Research & Litigation
The following is a guest post by Elin Hofverberg. Elin is a foreign law research consultant who covers Scandinavian countries at the Law Library of Congress. Elin has previously written for In Custodia Legis on diverse topics including Iceland – Global Legal Collection Highlights, Alfred Nobel’s Will: A Legal Document that Might Have Changed the World and a Man’s Legacy, What’s in an Icelandic (Legal) Name?, Glad Syttonde Mai! Celebration of the Bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution, Happy National Sami Day!, Researching Norwegian Law Online and in the Library, and a boarding school scandal in Sweden.
The case of Julian Assange and his relationship with the Ecuadorian embassy has recently been in the news again, particularly in relation to Ecuador admitting to having “temporarily restricted” his Internet access.
So why is Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the first place?
In this post I explain some relevant legal aspects of the Assange case.
1. What is the relevant timeline?
In 2006, Julian Assange launched Wikileaks. In late November 2010, Wikileaks began releasing confidential diplomatic cables.
While visiting in Sweden in the summer of 2010, Assange was accused of having sexually assaulted two women and raping one of them. Assange strongly denies the allegations and his lawyers presented in court text messages that in their view prove that the alleged encounters with the complainants were consensual.
By the time the prosecutor presented the case before a Swedish court, however, Julian Assange had already left Sweden. The prosecutor requested that a detention order be issued in absentia under chapter 24 section 1 (24:1) of the Rättegångsbalken [RB] (Criminal Procedure Code) on the grounds that she wanted to interrogate Assange, and that without the detention order there was a risk that he would evade justice. No formal charges have been filed.
As Julian Assange was present in the United Kingdom at the time the detention order was granted, Sweden issued a European Arrest Warrant for his arrest. Assange was arrested by UK police in December 2010 and the UK courts considered whether Assange should be surrendered in accordance with the European warrant. Assange was free on bail during this process. Ultimately, in May 2012, the UK Supreme Court found that the arrest warrant required the UK to hand over Assange to Swedish authorities.
After the UK Supreme Court refused to reopen the appeal on June 14, 2012, Assange skipped bail and, instead of surrendering to the authorities, sought refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has been receiving shelter there ever since.
2. Why was the Swedish detention order issued?
A Swedish detention order may be issued if there are reasons to detain a person while waiting for the final decision on detention by the court (24:6 RB).
The Swedish order for Assange’s arrest and detention was issued as a result of Assange being suspected of having committed crimes of sexual nature while in Sweden in the summer of 2010. Specifically, the crimes were sexual assault (6:2 Brottsbalken [BRB] (Criminal Code) , and rape (of the lesser degree) (6:1 BRB). The statute of limitations (five years) has now run out for the lesser assault crimes (35:1 BRB, supra) but Assange is still accused of having raped one woman in Stockholm in 2010. The statute of limitations for rape is 10 years in Sweden (35:1 BRB).
Assange has objected to the detention order issued in absentia by the Swedish courts. In May 2015, the Swedish Supreme Court upheld the detention order, taking the Swedish prosecutor’s willingness to hear Assange in London into consideration. The Swedish Court of Appeal reaffirmed the detention order in September 2016. I wrote articles for the Global Legal Monitor on both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions.
3. What are the penalties if convicted?
If convicted of rape, Assange would face up to four years in prison (6:1 BRB). Sweden allows for prison sentences to be served in a person’s home country, depending on applicable rules and regulations for that country. To qualify as a home country for the purpose of serving a sentence, the person has to be either a citizen or a permanent resident of that country.
4. What is a European Arrest Warrant?
Sweden, a member of the European Union, may request a European Arrest Warrant against a person who is either accused of a crime for which the punishment is at least one year imprisonment or has been sentenced to imprisonment for at least four months. The introduction of this type of warrant “replaced lengthy extradition procedures within the EU’s territorial jurisdiction.”
5. What is the current situation?
In December 2015, following the Swedish Supreme Court decision in May 2015 and before the rendering of the Appellate Court decision in September 2016, Sweden and Ecuador signed an agreement that would allow the questioning of Assange by Swedish authorities at Ecuador’s embassy in London.
According to the Swedish Court of Appeal, there are ongoing negotiations between the Ecuadorian embassy and the Swedish prosecution office regarding the possibility of conducting an interview of Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy later this year.
6. Can Assange be extradited to the United States?
Throughout the process Assange has claimed that he risks extradition to the United States for crimes of espionage if he is released to Sweden. However, this claim was rebuffed most recently on September 16, 2016, by the Swedish Court of Appeal, which rejected the findings of a UN report that had found that the deprivation of Assange’s freedom was arbitrary. The UN report further determined that Assange faces a real risk of extradition to the United States, a finding which the Swedish court dismissed.
Sweden does allow for extradition to the United States under certain circumstances. Extradition between Sweden and the United States is governed by an extradition treaty, which was first signed in 1961 and amended in 1983. According to the treaty, the extradition of a person to the United States requires that she/he not face the death penalty (art. 8) and that the crime for which the person is charged or suspected of in the United States is also criminalized in Sweden and subject to the specified minimum term of imprisonment (art. 3).
Whether Assange would qualify for extradition would therefore depend on the offenses he is charged with, as well as on the sentences he could potentially face if convicted in the United States.
The Swedish Supreme Court has allowed extradition to the United States of a Chilean citizen charged with drug crimes in the United States, as well as of a Taiwanese citizen for a politically-motivated attempted murder, since the crime in itself was not a political crime but a violent crime with political motivations (NJA 1972 s 358).
In 1992, however, Sweden refused to extradite CIA spy Edward Lee Howard to the United States because it considered the crimes he was wanted for were of a political nature, and thus excluded by the treaty (art. 5(5)).
Before extraditing Assange to a third party, such as the United States, the rules of the European Arrest Warrant require that Sweden first seek the consent of the competent authority in the UK, the country would have executed the original warrant.
In reality, the housing of Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy is bound to end sooner or later; if Assange is not transferred to Sweden by 2020 the statute of limitations would expire and Assange would no longer be subject to the detention order. However, if the United States decided to seek his extradition from the UK, a whole new process would begin.
This has been an exciting and successful year for Congress.gov. We accomplished a major milestone when we retired THOMAS in July. Over the course of 2016, we completed a number of enhancements to Congress.gov. In April we expanded quick search to include the Congressional Record, Committee Reports, Nominations, Treaty Documents, and Communications.
In May we launched several new RSS feeds and email alerts and added saved search email alerts soon after in June. This is a feature that was never available on THOMAS. Also added in June was a powerful new advanced search for legislation. This search form provides greater access to the underlying data than was available on THOMAS. The September release added new nomination alerts and provided more consistency across the site.
With today’s update we have added additional items that users have requested. We frequently get questions on how to contact your member of Congress. There is now a prominent section for contacting your member. Another addition is the Recent section circled below. The first link for Yesterday in Congress was a favorite on THOMAS that users missed.
Occasionally, we receive requests for a function that is already available on Congress.gov. There is now a featured Search Tip to share and highlight such items. You can also subscribe to search tips from the RSS and Email Alerts page.
Enhancements – Homepage Links:
- New “Recent” set of links for “Current Legislative Activities”
- “Yesterday in Congress”
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Enhancements – Alerts and Saved Searches:
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What is the relationship between law and literature? The Law Library of Congress and the Poetry and Literature Center recently explored that question during an evening event on Thursday, October 20. The event featured lawyer and poet Monica Youn, who read from her new book of poetry, Blackacre, and participated in a discussion with law and literature professor Martha Dragich from the University of Missouri School of Law.
In her opening remarks, Law Librarian of Congress Roberta I. Shaffer quoted the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction winner, Attica Locke, who described law and literature as “fraternal twins.” Shaffer agreed and described how both disciplines share an oral and written tradition. “Law and literature find common ground in their reliance upon storytelling, in their heavy use of analogy and metaphor, and in their predilection for form and format,” she said. She also added with a sense of humor that they “take great liberties with their reliance upon history and precedence and use of fiction.”
Monica Youn opened the program with several poetry readings that she described as “employing legal settings and concepts.” For example, she read a poem titled, Sunrise Foley Square, which she explained is a place that is familiar to litigators because it is the setting of New York’s state and federal court houses and to fans of the police television show, NYPD Blue because it is also where the opening credits of the show are filmed. Youn expounded that when she wrote the poem, Foley Square was the site where Ferguson protests were occurring, thus a cacophony of chants and sirens emitted from the area, until sunrise when the noises finally ceased. The silence according to Youn made her reflect on when someone else might die from a police shooting.
Youn also read a poem titled Landscape with Deodand, which she explained reflects her passion for legal history, particularly early legal English history. The word “deodand” she shared is an old English term for an instrument of death. For example, she said if a person is killed by a tree branch, then the branch becomes the deodand. “Under the laws of deodand, deodands were forfeited to the crown, and destroyed,” said Youn.
In addition to these poems, Youn also read several of her “acre” poems, which she described as ekphrastic poems that describe works of arts or landscapes. Blackacre, in the Anglo-American legal tradition, is “a legal placeholder term for a piece of property or estate as John Doe is a placeholder term for a person,” said Youn. These terms in property law and trust and estate law texts can follow in sequences such as blackacre, whiteacre, blueacre, and brownacre.
Before leading the discussion with Youn, Professor Dragich shared her insight about the objectives of law and literature courses, which law schools began offering about 20-30 years ago according to Dragich.
“There is great variety in how law and literature courses are taught in law schools, thus it is difficult to generalize,” said Dragich. “There are, however, several main objectives to the courses,” said Dragich. One main objective she explained is to contextualize law. Dragich explained that law schools teach the law through appellate opinions, which are narrow in focus, but literature provides “a richer picture of details, events, circumstances, personalities, and motivations,” she said. Therefore, one main objective is “to build context back in,” she added.
Secondly, law and literature courses help students recognize how different individuals and groups of people understand legal concepts, according to Dragich. For example, she said “the legal concept of self-defense may be understood and felt differently depending on a person’s age, gender, race, and so forth,” she said. Additionally, Dragich explained that law and literature courses “humanize law” to help law students relate to people and “opens a conversation about the relationship between justice and mercy,” she said.
In closing, Dragich held a discussion with Youn about her dual academic and professional experience as a lawyer and poet. Youn stated she was always enamored with both subjects. She shared that as an undergraduate she majored in political science with a focus on legal theory and minored in creative writing. In fact, to complete her creative writing minor she wrote a poetry sequence based on Chief Judge Benjamin Cardozo‘s decision, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Company.
Youn also remarked on the commonalities between law and poetry; discussing how both disciplines focus on grammar, syntax, and style particularly the use of repetition and brevity. As a lawyer, Youn worked as an advocate for constitutional law cases, but as a poet she said she was able to find her own voice and set her own rules. Poetry she said, offered her “freedom to find rules herself.”
Describe your background.
I was born and raised in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I attended elementary, middle, and high school there. In 2008, I graduated from Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Islamic law.
What is your academic/professional history?
After graduating from college in 2008, I was nominated and appointed to serve as an associate judge for the Saudi Board of Grievances in Jeddah (now the Administrative Court). In that role I gained experience working in the penal, commercial, and administrative courts for two years. Later, I changed jobs to work as an Islamic banking and finance researcher in Al Bilad Bank in Riyadh for a year, where I assessed commercial contracts for compliance with Islamic finance standards and with the need to maintain equity among the parties. Similarly, I reviewed and revised initiatives for new Islamic financial products. During my time at the bank, I assisted with the writing of the Islamic and Banking Department’s book titled Standards Abstracted from Resolutions of Shari’a Board of Bank Al-Bilad.
I wanted to lecture and teach at a university, so I changed my career to be a lecturer at the Islamic Law College of Al-Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, where I taught and lectured on Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) and its principles (Usul al-Fiqh). I also supervised undergraduate students throughout their studies and research work, guiding them in the methods of academic writing to ensure they achieved excellent reviews. Ultimately, I was granted a scholarship to earn LL.M and S.J.D degrees in law– which I am currently completing at Georgetown University Law Center, with a focus on International Business and Economic Law and International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution. I’m on track to graduate in May 2017.
I am very passionate about practicing law and the Law Library of Congress offers a unique forum for gaining legal experience while contributing research to the U.S. federal government’s entities and other international organizations and international law firms. After attaining an LL.M. and S.J.D., I aim to teach law in my country, hopefully at my alma mater, while working at an international law firm.
How would you describe your job to other people?
At the Law Library of Congress, I provide the Global Legal Research Directorate with general research and legal assistance related to the Gulf countries, particularly on the business and commerce aspects of Saudi Arabian law. This includes providing information about the Arbitration Law and the Companies’ Law, and comparing them with other foreign laws. In addition, I contribute to legal research reports, articles, and blog posts produced by the Law Library of Congress.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
When I realized that the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, I was highly motivated to experience the nature of the work here. Being a student at Georgetown Law Center also allowed me to learn about the significant role that the Law Library of Congress plays nationally and internationally. It provides the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. federal courts, executive agencies, commissions, and general public with comprehensive research and legal consultation on U.S., foreign, comparative, and international laws. By the same token, being surrounded by various backgrounds and diverse lawyers enriches my internship and my study of law by advancing and refining my legal research skills in a unique common law country. This would certainly assist me in writing my S.J.D. dissertation. These factors have inspired me to explore, contribute to, and benefit from this legal research institution.
What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library?
I have been impressed by the massive collections of the Law Library of Congress, which date back to its creation in 1832. The size of the collections is almost equivalent to two football fields placed in the sub-basement of the James Madison Memorial Building. The authoritative resources regarding most countries have been well-indexed and archived, and are kept up-to-date. One of the most attention-grabbing collections for me was the Saudi Arabia collection.
What is something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
Most of my friends and co-workers don’t know that I was pursuing and specializing in an information technology degree in college but I transferred after one semester to a law school. I realized that I found myself more interested in with dealing with logic, rationality, and reasoning rather than data, quantities, and figures.
Modern Tribal Law On the Shelf
During National Native American Heritage Month, Law Library staff trawl the Library’s vast holdings for pertinent material to showcase for its online and onsite visitors. Researchers interested in the month’s origins can also visit the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) page for more information about the history of the origins of National Native American Heritage Month, and read the annual presidential proclamation. Researchers interested in tribal law will want to visit the Law Library.
The Law Library has done much to promote research in tribal law with its Indigenous Law Portal and its page dedicated to the legislation surrounding National Native American Heritage Month. It has also sought to increase the breadth of its collections of modern tribal law. Many of the larger tribes have supreme courts, and there are a large number of tribal courts that publish rules, protocols, and traditional law. Most tribes have constitutions, codes, and ordinances, and the Law Library has worked to acquire as much of that material as it can. The Law Library has collected a large number of secondary sources as well. Included below is a list of some prime modern examples of that material, grouped by band and nation. Key issues in tribal law today, such as sovereignty, fishing and water rights, intellectual property rights, and repatriation of tribal objects, are reflected in this list of works.
KF8205 .F55 2016 Fletcher, Matthew L. M. Federal Indian Law.
KF8205.E28 2010 Echo-Hawk, Walter R. In the courts of the conqueror: the ten worst Indian law cases ever decided.
KF8548.N38 2006 Jeffrey Ian Ross and Larry Gould (eds.) Native Americans and the criminal justice system.
KF8210.C5 I53 2012 Kristen A. Carpenter et al. (eds.) The Indian Civil Rights Act at forty.
K 24 Tribal Law Journal.
KF8205.O97 2014 Tim Alan Garrison (ed.) “Our cause will ultimately triumph”: profiles in American Indian sovereignty.
KDZ481.I53 2004 Mary Riley (ed.) Indigenous intellectual property rights: legal obstacles and innovative solutions.
KIK1078.A97 2009 Austin, Raymond Darrel. Navajo courts and Navajo common law : a tradition of tribal self-governance.
KIK1066.5.N38 2005 Navajo Nation code annotated.
KIJ3078.C7 N38 2005 Marianne O. Nielsen and James W. Zion (ed.) Navajo Nation peacemaking: living traditional justice.
KIK1067.N38 1979 Navajo reporter.
KIK1078.N38 1978 Navajo court rules.
KIG2006.C44 2014 Cherokee Nation code annotated.
KIG2006.C44 1998 Compiled Laws of the Cherokee Nation.
KFS3505.5.R67 B56 2007 Biolsi, Thomas. Deadliest enemies: law and race relations on and off Rosebud Reservation.
KFS3505.5.D34 P65 Pommersheim, Frank. Reservation street law: a handbook of individual rights and responsibilities.
KIE2840.P66 2016 Pommersheim. Tribal justice: twenty-five years as a tribal appellate justice.
KIH1406.M55 1996 Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians. Mille Lacs Band statutes annotated.
KF8205.C54 2011 Cleland, Charles E. Faith in paper: the ethnohistory and litigation of upper Great Lakes Indian treaties.
KID13 1871.C73 2013 Craft, Aimée. Breathing life into the Stone Fort Treaty: an Anishinabe understanding of Treaty One.
E99.C8 V59 2012 Vizenor, Gerald Robert. The White Earth Nation: ratification of a native democratic constitution.
KFH326.5.M381 C49 2009 Chun, Malcolm Nāea. It might do good: the licensing of medicinal kāhuna.
ΚFΗ454.Κ38 2008 Kauanui, J. Kēhaulani. Hawaiian blood: colonialism and the politics of sovereignty and indigeneity.
KFH451.V36 2008 Van Dyke, Jon M. Who owns the Crown lands of Hawaii?
Northwest Coast Nations and Alaska Natives
KFA1705.6.C6 A84 2006 Alaska rural justice issues : a selected bibliography.
KE7702.7 1993e Teslin Tlingit Council. Teslin Tlingit Council Final Agreement between the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Government of Canada, and the Government of the Yukon.
KE7702.7 1993d Teslin Tlingit Council. The Teslin Tlingit Council Self-Government Agreement among the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Government of Canada and the Government of the Yukon.
KFW505.5.C63 M55 2001 Miller, Bruce Granville. The problem of justice : tradition and law in the Coast Salish world.
KF8216.D87 2006 Dupris, Joseph C. et al. The Si’lailo way : Indians, salmon, and law on the Columbia River.
KIG3916.M87 2006 Tatum, Melissa T. and Michelle Grunsted (eds.). Mvskoke law reporter : the decisions of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation = Muskoke vhakv oh-kerkuecv.
KF228.W43 R43 2012 Paredes, J. Anthony and Judith Knight (eds.). Red Eagle’s children : Weatherford vs. Weatherford et al.
KIG3915.M87 2003 Muscogee (Creek Nation), Oklahoma. Muscogee (Creek) Nation code annotated = Mvskoke etvlwv.