There is no rule of law in Sweden. By Per E Samuelson.
The Julian Assange case has resulted in intensive international criticism of Swedish juridprudence. Law professor Mårten Schults insists there is rule of law in Sweden. But what experience he has of our system with detention, restrictions, protocols for lawyer visits etc he doesn't say. Schultz doesn't know what he's talking about.
It’s about time someone familiar with our reality pounds their fist into the table and says it like it is: there is no rule of law in Sweden! In Sweden we have a routine overuse of detention with restrictions. A use that is unnecessary, humiliating, and prevents the accused from preparing their defence.
To start a trial by detaining and isolating the suspect from the world around is appropriate when it comes to hard crimes and when the question of guilt is clear. To treat Anders Breivik in Norway and Anna Lindh’s murderer Mijailovic that way is self-evident. Letting them be free before the trial is repugnant and unthinkable.
But if it’s a matter of who is telling the truth with two equal well adapted members of society, two non-criminal individuals, then we have to ask why one of the two should be detained and isolated before a trial. The case of Assange is in this category.
The case began in August 2010 with the first police interrogation of Assange. He was a free man then. The prosecutor asked for another interrogation at the end of September and insisted this one take place with Assange locked away in isolation. She’s therefore requested Assange be detained, issued a European Arrest Warrant, and requested his extradition. The Stockholm district court and the Svea court of appeal gave her the right to arrest Julian Assange in absentia.
But neither Julian Assange nor the world around can understand this. Why can’t even this police interrogation take place with Assange a free man? Assange is not Swedish. He doesn’t live in Sweden. He has the whole world as his workplace and he needs to be able to travel freely. Why can’t Sweden accept this and summon him to an interrogation without adding a demand for detention and isolation? He’d respond to such a summons. The interrogation would take place. He’d be on his way again. And if there’s a trial then he’d return and carry it out. If Sweden had treated the case in that way then it would have been over with long ago.
But they’re insisting that the only way to do it is to force Assange to Sweden. Upon arrival he’s to be immediately taken into custody by the police and taken to the remand prison. He will thereafter be taken to the remand hearing in handcuffs and detained. And he’ll remain in detention until the trial is complete.
Why are Assange, the world around, and I – one of his lawyers – so critical?
First: it’s unnecessary. The prosecutor can rescind the arrest warrant and the detention and an interrogation in Sweden can be arranged very quickly. Or an interrogation in England or at the Swedish embassy in London. Second: it’s humiliating. Why begin by treating Assange as if he’s guilty? There are no charges against him, there is no trial, there is no conviction.
Countries with rule of law lock up the guilty, not the innocent. By incarcerating people before you know if they’re guilty, the effect of the Swedish overuse of detentions is that a lot of people who are innocent are locked away. This is unjust, upsetting, and repugnant.
They’re even making it difficult for Assange to prepare his defence. Isolated in a cell, one can usually only have contact with one’s attorney. Meanwhile the prosecutor and the claimants can calmly speak to witnesses, discuss and prepare their strategies. Why should the one side be deprived of that opportunity?
The case of Julian Assange thereby illustrates the damage caused by the Swedish routine overuse of detention and restrictions. And Sweden has been criticised for this practice. This criticism doesn’t come from Assange or his supporters but from a number of respected international individuals. But professor Mårten Schulz and other Swedes don’t see this. They’re blinded to this truth for reasons which are not clear.
It’s not easy to think outside the box. One takes for granted that what one is doing is right precisely because one is doing it. There are many people in the judicial system who are guilty of this logical error. And it’s also about nationalism. International criticism is seen as an attack on Sweden and Swedes then scurry to round up the covered wagons.
They don’t see the Swedes’ blinders abroad. Out there they have a significantly more restrictive policy when it comes to detention. And they almost never isolate people from the world around. People are often free on bail and can thereby prepare their defence in a way comparable to that offered the prosecutor.
So my advice to Sweden and the Swedish people and Mårten Schulz: stop ganging up on Assange, open your eyes, and look at reality! The treatment the Swedish judicial system has prepared for Assange is unnecessary, humiliating, preemptively brands him as guilty, and hinders him from preparing his defence.
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