Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority
|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (February 2016)|
|Julian Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority|
|Court||Supreme Court of the United Kingdom|
|Full case name||Julian Paul Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority|
|Argued||1–2 February 2012|
|Decided||30 May 2012|
|Neutral Citation|| UKSC 22|
|Reported at||Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority|
|Prior action(s)||Assange v The Swedish Judicial Authority  EWHC 2849 (Admin)|
|Procedural history||The judicial authority in Sweden v Julian Paul Assange (Westminster Magistrates)|
|A European Arrest Warrant issued by a public prosecutor is a valid Part 1 warrant issued by a judicial authority within the meaning of section 2(2) and 66 of the Extradition Act 2003.|
|Majority||Phillips joined by Brown, Dyson, Kerr, and Walker|
|Dissent||Hale and Mance|
|Area of Law|
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' into accusations of his having committed sexual offences. The proceedings began in 2012 and on 12 August 2015, Swedish prosecutors announced that they would drop their investigation into three of the allegations against Assange, because the statute of limitations had expired. The investigation into the allegation of rape continues.
- 1 Swedish investigation
- 2 Extradition process
- 2.1 First instance proceedings
- 2.2 Appeal to the High Court
- 2.3 Appeal to the Supreme Court
- 2.4 Ecuador asylum and bail forfeiture
- 2.5 Accusations
- 2.6 l'Espresso document publication
- 2.7 Decision to interview Assange in London
- 2.8 Inquiry into three of the allegations dropped
- 2.9 Opinion of arbitrary detention by UN Working Group and move to lift European arrest warrant
- 2.10 Assange offer to Obama administration
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Complaints and initial investigation
On 20 August 2010, two women, a 26-year-old living in Enköping and a 31-year-old living in Stockholm, went together to the Swedish police in order to track Assange down and persuade him to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases after having separate sexual encounters with him. 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. Later that day, the duty prosecutor ordered the arrest of Julian Assange on the suspicion of rape and molestation.
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.
After learning of the investigation, Assange said, "The charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing."
The preliminary investigation concerning suspected rape was discontinued by Finné on 25 August, 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.
On 30 August, Assange was questioned by the Stockholm police regarding the allegations of sexual molestation. He denied the allegations, saying he had consensual sexual encounters with the two women.
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. On 18 October 2010, his request was denied. He left Sweden on 27 September 2010. According to one source his departure was with the permission of the Swedish authorities. Another source claims that the Swedish authorities notified Assange's lawyer of his imminent arrest on that same day.
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. The warrant was appealed to the Svea Court of Appeal which upheld its issuance, but lowered it to suspicion of rape of a lesser degree, unlawful coercion and two cases of sexual molestation rather than three. The warrant was also appealed to the Supreme Court of Sweden, 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. 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, and heard the appeal on 1 and 2 February 2012. The court reserved its judgment and dismissed the appeal on 30 May 2012. Assange has said the investigation is "without basis". He remained on conditional bail in the United Kingdom. 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 but has been unable to leave the embassy without fear of arrest.
Review of detention order
On the 24 June 2014, The Guardian reported that Assange's lawyers filed a request to Stockholm District Court to dismiss his detention, 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 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. After hearing evidence, the district court concluded that there was probable cause to suspect Assange of committing the alleged crimes, and that the detention order should remain in place.
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." 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."
On 20 November 2014, the Swedish Court of Appeal refused Assange's appeal, upholding the 2010 detention order, though at the same time issuing a statement criticising the prosecution for not having done more to advance the case by proceeding with an interrogation of Assange.
First instance proceedings
Detention and bail
Assange presented himself to the Metropolitan Police on December 7, 2010, and was remanded to London's Wandsworth Prison. 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).
On release on bail, Assange said "I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter," and told the BBC, "This has been a very successful smear campaign and a very wrong one." 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.
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. 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. 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.
The outcome of the hearing was announced on 24 February 2011, when the extradition warrant was upheld. Senior District Judge Howard Riddle found against Assange on each of the main arguments against his extradition. 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." Judge Riddle concluded: "I am satisfied that the specified offences are extradition offences."
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."
Appeal to the High Court
On 2 March 2011, Assange's lawyers lodged an appeal with the High Court challenging the decision to extradite him to Sweden. Assange remained on conditional bail. 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.
Appeal to the Supreme Court
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.”
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. The application was rejected on 14 June, thereby exhausting Assange's legal options in the United Kingdom.
Ecuador asylum and bail forfeiture
|Wikinews has related news: Assange seeks asylum in Ecuadorian embassy|
Since 19 June 2012, Assange has lived in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he asked for and was granted political asylum. Because Assange did not comply with his bail conditions, his supporters forfeited £93,500.
Assange’s lawyers invited the Swedish prosecutor four times to come and question him at the embassy, but the offer was refused. In March 2015, faced with the prospect of the Swedish statute of limitations expiring for some of the allegations, the prosecutor relented and agreed to question Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy. The UK agreed to the interview in May, but the prosecutor still awaits Ecuadorean approval.
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, to which the Swedish foreign ministry stated that Sweden's legislation does not allow any judicial decision like extradition to be predetermined. However, the Swedish government is free to reject extradition requests from non-EU countries, independent of any court decision.
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.
l'Espresso document publication
On 20 October 2015, a new batch of documents resulting from a FOIA request to the Swedish authorities filed by the Italian news magazine l'Espresso was published online. They contain records of correspondence between the Swedish Prosecution Authority and the Crown Prosecution Service. A CPS lawyer wrote in an email to Marianne Ny that "it would not be prudent for the Swedish authorities to try to interview the defendant in the UK... He would of course have no obligation under English law to answer any questions put to him.... any attempt to interview under strict Swedish law would invariably be fraught with problems." Referring to the case itself, he wrote, "It is simply amazing how much work this is generating... Do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request." Assange's legal team stated that, following these revelations, they would probably challenge the extradition request in court again.
Decision to interview Assange in London
In March 2015, Marianne Ny indicated that she would allow Assange to be interviewed in London, and that the interview would be conducted by a deputy prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, as well as a police investigator. In December 2015, Ecuador stated that it had reached a deal with Sweden which would allow him to be interviewed in the Embassy. In September 2016, Ecuador set a date for Assange's interview over the rape allegation. The date was 17 October 2016. It was established that the interview would be conducted by an Ecuadorian prosecutor, with Isgren and a police officer present. The interview was subsequently postponed until 14 November 2016, "to ensure the presence of Mr Assange’s attorneys," according to a spokesman for Assange’s legal team. According to Assange's lawyer, the "shape" of the questions was still being discussed a week before the scheduled interview. Assange released his testimony to the public on 7 December. In his statement, Assange says that his Swedish lawyer was not actually permitted to be present during the interview, among many other complaints concerning the length and irregularities of the process and events leading up to it.
Inquiry into three of the allegations dropped
On 12 August 2015, Swedish prosecutors announced that, as the statute of limitations for the less serious allegations had run out, and they had not succeeded in interviewing Assange, they would end part of their preliminary investigation. After 18 August 2015, Assange could no longer be charged for any of the three less serious charges. However, the preliminary investigation into the more serious allegation is ongoing, the statute of limitations for this charge not expected to expire until 2020.
Opinion of arbitrary detention by UN Working Group and move to lift European arrest warrant
On 5 February 2016, it was announced by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had found that Assange is effectively being held in arbitrary detention by the UK and Swedish governments in an opinion written by two members of the five-member panel (another dissented, one had to recuse themselves because they - like Assange - was Australian, while the fifth spot was not filled). High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein stated later the same month that the opinion is based on binding international law, but is not itself binding. Immediately following the opinion's publication, Assange's lawyers asked the Stockholm District Court to lift the European arrest warrant. On 14 April, the Swedish prosecution authorities responded saying the warrant should be upheld. The Svea Court of Appeal decided to uphold the warrant on 16 September. After being asked by the British to review the case, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention formally declined to do so in late November, saying that there was not enough new information provided to warrant such a review.
Assange offer to Obama administration
On January 13, 2017, Wikileaks announced that Assange would agree to extradition to the United States if the Obama administration granted clemency to Chelsea Manning though he noted that charges that might be pressed against him there had no merit. The offer followed one made via Assange's attorney in September 2016 that an extradition waiver would be made conditional on a pardon for Manning. There were no public charges against Assange in the U.S. at the time.
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