Monday, February 13, 2012
“U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder does not prosecute U.S. torturers; he prosecutes
(Human-Rights Lawyer Jennifer Robinson)
This analysis reviews historic and political-background aspects in the extradition of political prisoners in Sweden, and revisits the risks as whether Swedish authorities would further extradite their prospective prisoner Julian Assange – already accused by high-profile U.S. politicians of being a terrorist.
I further remark in this analysis the pro-USA Swedish government’s refusal to process in 1998 the legal case that torture survivors filed for the extradition to Sweden of CIA-installed dictator Augusto Pinochet. The General was arrested then in London after a Spanish Court request by Judge Baltazar Garzon. My legal action against dictator Augusto Pinochet aimed to obtain his extradition to stand trial in Sweden, Norway or Europe for the torture and injury sequelae that forces under his direct command (DINA) inflicted to hundreds former political prisoners living in exile in Sweden, or the assassination of their family members.
Analysis & artwork by Marcello Ferrada-Noli
In the discussion – mainly focused on legal aspects – around the extradition process of the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange, meaningful political factors tends to be overlooked. This is detrimental for understanding the case’s background in a larger-perspective, and for identifying causes from which such “legal” process may derive.
1. A wider political background on the Sweden’s extradition precedents regarding political prisoners
In a highly publicised speech by Joseph Stalin of August 16, 1941, the Soviet dictator categorized all (Russian) soldiers that have been – or would be captured during the war – as “traitors to the country”. Further, a special rebuilding of the Gulag complex was ordered in 1945 for the purpose of allocating such “traitors”. The Swedish authorities unequivocally knew this at the time they sent to imprisonment the former Russian P.O.W. Many of these captives have fled German camps to “neutral” Sweden for political asylum.
Sweden’s extradition of Russians
Exact figures as how many Russians were in Sweden, as refugees by the end of War World II is not known, at least not stated publicly. Kenth Olsson estimates that of the 100 000 refugees at that time in Sweden, “34 000 were regarded by Moscow as Soviet citizens, and with the demand they should be returned to the Soviet Union” (Sovjet läger i Sverige, Populär Historia, 14/3 2001). Of those, around 30 000 corresponded to Baltic civilians; over the half among the 4 000 Russians refugees have been soldiers in the Red Army which have fled to Sweden after being confined in German camps.
In fact, in 1945, after Hitler’s defeat, thousands of Russian prisoners fled German camps to Sweden. The above is also consisting with figures at a hearing in the Swedish Parliament (Interpellation 2001/02:12 Riksdagen) mentioning a number of 4 000 Russians having fled to Sweden [Note 13 Feb 2012: the content of this link at the Swedish Parliament site – http://www.riksdagen.se/- has been removed]. The Swedish state television acknowledged also in a report of December 1, 2008 that 2 500 among those former P.O.W. in German camps were further held in Sweden after the war, among other in three prisoners camps in Skinnskatteberg: at Baggå farm, boarding-house Udden by Bagg bridge, and Krampen. If the reader would care to visit the Wikipedia article with Skinnskatteberg’s history [here], will not find any single record of such important historic events. Information about those camps, with pictures of the referred events at the epoch, is instead scattered in private documentation found in Interned sites and a hand few articles. There is also a book authored by Hans Lundgren, “Krampen – Russian camp in Sweden during World War II” [Krampen – ryssläger i Sverige under andra världskriget, Västmanlands läns museum, 2008]. By the same time, in Norway, Sweden even established a sanitary post occupying a former field hospital set up by the Germans in Fauske (Northern Norway), according to a Swedish propaganda documentary of the epoch.However, all those efforts done by the soldiers-refugees – amid malnutrition and exhaustion – escaping desperate from Germany camps or transported from Norway with dreams of freedom in neutral Sweden, resulted in vain; and all their hope and trust in the Swedish government, vanished and converted in the worst imaginable nightmare – viewed from a political refugee perspective: Sweden decided help the mass-renditions of Russian refugees to the Soviet Union, former prisoners of war by the Germans – after the “repatriation” petitions done by the Communist government of Josef Stalin. In fact it was the case of political refugees to whom the possibility of political asylum in Sweden was never the question. A main bulk of the mass-renditions took place October 10, 1945 in the port of Gävle. In a secret operation (same fashion than the Egyptians case of recent years) 900 prisoners were hustled into two Swedish ships, the Örnen and the Wargo, in a military operation “in cooperation” (i samarbete) with the Soviet personnel. Swedes were not allowed to take photographs.Other successive renditions of Russians took place in Bergslagen, from where – according toKaa Eneberg’s “Ur den glömda historien – När Sverige skickade Ryssar till Stalin” [Svensk tidskrift, 6/2-2009] – 2 500 soldiers/refugees were transported to the Soviet Union via Finland.The same reports quoted above stresses that the refugees never were given the chance as to individually take a decision for staying in Sweden. In concrete, they were never offered political asylum, neither given them the actual possibility of seeking such asylum since Sweden keep them collectively confined in camps supervised –- or, as in Bergslagen, “at large” under Soviet authority, meaning commanders, political commissars and personnel (see also Baggå and Lissma. See further below).According to the reports here quoted there existed seven camps in Sweden allocating Russian soldier-refugees: Krampen, Baggbron, Baggå, Abbotjärn, Biringe (in Strängnäes), Lissma (in Stockholm) and Storvreta (in Uppsala). The Baggå camp was practically run by a Soviet commander and his staff of seven commissars. Similar conditions occurred in Lissma. One report adds that after War World II the Swedish authorities opened a camp in the outskirts of Gävle. Of the total approximately 4 000 refugees, over the half was sent to the Soviet Union (information in Fångläger i Sverige) where most of them ended in the Gulag Archipelago.There is apparently no major documentation or public photographic material related to the Russian P.O.W. human-rights scandal in Sweden after the war. The authorities, according to reportage in Arbetarbladet, would have destroyed this material December 24, 2008 (“Escaping Russians concentrated in Hagaström”).
Sweden’s extradition of Baltic soldiers and political refugees
The Baltics’ extraditions (known in Sweden as “Baltulämningen”) enacted by Sweden at the request of Dictator Joseph Stalin in 1946, is another shamful chapter in the history of Swedish political extraditions at request of foreign powers.As the Soviet Union advanced its offensive in the Baltic countries and Finland in the Autumn of 1944, thousands Finns, Germans and Baltic civilians and soldiers fled to Sweden and expected there to enjoy the freedom they expected, as promised by propaganda, in a democratic country.When the requests for extradition became known, the uninformed press put forward the exactly same arguments which they do now in minimizing the risks for the Swedish extradition to the U.S. of Julian Assange: It cannot happen, Sweden is a neutral country, peace and non-violence abiding, they will never send to torture and imprisonment at the Gulag archipelago refugees from neighbour countries which have come to Sweden for political refugee in freedom. Besides, Sweden is a “law abiding” country and such extradition requests had no ground in the Hague Convention of 1906.According to a sourced Wikipedia article, several Baltic or German refugees committed suicide to avoid the Swedish extradition.Suicide fatalities in connection to extraditions threats and the harsh Swedish behaviour in these regards are still common in Sweden among political refugees and foreign-born immigrants. In 1997, while at Harvard Medical School, I published in Acta Psychiatrica Scandinava the epidemiological article “A cross-cultural breakdown of Swedish suicide” demonstrating the high statistical overrepresentation of such fatalities – particularly Russians – among foreign-born (former P.O.W, refugees and immigrants) in comparison with native Swedes. Later, in Journal of Traumatic Stress, I demonstrated the relationships between imprisonment/torture, PTSD and suicidal behaviour.What do the Swedish health authorities, and the Swedish academia – for instance professor-colleagues at Karolinska Institutet or other Swedish universities – care about these findings when describing the epidemiology of Swedish suicide? Perhaps they do but they will say nothing, at the contrary. They have silenced the findings fearing it would be detrimental for Sweden’s good international prestige. Read here.
2. Episode Pinochet. Furthermore on Torture, and the remissive attitude by the Swedish
I know what torture is, although is the first time I refer to it myself, as a personal experience. I have also studied – and published – in my psychiatric and epidemiological research the effects of torture among political prisoners or P.O.W.
The military, aiming to obscure the putsch character of their assault on democracy behind a false alleged case of “Civil war”, gave themselves in the beginning of the operations the category of Prisoners of Warto captured resisting opponents [see my “Prisoners certificate” at left]. In this sense, and by also violating the Genève Convention on P.O.W. treatment and prohibition of torture, Pinochet’s regime is to be considered a double perpetrator of Human-Rights crimes and war crimes.
The concept of legitimate resistance – we exercised against a tyranny that has usurped democracy by extreme violent military means – was never mentioned in Chile under of after Pinochet. Neither has ever been mentioned in Sweden. When in 1998 – while I was professor in Norway – I presented an extradition request aimed to bring Pinochet to justice in Sweden, or Norway, or any European court, I knewGeneral Augusto Pinochet was responsible for the death under torture of my best friends.
I had countless meetings in Stockholm with Human Rights lawyer Peter Berqvist – a specialist in refugee legal issues – to the effects of the file against Pinochet. We have presented irrefutable evidence, not only testimonies from the torture victims. Nevertheless, Sweden refused.
The above poster was based in my painting The missing ones – “La espera por los desaparecidos”– alluding to Pinochet prisoners who died in torture. Their whereabouts still are not known. This is what pro U.S. Sweden missed – or wished not – to ask dictator Pinochet
Epilogue of this First Part
Less that two years after the negative f Sweden or acting in real against violations of Human Rights — when neglecting this unique opportunity Sweden had to show the world that Sweden is really a serious international advocate of human rights and a veritable champion in the international struggle versus the use of torture:
Alluding to the times Thomas Bodström was Justice Minister, Expressen reported that Swedish officials worked under the impression thy were receiving orders direct by the CIA. And Sweden’s NATO collaboration still increases.