Monday, February 7, 2011

Will feminists side with Julian Assange to oppose his extradition out of concern for open trials? Don't bet on it

Julian Assange's lawyer argued today that the WikiLeaks founder should not be extradited to Sweden on sexual assault allegations because he would face a secret trial that violates international standards of fairness. Swedish rape trials are customarily held in secret, Geoffrey Robertson said at the start of a two-day extradition hearing. Closed-door hearings would be "a flagrant denial of justice ... blatantly unfair, not only by British standards but by European standards and indeed by international standards," he said.  See here.

Well, this poses quite a dilemma for feminists, doesn't it?  Will they side with the dreaded Assange due to their concerns about "open" criminal justice? 

You remember when feminists vehemently opposed the proposal to grant men accused of rape very limited anonymity (they would be anonymous until charged), one of their many scattershot arguments was that anonymity for men was contrary to the the openness of the British legal system. Lisa Longstaff wrote: "If all defendants got anonymity, open justice would end; yet openness is our biggest protection against the abuse of power."  (You remember Lisa Longstaff from this post, I am sure.)

The concern for openness is one of the few legitimate concerns the feminists raised. Paul Mendelle QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, worried about what anonymity for men would do to openness: "'In general, trials should be open to public scrutiny, so that justice may not only be done but be seen to be done. Anonymous trials run counter to that principle.'" 

It is well to note that despite Ms. Longstaff's supposed concern for openness, she didn't seem at all worried about allowing women who make rape accusations to remain anonymous. But that's the subject of a different post.

Will the feminists side with the dreaded Assange on this one because of their, um, very sincere concern for "openness"?  Or do they reserve their concern for "openness" to those instances where it can be used as a club to pummel presumptively innocent men and boys?

My guess is the latter. What do you think?