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America could have just as easily extradited him from the UK as from Sweden.

Indeed. More easily because the US/UK extradition agreement only requires each country's courts to apply the same tests as they use domestically to allow an arrest. In the US that test is called probable cause, in the UK it's called reasonable suspicion.

(Some people at the time felt that this was not fair as the US test is arguably a tougher one but arguably that just reflects the country's domestic arrest policies being different. In any case, the UK refuses far more US extradition requests than vice versa. If you want to read 400 pages on this, the Baker Extradition review which also covers the European Arrest Warrant and the Prima Facie test is available online.)

More easily. The UK has extradited people to the US on questionable grounds before. I don't think Sweden has.

Sweden have also done this. Sorry for the swedish link but found no better: https://sv.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptenavvisningarna

He wasn't in the UK.

Extraterritoriality of embassies is a myth. Assange was in the UK when he was in the Ecuadorian embassy. However, the UK authorities could not have removed him from the embassy without violating the Vienna Convention.

> Extraterritoriality of embassies is a myth...

Along with the myth of not being "in" country X when you're in airside transit on an international-international itinerary through an airport there.

Both are metaphors that hold in some cases, and break down in others.

Semantics. The host country is prevented from entering, searching, seizing people or persons, or otherwise enforcing its laws in any way. The soil is technically still British, but so long as he had Ecuador's cooperation, he was entirely outside the reach of UK law.

So by the dictionary definition of sovereignty -- "supreme power or authority" the sovereign inside the walls of the embassy is Ecuador, not the UK, since the UK has no de facto authority there. But by the definition of "sovereignty" applied to issues of land ownership, the interior space of the building is technically still British and would revert back to enforceable UK legal jurisdiction when the mission is over.

So really you could argue it either way.

No, the UK is sovereign inside the Ecuadorian embassy. The authorities are prevented from entering by international treaties that they've signed.

If international treaty obligations block sovereignty, then the UK isn't sovereign within the UK either (!), since there are certainly international treaties signed by the UK which prevent the UK authorities doing certain things within the UK. For example, the UK authorities cannot usually arrest diplomats, regardless of whether or not the diplomat is in an embassy.

> If international treaty obligations block sovereignty, then the UK isn't sovereign within the UK either (!)

Yup. International treaties are an exchange of sovereignty for something else. The general public imagine that XIX-century-style nation states still exist, but they haven't for a long time. I suspect the USA's rhetoric of patriotism, especially post-9/11 exacerbates this view. Even the USA shares a lot of its sovereignty with external entities (gasp!).

The only XIX-century-style nation state left might be North Korea, FWIW.

Sovereignty isn't binary, and states and laws are one of many social constructs. Discussing the complexities is interesting. Purely semantic arguments is not.

I was responding to OP's claim that Assange was not "in the UK" when he was in the embassy. That's false on any reasonable understanding of those words. It would only be true if embassies were in fact foreign soil.

Yeah it is pretty much De Jure vs. De Facto. they may have De Jure access, but De Facto they do not.

He was before he ran to the embassy, skipping bail, on the pretext that if the UK extradited him to Sweden, Sweden would extradite him to the U.S.

That's an invalid pretext.

Umm, given that upon his arrest by the UK police the US government requested his extradition before the Swedish government did, I would say that invalid pretext was neither invalid or a pretext.

Scotland Yard just confirmed the validity of that invalid pretext.

Why is that invalid?

He was in the UK for two years after leaving Sweden before he entered the embassy. Had he really been fearful of extradition to the US, why would he choose to run away to the country which (at least at the time) has the strongest ties to the US?

He did not run to the UK. The charges in Sweden had been dropped and he was allowed to leave the country. I'll give you that the UK is a bad choice to go, but at the time he was free and clear of any charges. Only after he was in the UK, Sweden reopened their investigation, and at first reported him as a "witness" they'd like to interview, and that's what they based their request for extradition on. He wasn't "accused" at the time Sweden filed.

His "pre-text" wasn't that he feared the UK would extradite him to the US, but that the UK would extradite him to Sweden, which would extradite him to the UK. So he was fearful of Sweden, not the UK. You can say that this is stupid or even claim he cannot genuinely believe that and is therefore disingenuous, but unless a true mindreader shows up, we cannot know what he thought and feared, really.

>He did not run to the UK. The charges in Sweden had been dropped and he was allowed to leave the country.

True - I'd forgotten that part.

In any case - the case was reopened in November 2010, and Assange didn't enter the embassy until June 2012. If this truly was some sort of grand conspiracy to get him extradited to the US, I'd imagine the CIA has more reliable and straightforward methods of arresting/disappearing someone.

In addition to the above, EU law forbids extradition chains (Assange extradited from the UK -> Sweden, and then Sweden -> US) without explicit permissions from all involved countries.

> I'd imagine the CIA has more reliable and straightforward methods of arresting/disappearing someone

Probably, but there are likely extreme hurdles to such "disappearing" of well known persons (especially those who are not universally hated). Having the technical capability is one thing. Effectively acknowledging its use in a mostly friendly, sovereign country is a very different matter.

Yes, they do. It's called extraordinary rendition.

Extraditing from Sweden would probably require the permission of the UK government, who are generally more than willing to bend over backwards for the US on this kind of thing. What it avoids is getting the UK courts involved; how much that matters in practice is an interesting question. Also, I don't think the US was ready to extradite him yet back in 2010.

Edit: yep, arrest warrant supposedly issued in December 2017 over his work with Manning back in 2010.

It wouldn't avoid the UK courts getting involved; consent from the UK for onward extradition from Sweden is subject to judicial review, much like any other extradition request.

The CIA killing him would have created a huge us pr nightmare.

Correct. And would have been entirely unnecessary, because they could just wait him out.

If the goal is deterrence, he works just as well as a symbol rotting in the Ecuadorian embassy as either dead or rotting in jail.

> wasn't that he feared the UK would extradite him to the US, but that the UK would extradite him to Sweden, which would extradite him to the UK

I assume you mean "extradite him to the US"

Why would Sweden extradite him to the U.S. when the UK wouldn't?

Either way, he promised the UK courts he wouldn't flee. Then he fled. Now he's been arrested for skipping bail. Good. Everytime someone skips bail, it makes it harder for innocent people to get bail when they are charged with crimes they didn't commit.

Indeed, "to the US"

I don't know what he was thinking? Maybe he had memories of Pinochet not being extradited from the UK? Maybe he had memories of the Swedes doing the bidding of the US re:thepiratebay?

The Swedes have previously allowed the CIA to just straight up kidnap people, outside of the legal process.


Yeah, well... using CIA and SOF to abduct people is just US M.O. With or without permission from the "host" country.


People might be interested in the case from 2018 where Assange tries, and fails, to get the arrest warrant for breaching bail to be dropped.


He was obviously free to leave the country, but his lawyer was advised the case had been reopened 5 days before he arrived in the UK

And his pretext was also that he'd face the death penalty in the US, which is a bit absurd. Chelsea Manning was his co-conspirator and look what she got. She didn't get a death sentence, she got government funded gender reassignment surgery, 35 years which Obama commuted down to 7 years, and contempt of court for refusing a direct court order to appear. Not great, but neither is leaking droves of classified information she was sworn to protect.

She was also tortured[1]. So there's that.

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/12/bradley-mannin...

Tortured being defined as solitary confinement and terrible conditions, not like legitimate torture that happened in places like Abu Gharib.

If the UN has defined it as torture, then I feel reasonably confident saying it's "legitimate torture".

Yes, I'm sure many people have been "more tortured" by the US government (or other governments) than Chelsea Manning -- but it doesn't change the fact she was tortured.

I can’t think of a single country where running from a valid warrant claiming fear of extradition doesn’t make you guilty of resisting arrest. Legal systems do not typically respond well when the accused flee.

He is now.

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