A note on a correction

Yesterday the Guardian published a piece I wrote criticising SlutWalk London’s decision to issue a statement opposing the extradition of Julian Assange. It was explicitly not intended to rehash the legal issues; nevertheless, anything mentioning Assange tends to bring out the amateur lawyer in everyone. The piece originally contained this phrase:

rape charges in Sweden

At some point yesterday, this was amended to:

rape allegations in Sweden

A correction note was added, saying that Assange has not been charged. Had I been able to revise the text myself at this stage, my preferred formulation would have been neither of these, but instead this:

rape allegations in Sweden (allegations that the England and Wales High Court has said “there can be no doubt” he would have been charged with already in the UK)

I very much regret not including the quote from the High Court judgement in the piece, because as it stands, it does not accurately reflect the progression of the case.

Through multiple appeals, the allegations against Assange have been found to be serious and substantial enough to support extradition. To say “there are no charges”, as Assange supporters repeatedly do, is a strict translation of Swedish legal terms that misrepresents the nature of the case to anyone whose understanding of the law is based on the England and Wales system.

Those who know what they think about the Assange case are unlikely to be swayed by any commentators at this stage – which is why it’s so extraordinary that SlutWalk London chose to take sides on such a poisonous issue. However, I’m sorry that my piece has now contributed to that misrepresentation.

3 thoughts on “A note on a correction

  1. I too found Slutwalk London’s position baffling, and not merely because I disagree with it (although I do). When you’re steering an organisation and you’re confronted with an issue that is potentially going to alienate a lot of your members and supporters, the wise thing to do is to stop and think, “Do we need to take a stance on this at all?” Sometimes it’s unavoidable and you simply have to take the risk of losing people, but often the issue will be tangential enough to your organisation’s purpose that it’s more than sufficient to adopt an official position of no official position. Sure there will be people who’ll be unhappy with that, but you’re far more likely to lose people for taking a stance they don’t agree with than for taking no stance at all. It’s organisational suicide to lose people for taking stances that you could have easily not taken without anybody noticing.

    The whole thing really reeks of a small number of people with their own agenda deciding to use the Slutwalk platform to advance it. It’s particularly disappointing because Slutwalk London had previously struck me as being more inclusive than many of the other branches of the Slutwalk movement.

  2. Another zombie fact that kept popping up in the comments section was the one that “he is only wanted for questioning”. The court specifically said that EAW cannot be validly issued just for questioning. He is wanted for interrogation – the final step before charging.

    In any event, on the charging matter. It is pretty hard to charge someone when they are hiding/evading arrest. If they charged him in absentia that would be a grounds for criticism, surely?!

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