Dear Government of Sweden ...
Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your Volvos, your meatballs, your hard-to-put-together furniture -- we can't get enough!
There's just one thing that bothers me -- why has Amnesty International, in a special report (described in detail here by Naomi Wolf), declared that Sweden refuses to deal with the very real tragedy of rape? In fact, they say that all over Scandinavia, including in your country, rapists "enjoy impunity." And the United Nations, the EU and Swedish human rights groups have come to the same conclusion: Sweden just doesn't take sexual assault against women seriously. How else do you explain these statistics from Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape:
** Sweden has the HIGHEST per capita number of reported rapes in Europe.
** This number of rapes has quadrupled in the last 20 years.
** The conviction rates? They have steadily DECREASED.
Axelsson says: "On April 23rd of this year, Carina Hägg and Nalin Pekgul (respectively MP and chairwoman of Social Democratic Women in Sweden) wrote in the Göteborgs [newspaper] that 'up to 90% of all reported rapes [in Sweden] never get to court.'"
Let me say that again: nine out of ten times, when women report they have been raped, you never even bother to start legal proceedings. No wonder that, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, it is now statistically more likely that someone in Sweden will be sexually assaulted than that they will be robbed.
Message to rapists? Sweden loves you!
So imagine our surprise when all of a sudden you decided to go after one Julian Assange on sexual assault charges. Well, sort of: first you charged him. Then after investigating it, you dropped the most serious charges and rescinded the arrest warrant.
Then a conservative MP put pressure on you and, lo and behold, you did a 180 and reopened the Assange investigation. Except you still didn't charge him with anything. You just wanted him for "questioning." So you -- you who have sat by and let thousands of Swedish women be raped while letting their rapists go scott-free -- you decided it was now time to crack down on one man -- the one man the American government wants arrested, jailed or (depending on which politician or pundit you listen to) executed. You just happened to go after him, on one possible "count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape (third degree)." And while thousands of Swedish rapists roam free, you instigated a huge international manhunt on Interpol for this Julian Assange!
What anti-rape crusaders you've become, Swedish government! Women in Sweden must suddenly feel safer?
Well, not really. Actually, many see right through you. They know what these "non-charge charges" are really about. And they know that you are cynically and disgustingly using the real and everyday threat that exists against women everywhere to help further the American government's interest in silencing the work of WikiLeaks.
I don't pretend to know what happened between Mr. Assange and the two women complainants (all I know is what I've heard in the media, so I'm as confused as the next person). And I'm sorry if I've jumped to any unnecessary or wrong-headed conclusions in my efforts to state a very core American value: All people are absolutely innocent until proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. I strongly believe every accusation of sexual assault must be investigated vigorously. There is nothing wrong with your police wanting to question Mr. Assange about these allegations, and while I understand why he seemed to go into hiding (people tend to do that when threatened with assassination), he nonetheless should answer the police’s questions. He should also submit to the STD testing the alleged victims have requested. I believe Sweden and the UK have a treaty and a means for you to send your investigators to London so they can question Mr. Assange where he is under house arrest while out on bail.
But that really wouldn't be like you would it, to go all the way to another country to pursue a suspect for sexual assault when you can't even bring yourselves to make it down to the street to your own courthouse to go after the scores of reported rapists in your country. That you, Sweden, have chosen to rarely do that in the past, is why this whole thing stinks to the high heavens.
And let's not forget this one final point from Women Against Rape's Katrin Axelsson:
"There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women's safety. In the south of the US, the lynching of black men was often justified on grounds that they had raped or even looked at a white woman. Women don't take kindly to our demand for safety being misused, while rape continues to be neglected at best or protected at worst."
This tactic of using a rape charge to go after minorities or troublemakers, guilty or innocent -- while turning a blind eye to clear crimes of rape the rest of the time — is what I fear is happening here. I want to make sure that good people not remain silent and that you, Sweden, will not succeed if in fact you are in cahoots with corrupt governments such as ours.
Last week Naomi Klein wrote: "Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that 'women's freedom' was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!"
Unless you have the evidence (and it seems if you did you would have issued an arrest warrant by now), drop the extradition attempt and get to work doing the job you've so far refused to do: Protecting the women of Sweden.
Dec. 16, 2010