[cross-posted from http://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog]
It seems like the world has been turned upside down when a US citizen flees to China seeking political asylum. And yet Edward Snowden is apparently hiding out in a secret location in Hong Kong after revealing that he is responsible for the leaked information on the US government’s PRISM program of surveillance. He explains his choice of refuge as being based on Hong Kong’s reputation for defending freedom of speech. He is also apparently considering Iceland as another potential refuge. But if the US chooses to prosecute him, will he be able to avoid being sent home to face charges? A key part of the answer lies in whether his leaking of official secrets qualifies as a ‘political offense’.
Continue reading Whistleblowing about government surveillance: political offense or serious crime?
Over the coming weeks and months, international lawyers and commentators will no doubt be falling over themselves to write about the issues raised by Julian Assange’s stalled extradition process and dramatic receipt of diplomatic asylum. Who could blame us when this case raises so many unusual and complex issues of international law and politics? What interests me most is the fact that the Government of Ecuador has effectively declared its distrust of the human rights protections offered by the extradition and criminal justice processes of three countries. Not just any countries, mind you; Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. While no country’s justice system is perfect, these three countries arguably have some of the world’s most advanced legal systems for extradition and human rights protection and yet we have seen Ecuador invoke the laws of diplomatic asylum to protect Assange where these systems have allegedly fallen short. Continue reading Julian Assange – epic failure of the international human rights system?