Swedish Cabinet Can Now Give Assange Anti-Extradition Guarantees. Why Don't They?

When it comes to the extradition to Sweden of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, the heels of prestige have dug shoulder-deep trenches. The Brits have agreed to extradite him, in accordance with the European Arrest Warrant. Ecuador has granted him political asylum – and since then, he’s stuck on their embassy in London, without being able to leave the building.

Assange fears that Sweden will extradite him onward to the United States if he’s sent to Sweden. And he may have good reasons to fear the administration of the United States, after having unveiled quite a lot of things that the Americans would rather have kept secret.

It can be argued that the risk of being sent to the US is just as large in the UK as in Sweden, maybe even larger. But let’s focus on Sweden: here, the prosecution of Assange remains a politically infected wound.

The Swedish Administration contends that it neither can nor may give any guarantees against further extradition. The reason for this position is that politicians in the executive branch of government are not allowed to interfere with individual court cases in the judicial branch of government – which is an extraordinarily wise principle.

However, we need to ask ourselves whether this principle is relevant in this particular case. It was recently discovered that the United States Government (or at least the US Military) regards Julian Assange as an “enemy of the state”. And if he can be branded an enemy combatant (even if only armed with his freedom of speech), then it is obvious that he risks torture and maybe even the death penalty if extradited to the United States.

Since Sweden is under formal obligation to not send anybody to a country where they risk torture or capital punishment, with these new facts in hand, there is a perfectly bureaucratically correct and legally untouchable possibility for Sweden to give Julian Assange unambiguous guarantees against further extradition to the United States.

So what’s preventing it from happening?

One possible reason could be that Sweden actually wants to send Assange to the US. But that doesn’t appear very plausible. Besides, Sweden would be violating the international conventions mentioned above. It’s also quite certain that the Administration understands what a Shitstorm From Hell they’d unleash if they even considered putting Assange on a CIA Rendition Airlines flight at Stockholm-Bromma Airport.

More likely, this is about political prestige. The Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, has had a media war with Assange about the credibility of the Swedish justice system – and Reinfeldt can be one heck of a grumpy old man. To him, Assange is an enemy. Therefore, the problem arguably lies with the mindset of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.

If Reinfeldt wants to prove himself to be the elder statesman he so intensely desires to appear as, he should let go of the prestige, take the symbolic political losses, and give Assange formal guarantees against extradition to the United States.

But as everybody who has studied Reinfeldt knows, this is hardly something that’s going to happen. That doesn’t change the fact that the ball (or, in any case, one of the many balls in this mess) lies squarely with the Swedish Cabinet.

This article was originally published in Swedish on Nyheter24, titled “Ditch the Prestige, Reinfeldt!”. Translated into English by Rick Falkvinge.


  1. Anonymous

    As U.S. citizens are now considered enemies of the state if they support wikileaks, I will heartily say “No comment.”

  2. jimbo

    Sweden seems to be losing much of it’s credibility, all because of the ego of it’s leader and a few of the others in high positions.

  3. Sigge

    Do you mean somtehing like the Swedish Government has already stated below?

    “Swedish law, the European Convention on Human Rights and Sweden’s extradition agreement with the United States all state that Sweden is not allowed to extradite a person at risk of capital punishment. The offences that the person is accused of must also be punishable under Swedish law. The Extradition Act also includes grounds for refusal of extradition, such as political or military offences and situations in which the person who is extradited is at risk of persecution. If the person sought does not consent to the extradition, the request for extradition is examined by Sweden’s Supreme Court before a final decision on extradition is made.

    Moreover, Sweden is obliged to obtain the consent of the transferring State – in this case, the UK – in order to be able to re-extradite the surrendered person to a third state.

    Sweden is bound by its international law obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights not to extradite any person at risk of capital punishment or inhuman treatment. These undertakings under the European Convention are also Swedish law.”


    1. DavidXanatos

      I think the problem is that the US may ask for assanges extradition on some smaler charges and once they have his ass add some charges that have capital punishment, and than it would be to late for seweden to demand him back.

      Sweden must officially recognize that assange is hunted by the US and that he is indeed therend with capital punishment in the SUA nomather on what bogus chatges thay may want him.

      If and only if the sweedens government would make such a statement recognising the thret to assange the above stated law would be relevant.

    2. HAX

      I think this is at a point where the message should be put straight by a senior Government Minister, preferably the PM – not by a civil servant. Civil servants have been known to be used as political shields and then sold out before.

      1. Johan Tjäder

        The Law is there for everyone to read. So is the extradition agreement to the US, the European Arrest Warrant framework directive and the European convention for the protection of human rights.

        If you want to believe that the US government will be dishonest, then of course anythings possible – but then again both the British and the Swedish governments would be seriously politically injured.

        If there were such plans, it makes no sense why Assange wasn’t arrested in Sweden in the first place. Why let him go to England, contest an EAW and end up in the Equadorian embassy? He was infact in the police building – and as many Swedish prosecutors have said, it would not have been out of order to detain him there, for perfectly legal reasons.

        It stands to reason that the US government realizes that any charge that may be launched against Assange will simply not be sufficient for an official extradition. Kidnapping is always possible, but the political price and indeed the feasability of such an operation makes it far more likely to happen in Ecquador than in a western european country.

        1. LittleGreenLeaf

          What if I am wrong?

          I find that that, is often a very good question to constantly ask yourself, not only to always remind you of the danger of cognitive biases, but also to illuminate all perspectives and asymmetries in consequences.


          @Johan Tjäder, “The Law is there for everyone to read…”

          But what if you are wrong? And the powerful nations that are involved in this case, does not follow the “law”, or even the “intent” of the law?

          Has it ever happened before?

          I would dare say to the contrary, that anyone would be very hard pressed indeed, to find any instances at all in the full path of human history, when a “law” has been an insurmountable obstacle to the will of the mighty and powerful!

          Not during the times of the Roman emperors, and certainly not in the time of Machiavelli and the Sforza’s of renaissance Italy, and absolutely not in the world of the 20tieth and 21th’s century.

          So what if you are wrong?

          Julian Assange is one human being, he has only one life and one time to live.

          Sweden, USA and UK are nation states, the sum of hundreds of millions of humans, and not a single one of those who will make the decisions, faces a reciprocal threat to their lives and well-being.

          How much do you value your own life, and what risk would you be prepared to take? Would you board a plane if the pilot before takoff told you the risk was 5% that the plane was going to crash, 1%, 0,01%?

          The hard reality of the Iron curtain is only 20 years distant, and we who have lived in its shadow are maybe fortunate to have access to experiences and knowledge, that to some degree perhaps vaccinates us against such intellectual innocence, but I do truly wonder.

    3. NingúnOtro

      At present I think it must be clear to all that the US government is hardly going to get any additional information when having Julian Assange under their custody. They just want him out of business harming them, temporarily serving a long sentence, or even definitively sentencing him to death.

      I do not know enough about the Swedish laws on handling sexual offences, other than that there seem to be dark holes in there that handled with certain mastery could keep someone incommunicado for years, lost in legal limbo originally set up to protect fragile women from harassment.

      Maybe that could be a compromise solution sought by some… that would avoid the pitfalls of an Sweden-USA extradition case tarnishing Sweden’s reputation and avoiding the condemnation of the international community and public opinion.

      Assange out of harms way to any other governmental and/or corporate elite for a significative amount of years might be enough result to avoid an extradition problem that is not going to add anything significative to the outcome.

      1. Johan Tjäder

        Well, Assange has brought that upon himself. By fighting a legal European Arrest Warrant, and by violating the conditions of his bail.

        A conviction for rape would be very damaging to his reputation. I’m not sure he would ever be able to return to wikileaks after that. There is an obvious upside to staying in this legal limbo until the charges expire in a few more years.

        1. Anonymous
    4. SBJ

      The problem with the Swedish government (and indeed any government really) is that they only follow the laws and directives when it suits their purposes.

      We have the case with the egyptians whoe were extradited via CIA to Egypt where they were tortured. There was also an incident back in, I think the -80’s, when a group of people were extradited to the former Soviet, and then conventiently “disappeared”

      As for bad PR, Reinfeldth would simply say “The decision has been made, it’s best for everyone to stop the debate”

    5. Flashback

      ‘Den som i en annan stat är misstänkt, tilltalad eller dömd för där straffbelagd gärning och uppehåller sig här i riket får efter beslut av regeringen utlämnas till den staten i enlighet med bestämmelserna i denna lag.’

  4. Sigge

    Forgot this part:

    “In the hypothetical event of an extradition request being received, all the legal guarantees under Swedish law and Swedish obligations under international law will be respected fully.”

  5. Shitstorm either way

    If they extradite him and he’s tortured, shitstorm from hell.

    If they “host” him and do not extradite him, another shitstorm – the USA government won’t take it lightly.

    I’d guess they don’t want him back – he’d bring trouble either way.

    1. Hephaestus42

      If he is extradited to the US, the US can’t kill him, only hold him indefinitely. Either way they would be causing a shit storm around the world and making him a martyr and a rallying point.

      1. Anonymous

        I wouldn’t doubt that he can be killed too. Whether directly or indirectly, all it takes is a mishap in a prison and suddenly their enemy has deceased. I wouldn’t want to walk anywhere near the US if I were in his position.

        1. Caleb

          They absolutely can kill him. They’ve declared him an enemy combatant. At this point, only the fact that the UK would be outraged keeps them from drone striking him. If he is extradited to the US, assuming we bother with a trial, he could well face the death penalty.

    2. 6.941

      I wouldn’t be so sure. The people who’d heat up at Assange’s extradition are heated up already, and their influence (at least as perceived by those in power) is like air next to US’ political clout.

  6. Hax – Rapporter från Bryssel

    […] Bloggposten finns även på engelska, hos Falkvinge. Tweet !function(d,s,id){var […]

  7. Johan Tjäder

    I kind of wonder want the charge would be. The official charge that could stick even through an official extradition procedure in Sweden or the UK. Because obviously, if the US government wants to be dishonest – a bicycle theft allegation would do, but otherwise?

    It can’t be treason, unless JA has promised allegiance with the US.
    It can’t be the revealing of secret document, as it was not a crime in the country in which it was committed. And if so, a lot of traditional media outlets share the responsibility.
    Inciting an officer or bribing an officer to leak documents? They would have to prove that Assange was personally involved.

    Is there any viable charge that would stick? What would that be?

    1. Little Oz

      Hi Johan,

      The Australian diplomatic cables fr Dept of Foreign Affairs & Trade discussed this very question (released under FOI).

      Discussion on the charges that could be levied against Assange by the USA. The cables identify “a wide range of criminal charges the US could bring against Assange, including espionage, conspiracy, unlawful access to classified information and computer fraud.” They indicate “Australian diplomats expect that any charges against Assange would be carefully drawn in an effort to avoid conflict with the First Amendment free speech provisions of the US constitution.” (1 February, 2012).


    2. Rick Falkvinge

      You’re making the mistake of thinking that these people follow, or even feel bound by, any kind of rules, regulations, checks, or balances.

      When you’re going up against The Man, you’re all on your own.

      1. LittleGreenLeaf

        @Falkvinge, You truly are a politician when it comes to the ability to destill an image, and deliver it clearly in just a few worlds.

        I am not, but I appreciate the lecture 🙂

  8. Max Pont

    A Swedish legal scholar made this comment about the extradition issue:


    What he overlooks is that Swedish civil servants have a tendency to bend the rules if they are under “informal” pressure from central government.

    Personally, I don’t trust the Reinfeldt government for a second. They pretend to be “New Moderates”, embracing labour unions and traditional social democratic values but behind the scenes they are as corrupted by big corporates (arms industry, tobacco/snuff industry, GMO-industry, etc.) as ever the Bush-administration was. And they bend backwards for the EU-elitists and the US military-complex. And almost all Swedish mainstream media firms are submissive and docile. They are caught up with bizarre postmodern Neo-Gramscian political correctness issues but never really challenge power and never do any real investigative journalism.

  9. Volker

    Sweden are decayed to the corrupt whore of the corrupt american corporate interests,
    and they are cowards to the core, they betrayed everyone and everything what sweden
    stands for in the past

  10. Pedro

    Heads up people! Another fight ahead!


    Start typing your letters/emails!

  11. Max Pont

    More info. The US regards Assange as an “Enemy of the state”.


  12. 09/30/12 | This Day in WikiLeaks

    […] Alexandersson explains that Sweden can legally give Julian Assange “unambiguous guarantees against further extradition to the United […]

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