Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority

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Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority
Middlesex.guildhall.london.arp.jpg
Court Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
Full case name Julian Paul Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority
Decided 30 May 2012
Citation(s) [2012] UKSC 22
Case history
Prior action(s) Assange v The Swedish Judicial Authority [2011] EWHC 2849 (Admin)
(2 November 2011)
Appealed from Administrative Court
(Sir John Thomas P · Ouseley J)
Appealed to Supreme Court

Julian Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority is the set of legal proceedings in the United Kingdom concerning the requested extradition of Julian Assange to Sweden to further a 'preliminary investigation'[1] into accusations of his having committed sexual offences.

Swedish investigation[edit]

Complaints and initial investigation[edit]

On 20 August 2010, two women, a 26-year-old living in Enköping and a 31-year-old living in Stockholm,[2][3] went together to the Swedish police in order to track him down and persuade him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases after having separate sexual encounters with him.[4] The police told them that they could not simply tell Assange to take a test, but that their statements would be passed to the prosecutor.[5] Later that day, the duty prosecutor ordered the arrest of Julian Assange on the suspicion of rape and molestation. [6]

The next day, the case was transferred to Chefsåklagare (Chief Public Prosecutor) Eva Finné. In answer to questions surrounding the incidents, the following day, Finné declared, "I don't think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape." However, Karin Rosander from the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said Assange remained suspected of molestation. Police gave no further comment at that time, but continued the investigation.[7]

After learning of the investigation, Assange said, "The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing."[8]

The preliminary investigation concerning suspected rape was discontinued by Finné on 25 August,[6] but two days later Claes Borgström, the attorney representing the two women, requested a review of the prosecutor's decision to terminate part of the investigation.[6][9]

On 30 August, Assange was questioned by the Stockholm police regarding the allegations of sexual molestation.[10][11] He denied the allegations, saying he had consensual sexual encounters with the two women.[8][12][13]

Investigation reinstated[edit]

On 1 September 2010, Överåklagare (Director of Public Prosecution) Marianne Ny decided to resume the preliminary investigation concerning all of the original allegations. On 18 August 2010, Assange had applied for a work and residence permit in Sweden.[14][15] On 18 October 2010, his request was denied.[14][15][16] He left Sweden on 27 September 2010.[17] The Swedish authorities have asserted that this is the same day that they notified Assange's lawyer of his imminent arrest.[18]

Arrest warrant[edit]

On 18 November 2010, Marianne Ny ordered the detention of Julian Assange on suspicion of rape, three cases of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. The Stockholm District Court acceded to the order and issued a European Arrest Warrant to execute it.[6] The warrant was appealed to the Svea Court of Appeal which upheld it but lowered it to suspicion of rape of a lesser degree, unlawful coercion and two cases of sexual molestation rather than three,[19][20] and the warrant was also appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden,[21] which decided not to hear the case. At this time Assange had been living in the United Kingdom for 1–2 months. An extradition hearing took place in an English court in February 2011 to consider an application by Swedish authorities for the extradition of Assange to Sweden. The outcome of the hearing was announced on 24 February 2011, when the extradition warrant was upheld. Assange appealed to the High Court, and on 2 November 2011, the court upheld the extradition decision and rejected all four grounds for the appeal as presented by Assange's legal representatives. £19,000 costs was also awarded against Assange. On 5 December 2011, Assange was refused permission by the High Court to appeal to the Supreme Court. The High Court certified that his case raised a point of law of general public importance. The Supreme Court subsequently granted permission to appeal,[22] and heard the appeal on 1 and 2 February 2012.[23] The court reserved its judgment and dismissed the appeal on 30 May 2012.[24] Assange has said the investigation is "without basis". He remained on conditional bail in the United Kingdom[10][25][26] until on 19 June 2012 Assange sought refuge at Ecuador's Embassy in London and was granted temporary asylum. On 16 August 2012 he was granted full asylum by the Ecuadorian government.

On 18 November 2010, the Stockholm District Court ordered Assange detained in absentia, on request by prosecutor Marianne Ny. As basis for the ruling, the court stated Julian Assange to be suspected on reasonable grounds to have committed rape[27] (våldtäkt), unlawful coercion[27] (olaga tvång), and three cases of sexuellt ofredande[4] — which has been variously translated as "sexual molestation",[28] "sexual assault",[29] "sexual misconduct", "sexual annoyance", "sexual unfreedom", "sexual misdemeanour", and "sexual harassment".[16][30][31][32]

As special reasons for the detention, the court named a risk of the suspect absconding or avoiding justice; that the penalty for the alleged crimes is at least two years imprisonment; and the lack of any obvious reason not to detain.[33]

The decision was appealed by Assange on 22 November to the Svea Court of Appeal, which two days later upheld the warrant but lowered it to suspicion of rape of a lesser degree, unlawful coercion and two cases of sexual molestation rather than three.[19][20][30][34] On 30 November Assange appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden which decided not to consider a further appeal on the argument that no principle was at stake.[21]

On 6 December 2010, Scotland Yard notified Assange that a valid European arrest warrant had been received.[35]

Review of detention order[edit]

On the 24 June 2014, The Guardian reported[36] that Assange's lawyers filed a request to Stockholm District Court to dismiss his detention,[37] based on an update to Sweden's code of judicial procedure (1 June 2014) to conform with EU law including a new provision that those arrested or detained have the right to be made aware of "facts forming the basis for the decision to arrest".

On 16 July 2014, the Stockholm City District Court reviewed the detention order on request by Assange. During the course of the proceedings, Assange's defence lawyers said that the prosecutors have a "duty" to advance the case, and that they had shown "passivity" in refusing to go to London to interview Assange.[38] After hearing evidence, the district court concluded that there is probable cause to suspect Assange of committing the alleged crimes, and that the detention order should remain in place.[39]

In response, Assange's Swedish legal team stated to Radio Sweden: "We still think we have very good legal arguments to get this decision overruled, so we are confident in the result of the appeal. We think the court of appeal can make another decision on the same arguments as the district court."[40] Ecuador immediately issued a statement "The Ecuadorian Government reaffirms its offer of judicial cooperation to the Kingdom of Sweden, to reach a prompt solution to the case. In this sense Ecuador keeps its invitation to judicial officers visit the London Embassy so that Julian Assange can be interviewed or via videoconference. Both possibilities are explicitly referred in the current procedural legislation in Sweden and the European Union."[41]

On 20 November 2014, the Swedish Court of Appeal refused Mr Assange's appeal thereby upholding the 2010 detention order.[42]

Extradition process[edit]

First instance proceedings[edit]

Detention and bail[edit]

Assange presented himself to the Metropolitan Police the next morning and was remanded to London's Wandsworth Prison.[43] On 16 December, he was granted bail with bail conditions of residence at Ellingham Hall, Norfolk, and wearing of an electronic tag. Bail was set at £240,000 surety with a deposit of £200,000 ($312,700).[44]

On release on bail, Assange said "I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter,"[45] and told the BBC, "This has been a very successful smear campaign and a very wrong one."[46] He claimed that the extradition proceedings to Sweden were "actually an attempt to get me into a jurisdiction which will then make it easier to extradite me to the US." Swedish prosecutors have denied the case has anything to do with WikiLeaks.[44]

Extradition hearing[edit]

The extradition hearing took place on 7–8 and 11 February 2011 before the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court sitting at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in London.[47][48] Assange's lawyers at the extradition hearing were Geoffrey Robertson QC and Mark Stephens, human rights specialists, and the prosecution was represented by a team led by Clare Montgomery QC.[49] Arguments were presented as to whether the Swedish prosecutor had the authority to issue a European Arrest Warrant, the extradition was requested for prosecution or interrogation, the alleged crimes qualified as extradition crimes, there was an abuse of process, his human rights would be respected, and he would receive a fair trial if extradited to Sweden.

Extradition decision[edit]

The outcome of the hearing was announced on 24 February 2011, when the extradition warrant was upheld.[50][51][52] Senior District Judge Howard Riddle found against Assange on each of the main arguments against his extradition.[53] The judge said "as a matter of fact, and looking at all the circumstances in the round, this person (Mr Assange) passes the threshold of being an accused person and is wanted for prosecution."[53] Judge Riddle concluded: "I am satisfied that the specified offences are extradition offences."[53]

Assange commented after the decision to extradite him, saying "It comes as no surprise but is nevertheless wrong. It comes as the result of a European arrest warrant system run amok."[54]

Appeal to the High Court[edit]

On 2 March 2011, Assange's lawyers lodged an appeal with the High Court challenging the decision to extradite him to Sweden.[55] Assange remained on conditional bail.[55][56] The appeal hearing took place on 12 and 13 July 2011 at the High Court in London. The judges' decision was reserved, and a written judgment was delivered on 2 November 2011, dismissing the appeal.[57][58][59][60][61]

Appeal to the Supreme Court[edit]

The High Court refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, but this was granted by the Supreme Court itself, after the High Court certified that a point of law of general public importance was involved in its decision.

The point of law certified was whether the wording Judicial Authority in the 2003 Extradition Act was to be interpreted as a “person who is competent to exercise judicial authority and that such competence requires impartiality and independence of both the executive and the parties” or if it “embraces a variety of bodies, some of which have the qualities of impartiality and independence …and some of which do not.”[62]

The Supreme Court heard the appeal on 1 and 2 February 2012.[23] The court reserved its judgment,[63] and dismissed the appeal by a 5–2 majority on 30 May 2012.[24][64]

The court granted Assange two weeks to make an application to reopen the appeal after his counsel argued the judgments of the majority relied on an interpretation of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties that was not argued during the hearing.[65] The application was rejected on 14 June, thereby exhausting Assange's legal options in the United Kingdom.[66]

Barring any appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, extradition was expected to take place over a ten-day period commencing on 28 June 2012.[67]

Ecuador asylum request[edit]

Since 19 June 2012, Assange has lived in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he asked for and was granted political asylum.[68] Assange’s lawyers have invited the Swedish prosecutor four times to come and question him at the embassy, but the offer has been refused.[69]

Assange has said he would go to Sweden if provided with a diplomatic guarantee that he would not be turned over to the United States[70] but the Swedish foreign ministry stated that Sweden's legislation does not allow any judicial decision like extradition to be predetermined.[71]

Accusations[edit]

Assange is arrested in his absence and wanted for questioning in relation to accusations against him of rape and sexual molestation. This is the first step in the criminal prosecution procedure in Sweden, and only after the questioning will the prosecution authority be able to formally indict him.[5]

Statute of limitations[edit]

The statute of limitations in Sweden is five years for unlawful coercion and 10 years for rape, which means that Assange cannot be charged based on these allegations after 2020.[36][72]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Cody, Edward (9 September 2010). "WikiLeaks stalled by Swedish inquiry into allegations of rape by founder Assange". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "Sex accusers boasted about their 'conquest' of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange". The Times of India. 9 December 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
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External links[edit]