Sweden Grants Itself and the USA Impunity for Rape and Torture while Pursuing Assange

David Allen Green, legal correspondent for the liberal NewStatesman magazine, is one of the most persistent and widely cited pundits who trashes Julian Assange’s claim to political asylum. Green’s latest effort to explode “myths” about Julian Assange’s case linked to the following article.

Green cited the article as evidence that Sweden’s collaboration with CIA “renditions” (i.e. kidnapping and torture) is no big reason to doubt that Assange would get a fair hearing from Sweden’s judiciary or to fear that Sweden would ship him to the USA to be punished for his work with Wikileaks.

Green noticed that according to this article “it appears that in 2006 Sweden stopped rendition flights for the USA”

What Green somehow missed, or perhaps ignored, in the article was that it also stated

“"Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery, two Egyptians who had been seeking asylum in Sweden, were arrested by Swedish police in December 2001. They were taken to Bromma airport in Stockholm, had their clothes cut from their bodies, suppositories inserted in their anuses and in diapers, overall, handcuffs and chains put on an executive jet with American registration N379P with a crew of masked men. "

In other words, the men were raped and tortured in Sweden. That makes the Swedish officials involved in turning them over to US agents accomplices to torture, rape and other grave crimes that took place in Stockholm. Sweden is legally responsible for prosecuting all the perpetrators and their Swedish accomplices.

According to Amnesty International (a group that is biased in favor of western states and their allies)[1] the rape and torture of the Egyptian men in Stockholm took place in the presence of Swedish authorities.

The relevant passage in Amnesty's summary of the case states

"The security team –communicating to one another largely through hand signals – subjected Mohammed El Zari and Ahmed Agiza to a so-called "security check", in the presence of Swedish Security Police personnel and two representatives from the US Embassy in Sweden. In fact, this procedure amounted to an extremely serious physical assault on Mohammed El Zari and Ahmed Agiza.

The "security check" consisted of the following:
8.their clothes were cut off with a pair of scissors, and placed in a plastic bag;
9.their hair, mouth and ears were thoroughly examined;
10.they were then handcuffed and shackled;
11.Mohammed El Zari was then forced to bend over, had a tranquilizer — apparently some kind of muscle relaxant — inserted into his anus, and was placed in waterproof underpants. Other reports indicate that both men underwent this;
12.they were dressed in boiler suits, blindfolded and hooded; and
13.one of the foreign agents took photographs of it."

In 2009 the International Commission of Jurists and the UN Human Rights Council deplored Sweden’s failure to criminally prosecute the Swedish officials or US agents involved:
The Human Rights Committee in Alzery v Sweden found that the failure to institute criminal prosecutions in respect of the conduct of either Swedish or foreign officials involved in the rendition of Mr Alzery violated Article 7 ICCPR read in conjunction with Article 2 ICCPR, noting that “as a result of the combined investigations of the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the prosecutorial authorities, neither Swedish officials nor foreign agents were the subject of a full criminal investigation, much less the initiation of formal charges”.

In its eagerness to please the USA, the Swedish state continues to shield itself and the US government from prosecution for crimes that are vastly worse than the ones for which Assange has been accused – and for which the evidence is incomparably stronger. Nevertheless, Green argues that none of this is very relevant to Assange’s case:

"….the Agiza and Al-Zery case caused scandal in Sweden leading, among other things, to payments of substantial compensation once the judicial system was engaged. It was an awful incident but it is not one which carries over easily to the Assange situation."
Of course, the "scandal" Green mentions did not result in criminal charges being pressed against Swedish and US officials. If the evidence was found to be strong enough for Sweden to compensate the victims, how could it not be strong enough to produce any criminal charges, to say nothing of convictions? How could anyone dismiss the staggeringly obvious relevance of this case to Assange – specifically to Sweden's capacity to treat a suspect fairly when to do so clashes with US priorities? Given how often the term "rape apologist" has been levelled at those who have defended Asange's decision to seek poltical asylum, I also wondered "Would David Allen Green dare to argue that the Egyptian men were not raped in Sweden"? [2] Green insists that his voluminous output on the Assange case been driven by concern that "complainants of rape and sexual abuse have rights too." It appears he hasn't bothered to consider how such rights are trampled by Sweden shielding itself and the USA from prosecution for rape and torture.

I wrote a response to Green's outrageous remarks about the case of Mohammed El Zari and Ahmed Agiza in a Znet blog post. I emailed it to both Green and Helen Lewis, the NewStatesman's deputy editor. Lewis replied to me promptly as follows.

"We don’t run letters in the magazine about website content; if needed, we would offer a separate blog as a right of reply. I don’t think that would be appropriate in this case, but I will mention your blog to David so that he’s aware of the context to the Swedish rendition case."[3]
She then emailed me again to point out a series of articles by Stephen Grey which helped expose details about US kidnapping and torture ("renditions").

I don't know if Helen Lewis was sucessfull in her efforts to make Green "aware of the context of the Swedish rendition case". I asked her if any NewStatesman writer will be balancing Green's persistant calls for "due process" for Assange with equally peristent calls for the prosecution of Swedish officlals involved with rape and torture. Frankly, I don't think anyone needs a reply to know the answer. The impunity Sweden has granted itself and the USA requires the cooperation of the corporate media.

Months ago, Media Lens summed up the liberal media's reaction when Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London
…as disturbing as the tsunami of mindless vitriol [towards Assange] is the lack of dissent. US analyst Glenn Greenwald has so far been the sole high-profile political commentator willing to take on the UK’s hard-right ‘liberals’.


In fact, Helen Lewis stood in that very crowded field of liberals who poured mindless ridicule on Assange. She used her Twitter account to suggest that "Assange living in the broom cupboard of the Ecuadorian embassy forever has great sitcom potential".

Needless to say, the liberal media's emphasis was not on Sweden's monstrous hypocrisy for pursuing Assange over allegations of rape while, at the same time, shielding its own and foreign officials from being charged with rape and torture.

When Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador, the "left leaning" Guardian and Independent both weighed in with editorials opposing the decision.

The Guardian editors flaunted their ignorance and denial quite spectacularly by writing

"…neither Sweden nor the UK would in any case deport someone who might face torture or the death penalty."
While a very tiny group of leftists are given license by the corporate media to express dismay at the idiocy of their colleagues, the "tsunami of mindless vitriol" continues.[4]
If a free press existed, Sweden would be forced to state that it will not ship Assange to the USA to be punished for political crimes. The "guarantee" that Sweden refuses to provide to Assange is essentially a statement that it will abide by its own and international laws in Assange's case – precisely the laws its trampled so flagrantly in the Agiza and Al-Zery case and for which it has refused to charge anyone. Such a "guarantee" from Sweden would actually guarantee nothing, but it would raise the political costs of once again breaking the law at the behest of the USA. As Glenn Greenwald clearly explained, the Swedish government would not be legally bound to obey any court ruling that would violate Assange's human rights by shipping him off to the USA. Of course, the Swedish government could always find "arguments" to do so anyway – just as legal arguments are always found to justify illegal invasions, coups, assassinations, torture and numerous other government crimes. [5]
Rights are not ultimately protected on paper or by legal arguments. There is a paper fortress of Swedish and International laws that utterly failed to protect Agiza and Al-Zery in Stockholm. Bush and Blair are not free men due to the strength of their legal arguments. On paper, numerous Swedish and US authorities should be in jail for what was done to Agiza and Al-Zery. Such people are not free because evidence to prosecute them is lacking, nor has Assange been forced to seek political asylum because of the flimsy evidence against him in Sweden.[6]


[1] For examples of Amnesty's bias see this piece

[2] Worth reviewing how various EU countries including Sweden define rape. In Germany rape is defined as

"Forced sexual intercourse or any invasive sexual penetration. Penetration need not be carried out with a body part – it may be with an object."

In other places – the USA, Scotland, England, Wales for example – the use of violence to violate a person's sex organs with an object falls under "sexual assualt".
In Sweden the definition of rape is more broad

"Forced vaginal intercourse or a comparable sexual act, which is carried out by assault or threat of violence."

Anti-rape activists have been trying to stress for decades that rape is about power – the use of violence to inflict physical and emotional pain and humiliation by violating a person's sex organs.

[3] The only replies I have received thus far from Green have been a few complaints that I blind copied him and others on emails about his work. The Znet blog post is here

[4] Seumas Milne eventually added his voice to Greenwald's and Mark Weisbrot's

[5] In fact, David Allen Green's piece, in its response to Greenwald on this point, lays out the kind of sophistries that Sweden may use to go along with an outrageous ruling.

[6] Below are key excerpts from a Guardian article based on illegally leaked police reports about the allegations against Assange.

“Miss A told police that she didn't want to go any further 'but that it was too late to stop Assange as she had gone along with it so far', and so she allowed him to undress her.

According to the statement, Miss A then realised he was trying to have unprotected sex with her. She told police that she had tried a number of times to reach for a condom but Assange had stopped her by holding her arms and pinning her legs. The statement records Miss A describing how Assange then released her arms and agreed to use a condom, but she told the police that at some stage Assange had 'done something' with the condom that resulted in it becoming ripped, and ejaculated without withdrawing…..”

“Miss W told police that though they started to have sex, Assange had not wanted to wear a condom, and she had moved away because she had not wanted unprotected sex. Assange had then lost interest, she said, and fallen asleep. However, during the night, they had both woken up and had sex at least once when ‘he agreed unwillingly to use a condom’.

Early the next morning, Miss W told police, she had gone to buy breakfast before getting back into bed and falling asleep beside Assange. She had awoken to find him having sex with her, she said, but when she asked whether he was wearing a condom he said no. ‘According to her statement, she said: 'You better not have HIV' and he answered: 'Of course not,' ‘ but ‘she couldn't be bothered to tell him one more time because she had been going on about the condom all night. She had never had unprotected sex before.’”

Leave a comment