As a citizen of the Netherlands, my country should protect me. Reading up on the recent developments with Rop Gonggrijp (Dutch interview here) the case with Gonggrijp seems to indicate that it will be a reasonably easy process to get him extradited to the US. If it is as easy as stated in the interview: for a crime or the suspicion of a crime that is unclear and possibly was not committed, I am worried. And the worry is this:
- If I would state that “the king of X is an asshole” or release information that makes that king look stupid, or support people that make him look stupid
- If that is seen as a major felony in that country or a threat to local security or cooperation in conspiracy
- If that country has a treaty with my country
- And If my country (“A”) takes their laws seriously and is willing to hand me over to that country (“B”) to be judged by their law then:
- My life is in the hands of a country where I do not live, with a law I thought would not apply to me and a “crime” I committed which probably was not a crime in the country I am living in at the time I “committed” it
What is scary about this is that this process can become quite random. It is not hard to set up a “crime” I committed in “B” and / or create an arrest warrant based on some vague evidence or clearly stated confessions by the “victims” that is just enough to convince a judge in “A”. Once in the clutches of another government, I can be lead anywhere and been given a punishment to whatever way they please within the boundaries of their laws.
And the reason may be because I investigate, uncover and write something they do not like, or because I own a company that is just a bit too successful for the people with the right amount of money and influence. Or someone simply wants me out of the way.
I can not judge about the whole Wikileaks issue and the roles different players have and the possible damage they might have done to whatever and whom-ever.
What I do fear is that the democracy I am living in will not protect my rights when that is needed and justified. We Dutch people are all Rop Gonggrijp. We all will receive the same kind of protection from our state when things go wrong for us in international issues. But most of us lack a good lawyer and most of us are unknown citizens without the media-attention Gonggrijp can attract.
According to Wikipedia:
Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by treaties. Where extradition is compelled by laws, such as among sub-national jurisdictions, the concept may be known more generally as rendition.
In most cases, the country (A”) where the person resides will offer “B” to judge and trial the person under local laws. These laws can be more harsh, but also lead to a complete release as the actions performed are not considered to be a crime or the person is too young to be trialed.
In most cases the country (“A”) where the person resides will balance out the severeness of the crime according to their own laws, the location that crime was committed (in “A” or “B”?), the possible punishment and how well-funded the allegation is. If the punishment is more heavy than “A” thinks just, or the allegations can not be backed up by hard evidence, or the “crime” is not considered to be a crime under local law, “A” will try and stop the extradition.
The Dutch treaty is marked: TIAS 10733. I did find the generic US Code on Extradition but I could not find yet what TIAS 10733 involves.
Doing some Googling related to extradition to other countries – based on crimes committed in (ar against) another country – I found this article from 2003, in Dutch, with Victor Koppe, who is another lawyer than Gonggrijp’s.
U heeft het afgelopen jaar onder meer de activisten Maarten Blok en Juanra Rodriguez verdedigd tegen uitlevering. Juanra werd uiteindelijk uitgeleverd aan Spanje. In een vraaggesprek met Het Parool  zei u dat Nederland gidsland is als het gaat om uitleveringen.  Aan negen van de tien verzoeken om Nederlandse burgers uit te leveren, wordt gehoor gegeven. Enig idee waarom de Nederlandse rechtsspraak zo welwillend is?
,, Rechters doen uiteindelijk niets anders dan datgene wat de politiek al vele jaren geleden besloten heeft.  De grondwet is er destijds zelfs voor gewijzigd om dat mogelijk te maken. Het verwijt heeft betrekking op de minister van Justitie. Uitlevering van burgers is voor Nederland geen verplichting. In de meeste gevallen kan men iemand hier in ons land vervolgen.
Bold and numbers added by me. Translated to my best power these sentences state:
- [..] you stated that the Netherlands is a guiding country where it covers extradition
- To 9 out of ten requests to extradite Dutch citizens is given a grant
- Judges – in the end – do nothing more than what politics have decided many years ago
- The [Dutch] constitutional law – in that time – has even been altered to make that [the extradition] possible
I did not have the time yet to find the treaty in which Dutch citizens under certain rules can be expedited without any real form of defense or stopping-power. I do not know in how far Koppe was making propaganda in favor of his clients.
What is a crime and how much punishment do you deserve?
What is considered to be a crime in one country is not per-se one in another. Also, the variation in what is considered to be: “reasonable amount of punishment” given for a crime is important to understand.
Why protection of citizens is important
If my government (country “A”) releases me, without any attempt to protect me, to the country (“B”) that wants me to be judged according to their local rules, I might end up being killed or put into prison for many years for an action that is not necessarily a crime according to the laws of country “A”.
This gives another country (“B”) – in specific situations – the power of judgment over the citizens of “A”.
That is a scary situation, which is easiest to be compared to a sell-out. “A” hands over the power of judgment over citizens of “A” to “B” and as a result you are fucked when the shit hits your fan.
You will find some examples of extradition and what could go wrong in this Wikipedia article on the European Arrest Warrent.
It is scary because in some cases it is not about murder or another type of crime that hurt a physical being, but about commercial interests and economical “crimes” with crazy punishments based on estimates and calculations based on assumptions made by some intern in that same company.
File sharing, or what can happen when stuff goes the wrong way
This case where a woman is trialed for “sharing 24 over Kazaa” – that was set as an “example”, shows how far we can go in this. Although she is the unlucky one, the case is not about her specific.
It is about spreading fear and hang one person on the highest tree to make something clear: that you do not fuck with authority or the ones who hold the money.
The result are schemes like these, where companies in the middle close a deal with the copyright holders and deliberately upload files to be downloaded by copyright infringers: to catch them red-handed and send them – what you might call – an extortion letter. As it is cheaper to pay 300 to 600 dollar to avoid a law suit, most people will. Leading to easy scams as well, as the line is really fine between justified pressure and abuse of fear and power.
Stuff like this reminds me very much of the “protection money” you pay to the mafia when you have your shop on the wrong place in the wrong city in the wrong country. Even when you think your are right, you should not be able to put yourself above the law.
When my government does not protect me
If I commit a “crime” in some other country, am alleged to have committed a crime to that country “B” (like espionage or conspiracy), get arrested or extradited to that country “B” and trialed by their laws without my government protection me and my rights, I basically do not have a government.
It is like being a child with parents who do not care and will not protect me: delivering me to anyone and anything that wants to use, abuse and harm me. I become like a child without any rights that can be killed, raped, maimed, sold and toiled with to anyone’s liking, as nobody is protesting or taking action.
Why it should: to protect the freedom of the people
Without people, you only have land. Without people, there is nothing to govern.
We need the protection of our country because there are some powers greater than what we can fight: like the laws and lawmakers of other countries. To neglect me as a citizen means that my rights – according to the country that houses me – can be violated by anyone. It also means that your people can be taken away from you. Using the “law” as excuse.
Any governmental body that bows to other powers becomes an unsafe place to live and opens their borders for another type of warfare: that of “law” and treaties by any party that can make their case strong enough.
- Freedom of speech – If I write articles in country “A” that do not fit the beliefs of country “B” I can be arrested and deported to that country to be judged and imprisoned according to the laws of “B”
- Freedom of action and belief – If I live a specific live or have a specific lifestyle, or commit actions (like oral sex or bgeing homosexual) which are considered to be a crime against religion or belief, I might be asked to be delivered as they can be seen as a crime in that country.
- Freedom of entrepreneurship – If I have a (competing or successful) business and competitors can find a country in which some of my actions are considered to be a crime committed in that country – I will have to fear my freedom.
Yes: I am over reacting at this point. The reason to do this is to make clear how vulnerable our state can be.
There is another reason for my over reaction.
I do not want to feel unsafe in my own country because I might be unprotected in the case where I support someone who- or something that I feel is doing “good” suddenly becomes enemy number one and my earlier support leads to me ending up on some black lists of suspect people. In this case we speak about “Wikileaks”. Next week that might be “Amnesty International” or “Greenpeace”.
I want to be free to express myself, knowing that my government will protect me – as long as I do not break the law.
Law is a variable
There is no such thing as “absolute law”. What one system considers to be a crime, can be considered a virtue in another. (The beliefs of non-oppressive countries versus dicatorships).
Also the “reasonable” punishment for breaking a specific law are variable, based on cultural and other belief systems and not an absolute value. Where in one country theft will lead to the amputation of a hand, in another it means 7 days of confinement or civil duty.
If I understand this properly, my country sold me – as their citizen – out by changing specific laws in the constitution and signing specific treaties making it easier for specific countries like the USA to request and demand Extradition. This – in my eyes – makes me a potential a target for other governments for “crimes” like stating my opinion about them and giving and stating my support to specific organizations that suddenly become State Enemy Number One.
I was kind of OK-ish to the tapping and surveillance that was taking place in the Netherlands as I thought there would be no actions taken with that data outside of our borders. Even if our surveillance ranking per citizen is so high that any dictatorship would tip their hat to us.
I am not OK with the scenario in which that that data can be used against me by that same government to help another “befriended” country to be arrested for something that is only a crime by construction: “because if you add ‘A’ to ‘B’ and ‘C’, this gentlemen is a terrorist to our law and thus should be extradited.”
I did not send money to Wikileaks. I – by default – do not support organizations like WikiLeaks, Greenpeace and Amnesty International, nor went to the party for Nelson Mendala when he was released in the 1980’s for the same principal reason: I do not trust them. I do not trust their agenda. In my cynicism I think they are – in their own ways – just as horrible and abusive as the people they fight against.
On hind sight – with Wikileaks – that might have been the “right” decision, but for the wrong reason.
That wrong reason is that – due to my cynicism and lack of willingness to support – I am not on the black list of people who supported Wikileaks via Twitter, Facebook, Mastercard or PayPal. And so – in my naivety – I think I do not have to fear the USA (“C”) to come knock on my door with a 160 page document filled with legal crypto-language that will overthrow me with puzzlement and will force me to hire a lawyer (“D”) and spend many thousands of euros on “D” to keep potential doom posed by “C” out of my way.
This is a new kind of war, where fear and the possible threat for black lists, law suits, extradition will keep you from supporting specific groups and from stating your opinion too much.
I think it is time to start reading up on censorship in the Peoples Republic of China.