Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rape is More than Rape in Sweden

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is locked up in English jail, in the process to be deported to Sweden for charges of rape. Rape is a terrible word, but in Swedish law it's not only what we normally mean by it. A number of sex offenses, major and minor, are called rape – and treated equally severely by the Swedish legal system. Moral panic replaces justice.

For the last few years, moral panic and political correctness have cooperated to change Swedish laws on sex offenses towards the absurd. In their eagerness to demonstrate how much they abhor any kind of sexual abuse, the politicians have jumped to decisions widening the legal definition of rape. Now it includes a lot of offenses that come nowhere near the action of rape, the forced intercourse.

In some cases, neither Bill Clinton nor the rest of us would even call it sex at all.

The reason for the widened legal use of the word rape is claimed to be a care for the victims, ensuring that the crime is taken seriously in courts and leads to significant punishment. This seems like a good reason, but in reality the effect tends to be the opposite.

Instead of minor sexual offenses being regarded with more sincerity, the major ones, like real rape, tend to be seen as less serious. Of course, when the meaning of the term rape is widened it gets diluted. Not in the legal system just yet, but in the minds of the general public.

Soon, the courts will need to do the same, especially since there is an increasing number of cases that are little or no more than expressions of disappointment or jealousy, and similar subjective emotional issues of no real legal baring.

The Swedish parliament went an awkward way in its effort. Instead of simply raising the penalties for sex offenses, major as well as minor ones, they hardened the semantics. I am reminded of newspeak, in George Orwell's novel 1984, where an oppressive government uses language to brainwash its citizens and confuse their understanding of democracy and justice. When the Swedish parliament is doing the same, it's terrible evidence of their poor respect for basic civil principles.

A Matter of Condoms Only
So, in the case of Julian Assange, he is not – yet – the victim of a great interstate conspiracy to sabotage Wikileaks and its recent revelations. He is the victim of the term rape expanded in Swedish law to apply to things that are hardly crimes at all, but because of this can be treated as such.

In a way, this is even worse. Instead of a conspiracy, which would be illegal, the persecution and harassment of Assange is legal, stripping him of his human rights completely.

Behind the accusations against Assange are two Swedish women who discovered that he had made love to them both, and probably was not interested in a longtime commitment to either one of them. They went to the police together, as an alliance of two women spurned.

They both admit that the sex with him was consensual, but one claims that Assange deliberately made the condom break (what man in the world would?) and the other claims that they had sex without a condom against her will (although she didn't in any way oppose it at the time). Obviously, they were just searching desperately for some offense of which to accuse him.

Here are the circumstances regarding the events and the two women's charges, according to the police reports: Daily Mail report

The Guilty Ones
The Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny insists on the charges and on arresting Assange in his absence. According to her it's just for questioning, since Assange has not yet been able to give his version of the matter, although he stayed in Sweden for several weeks before going to England.

She refuses to say if there will be a trial, or to state the specifics of the alleged crimes. But it doesn't stop her from demolishing his reputation throughout the world, and putting him at great personal risk in so many ways. He is already punished, although there has been no trial.

The attorney of the two women, Claes Borgström, is a cynical opportunist who cashes in on this, all that he can, and participates gladly in the slander of Assange, blaming him for just about everything and then some. Both he and the prosecutor seem not at all displeased with the media attention this brings them.

What if the charges against Assange are dropped, or the court finds him innocent? How can his honor be restored? Will those who maltreated him be charged?

In both Swedish and European law, the judicial treatment of an accused may not be out of proportion to the charges. This has definitely happened here. Will the prosecutor be punished for this? Also, it is illegal to make false charges against someone. Will the two women be accused of this?

The Swedish legal system is Orwellian in so many ways, for example in the diminished rights of the accused, who is treated as guilty before the trial – a major mockery of the principles of justice. The accusers are rarely, if ever, at risk of anything at all, no matter how absurd their accusations are, which makes for a paranoid system of insecurity, again very Orwellian, or for that matter a reminder of extreme fascist and communist states.

So much wrong is exposed in the case against Julian Assange. The Wikileaks ingredient, and what it might have to do with this, is not even on the top of the list. From the Swedish perspective I would say that the worst is how justice deteriorates when moral panic and political correctness are allowed to shape it, and how quickly civil rights die when the legal system is free to act without the risk of being punished for its misuse of power.

5 comments:

  1. The same is only too true for very many others who are falsely accused and have no recourse to vindication or compensation. Unfortunately only the high profile cases get any attention. Very many men are accused of molesting their children by estranged mothers. Accusations that are often untrue and malicious. Even when shown to be so there is never any question of prosecuting the accusers either for slander of perjury. Nor for the damage that their actions do to their children.
    A final note concerns the case of the tenor Tito Beltrane who was imprisoned for rape for two years on the basis of what can only be described as hearsay. Several years after the event ans in the absence of any technical evidence. Trial by celebrity would be a more appropriate term than other.

    The messages are clear..don't get into trouble in Sweden unless you commit a really horrendous crime (for which sentences are almost ludicrously lenient) and don't expect justice from a politically driven and almost completely incompetent judiciary.

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  2. Sadly, I can but agree. The famous cases expose what's happening all the time behind the scenes. Justice should be blind, but it is often peeking through the blindfold.

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  3. Just as a precaution...Remember to get a written consent form signed if you want to have sex in sweden. The good thing though is that if you worry about having contracted an STD (while having sex in sweden) they will call interpol and have you arrested and tested!
    You are so right moral panic..it so ridiculous that there has to be something else going on. These two women Ms A and Ms W have alot to answer for, as they are being used to criminalise Assange to justify extradition to the US.

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  4. By the way, here is a recent text by Julian Assange - not about the rape charges, but about the Wikileaks revelations and the political reactions to them:
    Assange in The Australian

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  5. I deleted an anonymous comment naming someone else charged with rape, but as far as I understood not convicted.

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