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Red Notice for Questioning?

By Björn Hurtig and Johann Binninge.

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Civil law professor Mårten Schultz responded to Per E Samuelson in an op-ed published 30 May about how his colleagues outside Sweden have a twisted picture of the Swedish judicial system because of the way Julian Assange has been treated. Maybe he's right - for we know the jurists Mårten Schultz's met and we know the questions they've asked of him.

The problem is that Mårten Schultz complains about a prevalent caricature of the Swedish judicial system but misses the vital point that criticism from abroad of the treatment of Julian Assange has often been justified.

Mårten Schultz defends the Swedish judicial system's treatment of sex cases and says this is in no way different from what happens in other countries. There may be similarities in the law books in those countries, but that doesn't change the fact that people in Sweden - as opposed to elsewhere - can be convicted on very loose grounds.

This can be seen in the disproportionately huge number of appeals in sex cases sent to Sweden's supreme court: the supporting evidence used for convictions is often no better than mere hearsay, and hearsay isn't acceptable evidence in other countries. And most of us know of former chancellor for justice Göran Lambertz' report 'Wrongfully Convicted' from 2006 where he looks in detail at eleven appeals where lack of rule of law resulted in wrongful convictions. Seven of those eleven cases were sex cases.

We who in our daily lives fight for the defendant's rights: we see desperation in the eyes of many of our clients who seriously wonder how things are going to turn out when they're effectively asked to prove their own innocence. The defendant is not supposed to have to do this. It's the prosecutor's task to prove guilt - this is the foundation of the concept of rule of law. But it's been known for a long time that things don't really work this way in Sweden, that we have a serious flaw in our judicial system.

Yet Mårten Schultz calls this a 'myth'.

Mårten Schultz believes the opinion of the world around about Swedish jurisprudence is coloured by the information Julian Assange's supporters want to bring in. Mårten Schultz points out that it's obvious that it's illegal to assault a sleeping or unconscious person. But pointing that out is like trying to kick in doors that are already open. We all know it's true.

But nothing in our world is black and white. Most things are grey. So think what happens if what's said about Julian Assange should prove to be incorrect. How has our justice system performed in such case? Has Julian Assange done the wrong thing in protecting himself against extradition to Sweden? Or has he merely used his civil right to defend himself to the fullest against accusations he disputes? Who gave anyone the right to sit in judgement over Julian Assange in his attempts to defend himself?

The points made by Julian Assange's supporters are not out of the blue. If Mårten Schultz and others could take the time to study what's been written in the international media and online then they'd see the case is shaky in the extreme.

Mårten Schultz is positively sure Julian Assange needn't be concerned about extradition to Sweden: we in Sweden have no issues with rule of law, Julian Assange should give the girls an opportunity to test their case in the courts, and Sweden would absolutely never ever temporarily surrender him to the US. But on the other hand: Julian Assange's rights before the Swedish state? They seem totally irrelevant as far as Mårten Schultz is concerned?

It's true Great Britain will have difficulty resisting the extradition of Julian Assange. But the European Arrest Warrant is normally used sparingly or not at all in cases like this.

Consider that Julian Assange is detained on probable cause, suspected of 'lesser rape' and molestation. No charges have been filed against him. Consider further that Julian Assange was arrested because he was sought for an interrogation, something Sweden should have arranged long ago.

And how often does Mårten Schultz think European Arrest Warrants are issued for this type of alleged crime anyway? Further: how does Mårten Schultz believe one issues a so called Red Notice for such alleged crimes?

This might be worth looking into if one's complaining about what the Swedish judicial system looks like in the eyes of the world.

Björn Hurtig is former legal counsel to Julian Assange. Johann Binninge is cofounder (along with Billy Butt) of RO, Sweden's counterpart to the ACLU.

See Also
Red Hat Diaries: Julian Assange's Concerns Are Justified
Learning Curve: Swedish Sex: The Tragic Case of Billy Butt

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