Friday, June 1, 2012

Torturing the language

Lord Phillips said five of the seven Supreme Court justices had agreed the warrant was lawful because the prosecutor could be considered a proper "judicial authority" even if this was not specifically mentioned in legislation or international agreements.
Julian Assange has lost his challenge to the Swedish request for extradition to face sex-related charges. He lost because the British Supreme Court decided that a prosecutor had "judicial authority" to request the warrant - even though the Extradition Act doesn't address that issue.

Now let's think about this for a second. In a criminal proceeding there is a judge, a prosecutor and a defendant (and his attorney). The role of the judge is to be an impartial arbiter in the case, to rule on questions of law and to issue a verdict if requested. The role of the prosecutor is to put forward the government's case. It is the judge's role to determine whether he has done so adequately.

The warrant in question was not signed by a judge. It was not issued by a judge. It was, instead, issued by the prosecutor. (Okay, I know that here in Harris County many of the ones sitting on the bench wearing the black polyester dresses think they are working in the judicial division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office.)

The British Supremes claimed they looked to the French translation of the act to determine just what "judicial authority" meant and made the leap of faith that it meant that a prosecutor could exercise judicial authority and issue a valid warrant.


What the court did was try to justify sending Mr. Assange back to Sweden so that the United States government could get its grubby little paws on him and put him on trial for publishing state secrets. Nevermind the fact that what he did was shine a light on the machinations of a government that says one thing in public and does the opposite when the doors are closed. What he did was lift the curtain on the blatant violations of international law the US committed by torturing "enemy combatants" and sanctioning the use of torture by other regimes.

What Mr. Assange did was to embarrass the United States by revealing to the world the hypocrisy in Washington. He revealed human rights abuses. He revealed arms sales to despotic regimes. And for that the United States wants to put a needle in his arm. And the only way that happens is if he's extradited to a country that won't refuse to hand him over to Uncle Sam if he faces the death penalty.

As long as he was in England he couldn't be extradited to the United States if the death penalty were on the table. But he has no such protection in Sweden. Therefore the court had to torture the very notion of the Rule of Law in order to allow the Law of Rule to operate.

Julian Assange shouldn't be condemned. He should be praised for what he did.

And the British Supreme Court should be ashamed of what they did.


Anonymous said...

What about the sex assault charges in Sweden? Isn't that why he was extradited?

Paul B. Kennedy said...

The issue at hand is whether or not the warrant was legal or not. Whether there is any merit to the charges in Sweden is another story for another day.

This is yet another example of a court twisting words around in such a way as to justify the desired outcome.