August 23, 2012 - Now that Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project, has confirmed Karl Rove’s role as an advisor to the Swedish government in its prosecution of Julian Assange on sexual misconduct charges, it is important that we note the many glaring aberrations in the handling of Assange’s case by the authorities in Sweden.
Dr. Brian Palmer, a social anthropologist at Uppsala University, explained on Kreig’s radio show last month that Karl Rove has been working directly as an advisor to the governing Moderate Party. Kreig also reported, in Connecticut Watchdog, that the Assange accusers’ lawyer is a partner in the law firm Borgström and Bodström, whose other name partner, Thomas Bodström, is a former Swedish Minister of Justice. In that office, Bodström helped approve a 2001 CIA rendition request to Sweden, to allow the CIA to fly two asylum-seekers from Sweden to Egypt, where they were tortured. This background compels us to review the case against Assange with extreme care.
Based on my 23 years of reporting on global rape law, and my five years of supporting women at rape crisis centers and battered women’s shelters, I can say with certainty that this case is not being treated as a normal rape or sexual assault case. New details from the Swedish police make this quite clear. Their transcript of the complaints against Assange is strikingly unlike the dozens of such transcripts that I have read throughout the years as an advocate for victims of sex crimes.
Specifically, there are eight ways in which this transcript is unusual:
1) Police never pursue complaints in which there is no indication of lack of consent.
Ask Sweden to produce ANY other police report in which any action was taken in a situation in which there is no stated lack of consent or threat of force. Police simply won’t act on a complaint if there is no indication of a lack of consent, or of consent in the face of violence. The Assange transcripts, in contrast to any typical sex crime report, are a set of transcripts in which neither of the women has indicated a lack of consent. (There is one point at which Miss W asserts she was asleep – in which case it would indeed have been illegal to have sex with her – but her deleted tweets show that she was not asleep, and subsequent discussion indicates consent.)
The Assange transcript is therefore anomalous, as it does not suggest in any way that either woman was unconsenting, or felt threatened. On this basis alone, therefore, the Assange transcript is completely aberrant.
2) Police do not let two women report an accusation about one man together.
The transcripts seem to indicate that the police processed the two accusers’ complaints together.
This is completely unheard-of in sex crime procedures; and the burden should be on Clare Mongomery, QC, or Marianne Ny, to produce a single other example of this being permitted.
Never will two victims be allowed by police to come in and tell their stories together–even, or especially, if the stories are about one man.
Indeed, this is a great frustration to those who advocate for rape victims. You can have seven alleged victims all accusing the same guy — and none will be permitted to tell their stories together.
It doesn’t matter if they coordinated in advance as the Assange accusers did, or if they are close friends and came in together: the police simply will not take their complaints together or even in the same room. No matter how much they may wish to file a report together, their wishes won’t matter: the women will be separated, given separate interview times and even locations, and their cases will be processed completely separately.
The prosecutor, rather than being able to draw on both women’s testimony, will actually have to struggle to get the judge to allow a second or additional accusation or evidence from another case.
Usually other such evidence will NOT be allowed. Miss A would have her case processed and then Miss W — with absolutely no ability for the prosecutor to draw form one set of testimony to the next.
The reason for this is sound: it is to keep testimony from contaminating separate trials–a source of great frustration to prosecutors and rape victim advocates.
Thus the dual testimonies taken in this case are utterly atypical and against all Western and especially Swedish rape law practice and policy.
3) Police never take testimony from former boyfriends.
There’s another remarkable aberration in this transcript: the report of a former boyfriend of “Miss A,” testifying that she’d always used a condom in their relationship.
Now, as one who has supported many rape victims through the reporting process, I have to say that the inclusion of this utterly atypical–and, in fact, illegal–note will make anyone who has counselled rape victims through the legal process’ feel as though her head might explode.
There’s a rape shield law in Sweden (as there is throughout Europe) that prevents anyone not involved in the case to say anything to the police, whether it be positive or negative, about the prior sexual habits of the complainant. No matter how much a former or current boyfriend may want to testify about his girlfriends’ sex practices — even if that woman wants him to — the courts will, rightly, refused to hear it, or record it, or otherwise allow it in the record.
4) Prosecutors never let two alleged victims have the same lawyer.
Both women are being advised by the same high-powered, politically connected lawyer. That would never happen under normal circumstances because the prosecutor would not permit the risk of losing the case because of contamination of evidence and the risk of the judge objecting to possible coaching or shared testimony in the context of a shared attorney.
So why would the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, allow such a thing in this case? Perhaps — bearing in mind the threat that Assange will be extradited to the US once he is in Sweden — because she does not expect to have a trial, let alone have to try to win one.
5) A lawyer never typically takes on two alleged rape victims as clients.
No attorney–and certainly no high-powered attorney– would want to represent two women claiming to have been victimized by the same man, for the reasons above: the second woman’s testimony could be weaker than the other one’s, thus lessening the lawyer’s chances of success.
There also is a danger that the judge may well object to the potential cross-contamination of the women’s stories.
Again, the only reason why a lawyer would thus weaken his own clients’ cases us that s/he does not expect the case to come to trial.
6) A rape victim never uses a corporate attorney.
Typically, if a woman needs a lawyer in addition to the prosecutor who is pursuing her case (as in the Swedish system) she will be advised by rape victim advocates, the prosecutor and the police to use a criminal attorney — someone who handles rape cases or other kinds of assault, who is familiar with the judges and the courts in these cases. She will never hire a high-powered corporate attorney who does not specialize in these cases or work with the local court that would be hearing her sex crime case if it ever got to trial. Given that a law firm such as this one charges about four hundred euros an hour, and a typical rape case takes eight months to a year to get through the courts – given that legal advice will cost tens of thousands of euros, which young women victims usually do not have access to – it is reasonable to ask: who is paying the legal bills?
7) A rape victim is never encouraged to make any kind of contact with her assailant and she may never use police to compel her alleged assailant to take medical tests.
The two women went to police to ask if they could get Assange to take an HIV test.
Sources close to the investigation confirm that indeed Assange was asked by police to take an HIV test, which came back negative. This is utterly unheard of and against standard sex crime policy. The Police do not act as medical mediators for STD testing, since rapists are dangerous and vindictive. A victim is NEVER advised to manage, even with police guidance, any further communication with her assailant that is not through formal judicial channels. Under ordinary procedures, the women’s wishes for the alleged assailant to take medical tests would be discouraged by rape victim advocates and deterred and disregarded by police.
First, the State normally has no power to compel a man who has not been convicted, let alone formally charged, to take any medical tests whatsoever. Secondly, rape victims usually fear STD’s or AIDS infection, naturally enough, and the normal police and prosecutorial guidance is for them to take their own battery of tests – you don’t need the man’s test results to know if you have contracted a disease. Normal rape kit processing–in Sweden as elsewhere–includes such tests for the alleged victim as a matter of course, partly to help prevent any contact between the victim and the assailant outside legal channels.
8) Police and prosecutors never leak police transcripts during an active investigation because they face punishment for doing so.
The full transcripts of the women’s complaints have been leaked to the US media. The only people who have access to those documents are police, prosecutors and the attorneys. Often, frustratingly, rape victims themselves cannot get their own full set of records related to their cases. In normal circumstances, the leaking of those transcripts would be grounds for an immediate investigation of the police and prosecutors who had access to them. Any official who leaks such confidential papers faces serious penalties; lawyers who do so can be disbarred. And yet no one in this case is being investigated or facing any consequences. It seems quite likely that the Assange documents were leaked by the police or prosecutors because they got a signal from higher-ups that they could do so with impunity.
Indeed, these are all major aberrations–suggesting that somebody at the top has interfered.
And who is at the very top in Sweden? Players working with Karl Rove, who was a party to the Swedish government’s collusion in the Bush regime’s rendition/torture program. As Britain holds its hearings into Julian Assange’s fate, we must take careful note of that connection.