others'.
All he really objects to is the fact Lapidus and Åkermark didn't clarify they worked for the same firm as Hurtig. That and the fact he's desperate for more ad revenues.
√ Sweden does not have a bail system. Prosecutors can keep anyone locked up as long as they want without trial. Quite a lot of innocent people are let out only after a year or more.
√ Sweden does not have trial by jury. All Sweden has is the 'leader above the people' looking down condescendingly and passing casual judgement based on the time of day, the political winds, and one's plans for the evening.
√ Sweden's judicial system is currently trying again to severely limit the citizenry's right to appeal flawed verdicts. The supreme court never considers the evidentiary quality of a ruling from a lower court. If the lower courts render a verdict without a single shred of evidence, so be it.
The rule of law is a legal maxim which provides that no person is above the law, no one can be punished by the state except for a breach of the law, and no one can be convicted of breaching the law except in a manner set forth by the law itself. The rule of law stands in contrast to the idea that the leader is above the law, a feature of Roman Law, Nazi law, and certain other legal systems.
To date, the term 'rule of law' has been used primarily in English-speaking countries, and it is not yet fully clarified even with regard to such well-established democracies as, for instance, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, or Japan.
I'm so sick of it all. Will it never end? At any rate I want to say the other girl's just as much to blame.
- Anna Ardin
Apparently Swedish laws are unique. If you have a penis you're half a rapist before you even get through customs.
- Scott Adams
If I am able to reveal what I know, everyone will realise this is all a charade. If I could tell the British courts, I suspect it would make extradition a moot point.
- Björn Hurtig
I can tell you that the Swedish prosecution still hasn't provided copies of those SMS texts that have been referred to. Those texts are some of the most powerful exculpatory evidence. In Australia prosecutors have a very grave duty to disclose such evidence to courts when seeking the grave exercise of a court's power against an individual. Yet in Sweden in this case, in the first hearings to obtain an arrest warrant, those texts were not submitted to the Swedish court, which is highly improper.
- James Catlin
The prosecutor could achieve this broadening of the law during Assange's trial so he can be convicted of a crime that didn't exist at the time he allegedly committed it. She would need to. There is no precedent for this. The Swedes are making it up as they go along.
- James Catlin
Julian Assange will surely learn that considering what WikiLeaks has published, he's got a few enemies in the Pentagon, the CIA, and the White House. Sweden began an investigation into rape which was later dismissed. Assange was even denied residence in Sweden. One can only speculate to what extent the security agencies of the US were involved. And considering the obvious interest of the US to silence WikiLeaks, is it likely Assange will have an accident of the 'Boston brakes' kind in the coming years? Or will he be snared with compromising information of the 'honey trap' kind?
- 'Drozd' at Flashback 23 October 2010
The truth will out, the truth wins out. Let no journalist ever again speculate into what the protocols say. Six months of digging and the people at Flashback have the actual documents. The sleaze printed by rags such as the Daily Mail, Sweden's Aftonbladet and Expressen, and perhaps above all the toxic Nick Davies of the Guardian, can stand no more. Yet more: these documents are an indictment of the 'news organisations' who've printed deliberate inaccuracies all along or even worse: refused to print anything at all. Nick Davies' account of the protocols was maliciously skewed; both Aftonbladet and Expressen had copies early on and printed nothing. Bloggers had copies but arrogantly kept the information to their Smeagol selves.
- The Assange Police Protocol: Translator's Note