Why the Assange case matters

On 1st February 2012 I attended a hearing at the new Supreme Court in London, where lawyers for Julian Assange – founder of the whistleblowing website Wikileaks – were challenging the validity of the European Arrest Warrant under which Assange faces extradition to Sweden, where he has been charged with rape.

assange-supremecourt

Julian Assange arriving at London's Supreme Court on 1st February 2012

Many observers suspect that these rape charges are a pretext to silence Wikileaks, and potentially might see Assange extradited to the USA, where he would face a very long prison sentence for publishing more than 250,000 secret diplomatic cables.  These leaks, which began to be published on Assange’s website in February 2010, were a major catalyst for the Tunisian revolution that kicked off last year’s “Arab Spring”.  Wikileaks also published BNP membership lists in 2008 and 2009.

But the Supreme Court hearing did not look into the merits or otherwise of either the Wikileaks publications or the Swedish charges.  It centred rather on the validity of the European Arrest Warrant, and in doing so raised issues important to all of us.

Until the last decade there were long established principles for extraditing alleged criminals across national borders, recognising that different countries have very different legal systems.  First of all there would have to be an extradition treaty between the countries concerned, and the initial extradition request would be made between governments.  Then there would have to be a court hearing, in which for example an English court would have to be convinced that: (a) Assange’s alleged offences would have been criminal in the UK as well as in Sweden – the principle of “dual criminality”;  (b) there was at least a prima facie case against him;  (c) he could expect a fair trial.

Jack Straw, co-architect of the European Arrest Warrant system

Jack Straw, co-architect of the European Arrest Warrant system

All of this was thrown out as part of the ideologically driven push for European Union.  The political elite eventually realised that “harmonisation” of laws and procedures across the continent would prove too problematic, so they opted instead for the principle of “mutual recognition”.  Jack Straw, Home Secretary in Tony Blair’s government at the turn of the millennium, suggested moving towards a position “where each Member State recognises the validity of decisions of courts from other Member States in criminal matters with a minimum of procedure and formality”.

In practice this meant the new European Arrest Warrant system, under which English courts are no longer allowed to question whether the alleged “crime” is covered by English law, nor whether there is even a prima facie case against the accused, nor even (in most cases) whether the accused could expect a fair trial.  All the English court is allowed to do is check whether the European warrant has been validly made out, then rubber stamp the warrant and send the accused on his way to a European trial.

All this would be bad enough, but the issue addressed in Assange’s apopeal is that in his case (and others) the arrest warrant has not been issued by any sort of judge, but by a public prosecutor – so at this stage the case has not even be considered by anyone independent.  As Assange’s barrister Dinah Rose pointed out, this contravenes the tradition of nemo iudex in causa sua – no-one should be a judge of his own case.

Worse still, it appears that during the passage of the European warrant system into English law, this potential problem was flagged up more than once, only to be fobbed off by government ministers with the assurance that in practice there would be no need to worry.  In January 2002 for example, Home Office minister Bob Ainsworth told the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee: “it will not be possible for authorities that clearly are not courts, that are not judicial authorities to issue requests for European arrest warrants as they will not be recognised.”

Dr Fredrick Toben, whose legal team defeated a German extradition effort by overturning a European Arrest Warrant

Dr Fredrick Toben, whose legal team defeated a German extradition effort by overturning a European Arrest Warrant

Yet in the present case a Swedish prosecutor – clearly not a court – has issued a warrant which has indeed been recognised by the English courts, and unless the Supreme Court overturns that recognition Julian Assange will be extradited on exactly the type of warrant that Tony Blair’s minister assured Parliament would never be allowed. The Assange case is in this respect reminiscent of the Toben case, under which Australian academic Dr Fredrick Toben faced extradition to Germany for “crimes” that did not even amount to an offence under English law.  That case fell at the first hurdle when Toben’s defence team challenged the validity of the German warrant: this time the Supreme Court will have to make a historic decision addressing the fundamental principles of the European Arrest Warrant.

Pay and expenses – Greedy MEPs on £450,000 a year

DAILY EXPRESS, 29 Jan 2010: Grasping Euro MPs will snatch even more money from hard-pressed British taxpayers after voting themselves a bonus which puts their pay and expenses package up to £450,000 a year.

MEPs want to feather their nest with an extra £1,300 a month, it emerged last night.

They claim the extra cash is needed because the controversial Lisbon Treaty has increased their workload. The extra money is supposed to pay for the hire of staff, though they already get a £15,000-a-month allowance for employees.

Some of the EU’s 785 MEPs, of which 72 are from the UK, can rake in more than £360,000 a year in expenses. The growing gravy train dwarfs the amounts claimed by Westminster MPs, whose milking of the Commons system has caused outrage in Britain.

Link to full article [external site]

A stronger Europe?

Guardian says: “The Lisbon treaty will bring the continent closer together and give it a single, firm voice.” Which would be fine, if that voice was saying the right things…

GUARDIAN, 03 Jan 2010: The Lisbon treaty, which came into force on 1 December, opens up a new stage for the European Union, for this project of coexistence between 27 countries and 500 million people, a project created on the values of freedom and human dignity, of tolerance and solidarity.

As presidents of the European council and of the government of the rotating presidency, we would like the application of the Lisbon treaty to be as diligent and rigorous as possible. In a spirit of co‑operation, we will promote the EU’s new institutional order so we can address and resolve the problems that concern us all. Together we will address the priorities set out in the programme of the presidency.

Read full article [external link]

David Cameron’s no Eurosceptic

Wither the Tory faithful now? Or have they still yet not woken up?

GUARDIAN, 10 Nov 2009: If you’re worried the Conservative leader will be an anti-Europe prime minister, relax – nothing will change on his watch.

Who has been most disappointed by David Cameron’s decision to break his “cast-iron guarantee” that a Conservative government would offer a referendum on the Lisbon treaty? The Tory right? Eurosceptics more broadly? Other EU governments?

Hardly. All those groups have the measure of the Tory leader. The people he most confuses are the people he’s tried hardest to appeal to: you. Liberals, progressives, sincere pro-Europeans – you’re the people who now consistently fail to understand who and what Cameron is. Or rather, what he’s not.

For if Cameron’s a Eurosceptic, Euroscepticism’s a dead word. In truth, the Tory leader is a worthy successor to Conservatives like John Major and Douglas Hurd. And just like them, in office, if he has a majority with which to do it, the people he’ll be facing down will be Eurosceptics.

Read full article [external link]

HERITAGE & DESTINY: Latest Issue Out Now!

H&D Issue 38Issue 38 of Heritage and Destiny now available!

The new October-December 2009 issue of Heritage and Destiny magazine is now out and hitting the streets of Britain!

Issue 38 includes:

  • Wahn or Virtus? An article looking at the racial/religious conflict in England. By Peter Rushton
  • Nazi Cannibals on Roller Skates. An article on the Heretical Two (Simon Sheppard & Steve Whittle). By Paul Ballard
  • New Era for German Nationalists. An article looking at the NPD and the recent German elections. By Peter Rushton
  • Green Issues and the Nationalist Movement. An interesting article by a former Green Party member – now an H&D subscriber! by Bobby Lane
  • All Change – E.N.Ronn reports on the latest BNP blunders!
  • William Cobbett: The story of a Man who loved England. By Ron Rickcord
  • 1939-2009: Churchill on Trial. A report on the recent Buchanan/Roberts debate in London. By Tony Paulsen
  • SSPX and the Racial Nationalist Cause. An article on The (Catholic) Society of Saint Pius X and Bishop Richard Williamson. By Gil Caldwell
  • Comedian and Professor on Trial in Paris. An article on the latest Zionist show trials in France. By Peter Rushton
  • Plus three book reviews and one movie review:
  • Leading from the Front: My Story – by Gerald Ronson, with Jeffrey Robinson. Reviewed by Peter Rushton
  • Ministry of Defeat – by Richard North. Reviewed by Ivan Winteres
  • The Metaphysics of the Runes – by Harold Mantius. Reviewed by Martin Kerr
  • Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino. Reviewed by Mark Cotterill
  • And two pages of Readers’ Letters, two pages of Movement News (by Peter Rushton) and a lively editorial on the Lisbon Treaty.

For a sample copy just send £4.00 – or take out a six-issue subscription for only £20.00. Make cheques/postal orders payable to Heritage and Destiny, and send to – 40 Birkett Drive, Preston, Lancashire, PR2 6HE (please do not send payments to the old London PO Box address as this is no longer in use) – or buy online with PayPal at the England First Party Shop.

Lisbon treaty vote in Ireland: what happens next?

GUARDIAN, 3Oct09: A look at the impact of a yes or a no majority in the Irish referendum on the EU reform treaty.

If Ireland Votes ‘Yes’:

A yes vote, predicted by all the mainstream opinion polls, will see Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and others move quickly to introduce the changes under the Lisbon treaty.

Intense politicking will immediately ensue over the two plum posts created by Lisbon: a president of Europe who will chair EU summits and serve for up to five years, and an EU foreign policy chief. …

If Ireland Votes ‘No’:

If, for the second time in 16 months, the Irish vote no, the Lisbon treaty is dead.

The mood of decline, drift and gloom pervading the EU will deepen. Disputes will rage over what next.

Britain and others will argue that the EU is functioning fine as it is and should continue to do so. There will be talk of a “two-speed” or “multispeed” Europe, with integrationists demanding that those who want to cherry pick some of the changes in the treaty should be able to do so on a less formal basis. This will be divisive.

Read full article [external link]

German chancellor Angela Merkel fury at Cameron ‘hostility to EU’ as she downgrades ties with Tories

DAILY MAIL, 2Oct09: David Cameron is at loggerheads with German politicians over his ‘hostile’ stance on Europe.

They were devastated by the Tory leader’s threat to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which was masterminded in Berlin.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was also angered by Mr Cameron’s decision to remove Conservative MEPs from the federalist European People’s Party group in Brussels.

Read full article [external link]

Irish exit polls show yes majority for Lisbon treaty

Another nail in the coffin!

GUARDIAN, 3Oct09: Irish voters appeared on course to approve the European Union reform treaty, political parties said today as ballot-counting began.

The result from yesterday’s national referendum, in which turnout passed the 50% mark, was to be announced within hours at Dublin Castle. Unofficial exit polling by the two main political parties suggested a majority of yes votes had been achieved.

“I am delighted for the country. It looks like a convincing win for the yes side on this occasion,” the foreign minister, Micheal Martin, told national radio, according to Reuters.

Read full article [external link]

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