Julian Assange is now out of jail and faces his full extradition hearing on February 7 and 8. Shamefully, the Swedish government have used allegations of rape and sexual assault by two women against Assange to justify their pursuit of him. Allegations of rape and sexual assault should be taken seriously (and they very rarely are—rape charges are notoriously hard to prove in court, and courts constantly perpetuate the sexist myth that rape is the fault of the victim). But the reality is that the Swedish government’s hunt for Assange has nothing to do with defending women’s rights.
As filmmaker Michael Moore pointed out in his open letter to the Swedish government, nine out of ten times, rape charges in Sweden never make it to court. Yet Assange—who has not actually been charged with anything and is only wanted for questioning in Sweden—was held in solitary confinement in Britain and was subject to an Interpol arrest warrant usually reserved for violent criminals, international drug lords or war lords. Assange has offered himself up for questioning in Britain, but Swedish prosecutors refused.
That is because they’re not in it to question Assange over rape. Mark Stephens, Assange’s UK lawyer, has said that “we understand that if it comes to Sweden they will defer their interest in him to the Americans”—meaning the Swedish government will allow his extradition to the United States. In the US Assange would face potential prosecution, not over sexual assault, but over his release of the Wikileaks cables. That would not be a victory for women’s rights; it would be a victory for the United States’ ability to rule with impunity.
Despite doing everything they can to charge Assange, the US government is not pursuing any charges against military officials in Iraq who oversaw systemic torture or authorised the deaths of many civilians, as revealed by the Iraq War Logs. The UK parliament has not been punished for hiding the fact it was storing US cluster bombs, or for deliberating rigging the inquiry into the Iraq War to suit US interests.
The real criminals do not work for Wikileaks, they run the world. We should defend those who expose them.