Court Grants Julian Assange Freedom Just As U.S. Ramps Up Claims

posted in: Assange, Human Rights, July 2018 | 0

By Andrew Kreig
J.D., M.S.L., attorney and journalist. Director of JIP,
Member of the Editorial Board, and Associate Editor at The Indicter Magazine.

Julian Assange at Ecuador's Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

Julian Assange, center, at Ecuador’s Embassy (Photo Collage by The Indicter Magazine)

A major international human rights body has ordered the United Kingdom to free WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for safe passage out of the kingdom — just when it seemed likely that the UK and other Western powers were on the verge seizing Assange on old charges and possibly major new ones.

Ruling on a petition brought by Ecuador, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights announced on July 12 a so-far little-reported ruling that political asylum in a nation’s foreign embassy — as Ecuador has granted Assange in London for six years — carries also a right of safe passage out of a country, as in Assange’s situation.

inter american court human rightsThe Costa Rican-based court is a unit of the Organization of American States (OAS) that adjudicates cases, such as referrals from the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The court ruled that its jurisdiction extends globally when the rights of its members are involved. Under that authority, it ordered the United Kingdom to release Assange for safe passage to Ecuador.

The court’s press release stated that the court ruling, issued on May 30 and kept confidential, was delivered to the parties on July 12. The announcement said that the court has not yet received a response from the UK on the decision.

Whatever the UK response, the ruling by the five judges is likely to become controversial because so many major Western nations have such deep hostility towards Assange, whose organization operates in a gray zone between hackers and conventional media.

Years ago, Assange released via WikiLeaks vast quantities of secret foreign and military documents that showed apparent torture, other war crimes and deceitful practices by Western nations.

dnc horizontal logoA new factor is the U.S. Justice Department’s July 13 indictment of 12 Russian GRU intelligence officers.

The government alleges that the Russians illegally used massive amounts of stolen political documents from such entities as the Democratic National Committee to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election to help Republicans. The conspiracy was said to include an international group — unnamed and uncharged — that is widely reported to be WikiLeaks.

Since 2010, our Justice Integrity Project has reported extensively on sexual misconduct claims made by two women that year against Assange. The claims (including that he engaged in unprotected sexual relations) have not led to any formal charges against Assange by Sweden in the nearly eight years since his visit there.

But Sweden’s aggressive investigation has led to court battles that have kept Assange confined for six years as a political refugee in a small room in Ecuador’s London embassy while he was widely smeared in the popular press as a suspected sex criminal.

Yet that “case” against Assange was dubious and tainted by Sweden’s oppressive, secretive non-jury court procedures. Even so, one of the complainants, identified most frequently in the press merely as “SW,” completely disappeared in 2010 soon after inviting Assange to sleep with her, as we have previously reported in accounts excerpted below.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomA team of Swedish computer sleuths reported several years ago that “SW” and a number of her social media friends have disappeared from view, suggesting that either they were very frightened of a man long departed from Sweden or that they had been part of a secret operation.

This summer Assange has risked losing even his safe harbor of a room in Ecuador’s embassy because of the recent change in Ecuador’s government to new conservative leaders displeased by new WikiLeaks disclosures. Ecuador has cut off Assange’s Internet and other communications, partly as a reaction to pressure from the United States. The New York Post reported on July 14 that Assange could soon be evicted from London embassy,

WikiLeaks, which launched its first server in 2006 and claims to possess 10 million documents, specializes in release of secret documents received from anonymous sources. Its stated goal? To increase accountability for governments and other major players. In early 2016, a presidential campaign year, WikiLeaks ramped up release of American political documents that hurt Democrats especially.

Background: Sweden Framed Assange On Sex Charges As UK Cooperated

Swedish flagIn late 2010, our project received a tip that U.S. intelligence officials had close relationships with Swedish political and court officials relevant to the Assange investigation.

We found that Swedish officials had been undertaking irregular procedures in investigating Assange and that most in the mainstream media in Sweden, the rest of Europe and in the United States were content to rely upon official statements and in effect go along with a remarkable abuse of multiple nations’ legal systems.

An appendix below summarizes previous reporting on this findings and credits such leading investigators as Swedish medical school professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli, founder of the watchdog group Swedish Doctors for Human Rights and the magazine The Indicter, as well as independent columnists Naomi Wolf and Celia Farber.

For now, however, it’s enough to report that the OAS court has called for Assange’s freedom. Assange, a native of Australia, has claimed in court papers that he believes the United States has obtained a secret indictment against him in a Virginia federal court on spy charges for his long-ago activities.

New Suspicions About 2016 Election

rod rosenstein us attorneyAn entirely new legal dimension became apparent on July 13 with the announcement by U.S. Deputy Attorney Gen. Rod Rosenstein (shown leftt) of the indictment of the 12 Russian GRU military intelligence officers. The GRU’s symbol is at left.

The organization is part of Russia’s military and is more akin to the NSA in the United States than to the CIA or Russia’s SVD, which is the successor to the KGB.

In practical terms, the indictment links the alleged wrongdoing to Russia’s power structure, not to isolated hackers as Trump and his defenders sometimes claim.

gru logo Custom 2U.S. authorities accused the Russians of conspiring with unnamed others to influence the 2016 presidential election with documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and other Democratic Party bodies. The new indictment follows a previous one in February naming 13 Russian defendants, mostly fairly low-level figures working in social media.

The newer indictment (whose 29-pages are shown here) alleged that GRU officers used a go-between named “Guccifer 2.0” to distribute documents to, among others, an unamed congressional candidate and an international body. Analysts have concluded that Wikileaks was the international body.

This conclusion is based on extensive albeit disputed reporting since the campaign showing how Wikileaks and Assange touted disclosures embarassing to Democrats during the 2016 campaign. The front-running Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign had been Secretary of State until early 2013 during the period when Western nations began hyping sexual misconduct claims against Assange, whose disclosures were making him and his organization seem heroic to some and disloyal to others.

hillary clinton bernie sandersThe Justice Department indictment on July 13 alleged stolen documents were laundered through anti-Clinton allies and released to the larger public to show favoritism by Democratic officials during the primary season to the front-running Democrat Clinton, thereby hurting her main rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent from Vermont (shown with Clinton in a graphic illustrating their campaign).

Releases causing disputes at the 2016 Democratic National Convention came when the party was seeking unity between the supporters of Clinton and Sanders. Continued revelations inevitably helped the Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The controversy continues to fester in some quarters, including because of a de facto alliance between some Trump defenders on the right and Clinton opponents from the left. Some of the latter remain strong opponents of Clinton’s hawkish foreign policies.

These Clinton opponents claim, much like many Trump supporters, that the Russian influence investigation of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a Republican former FBI director, has been hoked up in order to continue a militaristic U.S. and NATO foreign policy.

Those claims and counter-claims are beyond the scope of today’s report, which is intended to provide more simply the news of IACHR’s decision, which the major media have almost entirely overlooked so far.

The decision, which does not mention the U.S. indictment of Russians, came during a flood of news on Friday the 13th.

Among developments aside from the above-noted Justice Department indictments: President Trump created many controversies during his European trip last week. He is preparing also for a one-on-one summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled for July 16 in Finland just after the World Cup finale in Russia Sunday.

The news includes Trump’s unprecedented public sneers at NATO and major U.S. allies, including UK Prime Minister Theresa May, as well as widespread suspicions that he and Putin cannot be trusted given current circumstances to meet privately in Finland with no witnesses except possibly their translators.

What’s Next?

Looking ahead, two important mysteries are likely to be resolved fairly soon.

OAS sealFirst is whether the UK will comply with the international court’s finding, which is made (at least formally) on behalf of the 35 OAS members (portrayed in the seal at right). The member states include all Western Hemisphere nations, including the United States, which was not represented on the judicial panel and is not a signatory to the court’s convention.

A press release on the court’s decision quoted its decision this way:

If the UK continues to ignore the court’s decision by insisting that local police will arrest Assange for a breach of bail conditions if he leaves the embassy, this means that the British government will have wantonly failed to uphold Assange’s rights as a legitimate receiver of asylum by Ecuador.

While London has yet to respond to the Court’s ruling, it is imperative that Assange is allowed to make the safe passage to Ecuador demanded by the Court as his physical and mental health conditions have been described as deteriorating rapidly.

Second, the public can be expected to see in coming weeks (if not sooner) whether U.S. authorities will identify and indeed prosecute those alleged by the indictment to have cooperated with Russian military intelligence and hackers.

Defenders of Trump and Russia have been claiming since the indictment on July 13 that it named only Russians because prosecutors do not dare test their claims in court against Americans.

The contrary view from defenders of the Mueller investigation, including this editor, is the indictments of Russians appear to be just one interim step on a path that will lead to a trial for many others, possibly including Assange.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig

Related News Coverage Of Court Ruling On Assange’s Right To Asylum

International Court Orders Safe Passage For Assange

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Advisory Opinion, July 12, 2018. The composition of the Court for this Advisory Opinion included the following: Judge Eduardo Ferrer MacGregor Poisot, President; Judge Eduardo Vio Grossi, Vice President; Judge Humberto Antonio Sierra Porto; Judge Elizabeth Odio Benito; and Judge L. Patricio Pazmiño Freire.

inter american court human rightsOn May 30, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“the Court”) issued an Advisory Opinion on the Institution of Asylum and its Recognition as a Human Right in the Inter-American System. Notice was given to the parties today. This Advisory Opinion was requested by the State of Ecuador. The text of the Opinion can be found here.

The Court interpreted the reach of the protection given under Article 22(7) of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article XXVII of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, which recognize the right to seek and receive asylum in a foreign territory persons who may be found in the territory of the State, but also obliges States extraterritorially whenever authorities exercise their authority or effective control over such persons, as may happen in legations, that, by their own nature, may be in the territory of another State with that State’s consent and authorization.

The Court added that host States under whose jurisdiction the person falls who had requested protection in diplomatic headquarters have the obligation to adopt positive measures regarding an individualized evaluation of risk, such as the opportunity of a personal interview or a preliminary evaluation of the risk of refoulement, as well as the obligation to adopt adequate means of protection, including those against arbitrary detention.

Thus, States must arbitrate all the necessary means to protect persons in the event of a real risk to their life, integrity, liberty, or security if they were sent back. Similarly, since the legal status of the person cannot stay in limbo or be prolonged indefinitely, States must adopt measures which expedite suitable safe passage, which is why the Court recalled that the duty of cooperation between States in the promotion and observance of human rights is an erga omnes norm.

The entire text of the Advisory Opinion can be found here and the official summary here.

EurasiaFuture.com, Julian Assange Scores Major Legal Victory as Court Orders Safe Passage of Wikileaks Founder Out of Embassy, Adam Garrie, July 13, 2018. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a body of the Organization of American States, rules that UK must allow Assange safe passage from embassy to host nation Ecuador.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights based in Costa Rica is a multinational independent judicial body which handles court cases relating to the human rights of individuals in or effected by the laws of the members states of the Organization of American States (OAS).

At present the OAS is comprised of every North American, Central American and South American nation, although Venezuela has expressed a desire to withdraw from the body.

OAS sealToday, the Court ruled that it is the duty of nations to allow for the passage of successful asylum seekers from embassies to the mainland territory of the state that has granted an individual asylum.

For Julian Assange, this would mean that according to the Court’s decision, Britain has a legal obligation to allow Julian Assange to exit the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in peace and allow for his safe transit to an airport from which he would be able to fly to Ecuador, the country that has granted Assange asylum and where he now also holds formal citizenship.

ecuador flagNew York Post, Assange could soon be evicted from London embassy, Mary Kay Linge, July 14, 2018. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may soon be evicted from the London embassy that has sheltered him for the last six years. Ecuador, which has played host to the political provocateur since 2012, and Britain are in high-level discussions over Assange’s fate, the Sunday Times of London reported.

ecuador embassy nick hider flickr dmcaNew Ecuadorean president Lenin Moreno – who has called Assange a “stone in the shoe” – dismisses him as a problem he inherited from his predecessor.

The South American nation’s former president granted Assange political asylum shortly after the Australian was accused of sexual assault and rape in Sweden. Assange claimed the charges were part of a U.S. plot to discredit him for WikiLeaks disclosures that embarrassed the Obama administration.

robert mueller waving handsBut Ecuador’s new government, which has cut off his Internet access and banned most visitors, isn’t buying the story.

Assange believes he will be extradited to the United States if he leaves the London embassy (shown above in a Flickr photo) – a fear that may have been heightened by indictments filed Friday by Special Counsel Robert Mueller (shown at right in a file photo).

WikiLeaks published documents that the Russians allegedly hacked from the Democratic National Committee – including emails that revealed the party’s internal scheme to rein in the insurgent primary campaign of Bernie Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Background: Sweden Framed Assange On Sex Charges As UK Cooperated

Swedish flagAs noted above: In late 2010, our project received a tip that U.S. intelligence officials had close relationships with Swedish political and court officials relevant to the Assange investigation.

We found that Swedish officials had been undertaking irregular procedures in investigating Assange and that most in the mainstream media in Sweden, the rest of Europe and in the United States were content to rely upon official statements and in effect go along with a remarkable abuse of multiple nations’ legal systems.

Marcello Ferrada de NoliOur reporting benefited enormously from the pioneering work by Swedish medical school professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli, founder of the watchdog group Swedish Doctors for Human Rights and the magazine The Indicter.

The professor, shown at left, and his colleagues worked tirelessly at early stages to expose complicity by Swedish authorities in a frame-up of Assange for political reasons.

In January 2017, for example, The Indicter published New Analysis of Swedish Police Report Confirms Julian Assange’s Version in Sweden’s case by Celia Farber, an author and investigative reporter.

She concluded that the crucial allegations against Assange, “as have appeared in the Swedish and international media,” were constructed by the police “and were not what the complainants really said or wished to achieve.”

Farber (shown at right), unlike most writers intimidated either by political correctness, powerful government sources or both, dared explore the specifics of the sex claim allegations, as summarized immediately below.

Farber’s work drew on such previous inquiries as that of best-selling feminist author Naomi Wolf (shown in a file photo below).

Naomi Wolf FacebookWolf (shown at left) from the outset of the claims against Assange in 2010, questioned why the identities of the complainants were being kept confidential, especially given the many usual features of the case. Wolf’s views are summarized in her columns, including J’Accuse: Sweden, Britain, and Interpol Insult Rape Victims Worldwide, published by the Huffington Post in 2010:

“Never in twenty-three years of reporting on and supporting victims of sexual assault around the world,” Wolf wrote, “have I ever heard of a case of a man sought by two nations, and held in solitary confinement without bail in advance of being questioned — for any alleged rape, even the most brutal or easily proven.”

The basic claims by two Swedish women were that Assange had engaged in improper sexual activities after they separately invited the newly famous transparency guru to sleep with them in their beds during his speaking trip to Sweden in August, 2010.

The Swedish legal system has a number of differences with those in the United States that allowed these kinds of allegations to proceed with little scrutiny compared to American procedures.

The IndicterFor one thing, the investigation was pushed in effect by a private attorney with political and intelligence connections.

Also, the original prosecutor was replaced after an initial interview of Assange was deemed unworthy of follow-up. Sweden also does not have a jury trial for such allegations if they ever proceed to formal charges, thus increasing the fears by an accused suspect.

Furthermore, the Swedish personnel were revealed to have important intelligence and political ties with Western counterparts compromising the credibility of the entire matter. The initial attorney for the two women complaining about Assange, for example, was law partner to Sweden’s former justice minister who cooperated with the CIA to send an political asylum seeker in Sweden to Eygpt for torture.

After we documented these kinds of close ties between U.S. Swedish and other officials who wanted WikiLeaks silenced our investigative reporting evolved more into commentary to connect the dots more concisely, as we reported in our 2016 columns Noted Swedish Journalist, Assange Critic Exposed As Sapo Agent and Assange Rape Defense Underscores Shameful Swedish, U.S. Tactics.

United Kingdom flagLast year, Sweden abandoned its sex misconduct investigation entirely without ever filing charges, as we reported in Brits Threaten Assange As Swedes Abandon Sex Smear. That column reported that even without a viable Swedish investigation the United Kingdom still sought to arrest Assange for failing to submit to court procedures that could have led to extradition to Sweden and then, he feared, to the United States.

Many of these previous legal proceedings seem best understood through the arguments of Assange and his defenders: That Sweden and the United Kingdom wereless interested in applying neutral principles of law than in making Assange available for extradition (for potential rendition to a more hostile venue) and smearing him in the media.

Bottom line: bad faith by nations in previous legal proceedings raises the possibility of bad faith in current proceedings (such as those underway in the Mueller probe) but does not necessarily prove it. Indeed, many times in legal history a person freed after wrongful prosecution has committed new and different crimes.

As an additional factor in any U.S. charges involving trafficking in stolen documents are questions on whether WikiLeaks functioned at relevant times essentially as a media outlet or as a conspirator.

In sum, any reasonable observer needs to keep careful watch over current proceedings with an open mind.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig

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The author

Atttorney Andrew Kreig, J.D., M.S.L., is a Washington, DC-based author, investigative reporter, attorney, and non-profit executive who founded the Justice Integrity Project (www.justice-integrity.org) to expose threats to democracy and human rights. Active in researching political prosecutions, torture, illegal surveillance, and media bias, his most recent book is Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney and their Masters (www.presidentialpuppetry.com). Andrew Kreig began his career as a reporter with the Hartford Courant, America’s oldest (1764) newspaper still in publication, and obtained law degrees from Yale and the University of Chicago. He has since written and spoken widely for mainstream and alternative audiences. These include appearances on more than a hundred commercial broadcast stations, lectures on five continents, and human rights reports for the Huffington Post and The Professors’ Blog.

Follow the author on Twitter at @AndrewKreig

Contact author Andrew Kreig