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Destructive criticism of Sweden

The Julian Assange Case
Forfatter: Nils Melzer
Forlag: Carnival Publishers
ASSANGE / Bureaucratic co-criminals – this is how a new book by Nils Melzer describes Sweden's handling of Julian Assange. Swedish Stina Oscarson reviews – and is ashamed.



RED: With this review, which was published in Svenska Dagbladet Sunday 31 October, Stina Oscarsson broke the alarming, unison Swedish silence about the truth around Julian Assange. Oscarsson has recently been awarded the prestigious Freedom of Expression Prize Torgny Segersteds Ærespris. She supported the appeal for Julian Assange that MODERN TIMES promoted a year ago, aimed at the Swedish authorities and their collaboration with the British MI5 and CIA to gag Julian Assange. See and MODERN TIMES's appendix Orientering, 1/2001, with the theme «Notification», where the Norwegian press' unworthy treatment of Assange is also addressed.


There are two ways to destroy opponents in a democracy. Either you crush the opponent to death, as is the case with Greta Thunberg. Politicians, business leaders and influencers compete to be portrayed with her to get a glimpse of her idealism. Or you are trying to change focus. You change the proportions so that the real problem disappears and dies in silence. If you want to study in detail how this works, you should immediately read Nils Melzer's book The case of Julian Assange. And if you do not want to, there are plenty of even more important reasons why you should read it.

Because this is a book I want everyone who works in Swedish politics, law and journalism to read before they next use words like democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law in the mouth – or conveyed through the pen. Already here I realize that I am beginning to deviate from my mission as a reviewer. But this is a book that demands it. In the same way that Melzer, by writing the book in his own words, becomes a dissident in the system.

Shadow serious revelations

Nils Melzer is professor of international law at the universities of Geneva and Glasgow. He has also been torture rapporteur for the UN since 2016. And it was in that role that he was asked to take up the case of Julian Assange. He has devoted his time to this in recent years, something he did not want at first. Assange, thought Melzer, is a spoiled, grown child who has raped women and year after year sits in an embassy hiding from the law. Like many of us, Melzer had bought into the picture that the media and politicians have effectively managed to paint over the past decade.

Nils Melzer

However, he was eventually forced to reconsider this. And the book he has now written is the story of how the entire Western world has let a conflict about, among other things, a broken condom, overshadow the serious revelation of war crimes with hundreds of thousands of dead. And overshadow the fact that ever since they declared war on terrorism, the United States has thrown on the boat everything we previously thought about the laws of war.

If there was a Nobel Prize for non-fiction, it should go to Melzer. Or: take the Obama Peace Prize and give it to Melzer. The risk he takes in writing this is admittedly small in relation to the price Assange, Snowden and Manning have had to pay, but still.

Melzer is just doing the job any journalist dealing with Assange should be doing. He reveals loyalties and extensive conspiracies between the judiciary and authorities in a number of countries, where Sweden also plays a central role. And how many digressions in time, lack of answers and systematic changes of focus become a way of weakening perhaps the most troublesome warnings of our time. And not least: it is about how an extradition to the United States and the punishment Assange risks there will affect freedom of speechone and journalismone for all of us.

I'm ashamed

However, it is not about a criminal conspiracy, but, as Melzer writes, about "a politics with the small compromises, where every moral dilemma is decided according to assumed real political compulsion and where human values, openness and responsibility always come second (or third) . This has become the norm. It has simply become the prevailing 'operating system' for all forms of human organization worldwide, be it states, organizations or corporations. And it has also become the undramatic fabric from which humanity's greatest tragedies and horrific crimes are woven, through apathy, suppression of complicity and bureaucracyso-called participation."

Arne Ruth stopped calling himself Swedish.

When I talk to Arne Ruth – publicist and formerly, among other things, head of culture at Dagens Nyheter and one of those who got involved in the case – he says that it was Sweden's handling of this that made him stop calling himself Swedish. And the more I read, the more I understand what he means.

I feel ashamed. As, for example, of the story of how the lawyer Claes Borgström gets the responsible police to change the minutes from the first questioning of one of the plaintiffs following the accusations of voldtekt, to increase the chance of initiating a preliminary investigation. Now Borgström is no longer alive and cannot answer this. But everything is there. Black on white. And this is just one of many similar pieces in this huge puzzle where the truth is manipulated. Ruth reminds me that just by writing this in today's debating climate of associative logic and problems with duality, I risk being called misogynistic and accused of minimizing the problem of sex crimes.

Where the lies are revealed one by one

But Melzer's book does not diminish the seriousness of sexual crimes. The fact is, as he writes, that all parties had benefited from a dignified treatment of the Assange case. Several international women's organizations and hundreds of rape victims have also recently supported Melzer, protesting against the authorities' use of the rape narrative in a political persecution of an unpleasant dissident, while sexual violence committed by the army in the affected states is systematically concealed and goes unpunished. This is feminist appropriation, as one of my friends calls it.

And here Meltzer believes that the Swedish public prosecutor's office, through a carefully laid smokescreen of investigations and shadow boxing, aggressive press statements, systematic obstacles and political instrumentalization of the preliminary investigation, is guilty of the same contempt for women's rights that governments all over the world constantly commit. This is well justified by Melzer. Minutes and protocols are carefully read. Sources critically reviewed. Statements checked against dates. There is a gigantic investigation there løgnone is revealed one by one. And had it not been for the fact that this is reality, it would have been a terribly good detective story.

Basic dysfunction

And I'm surprised at how team after team is constantly opening up. Like when Assange, after Wikileaks posted Hillary Clinton's emails in connection with the US presidential election, lost many of his former sympathizers – and who then instead accuses him of Trump winning the election. But if this shows anything, it is probably rather that Assange takes the journalistic ethics' idea of ​​consequence neutrality seriously.

Or the almost comical cynicism shown from USAs side when defending the mental torture that Assange was demonstrably subjected to by saying that it is about "freedom of expression". It is about the same level of absurdism as when the Swedish government claims that it cannot be said that Assange has been deprived of his freedom in all his years at the embassy. He went in there voluntarily, they say. A claim that undermines the whole idea of ​​political asylum.

According to Melzer himself, the book is “a necessary appeal. A call and a reminder to all the states of the world that the system of human rights that they have established is fundamentally dysfunctional. The book is also a warning to the public, as this systemic error should put every citizen of our democratic rule of law on alert. "

So I say: Let the alarm go off. And if the Swedish government hears the warning, they can start by answering the 50 as yet unanswered questions Melzer has asked about the way they handle the case against Julian Assange.

The article is translated from Swedish by John Y. Jones.

Stina Oscarson
Stina Oscarson
Swedish playwright and cultural writer

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