Swedish rape debate before Assange - SvD took the men's side

In August 2009, a year before Assange came to Sweden and was accused of rape, there was a debate over two appealed rape convictions that had been upheaved by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's dismissal of the rape cases sent a clear signal to the Swedish legal system to not blindly trust the story of the accuser but also asks for solid evidence in rape cases, as is being done in other criminal cases so that innocent men would not be  thrown in jail and stigmatized based on one persons story and perceived reliability. The national newspaper Svenska Dagbladet wrote some articles on this new praxis for the prosecution on alleged rapists. The articles clearly took the accused men's side, one article was headlined "New praxis gives hope of acquittals"

The Supreme Court refers to two convictions where men that had been found guilty in lower courts based on the story and the reliability of the accuser with no evidence to support the claims.
The first case concerned a 15-year-old boy who visited a 16-year-old girl to help her with her homework. They had sex and the Supreme Court claims that it appears as if the girl had experienced something uncomfortable, but that there are parts of the accusers story about coercion that are doubtful. The fact that something uncomfortable occured is not enough for a rape conviction according to the Supreme Court. In the second case the accuser claimed that her boyfriend had threatened her with a knife when they had sex. Her behaviour supports her story but the knife that was found and was similar to the one she had described didn't have DNA from any of the parties and the accuser had no knife marks. "A prosecution in a sex crime is, as in other crimes, proven by the accusor's story where the stories of the accusor and the accused are compared and the story of the accusor is judged as more trustworthy."

Svenska Dagbladet reports that after the statement made by the Supreme Court several men that had been for rape in lower courts had since appealed their cases to the Court of Appeal. Some defense lawyers are interviewed in the article, Johan Gullesjo, a lawyer that is appealing his clients verdict points out that the investigation was incomplete in his client's case, the police for example didn't perform a reconstruction of the alleged crime. He also says that it is obvious that there are innocent people in prison. Another defense lawyer, Johan Eriksson who has defended a large number of rape accused men thinks that there is a gap between the public debate on how difficult it is to be convicted for rape and the defense lawyers' opinion on how easy it is to be convicted for rape.

Kenneth Lewis who defends rape accused as well as alleged victims says: "As it is now it is a bit of a lottery. The Districts Courts are very different and the praxis from the Supreme Court has not been taken into consideration....convictions have been made on very weak evidences and then there is a risk that innocent people are convicted."

In another article on the new praxis for rape cases prosecutors are asked about their opinion on the new, tougher rules for evidence in rape trials, Johan Strom prosecutor at the Development Center of Gothenburg says: We are going to get better at preliminary investigations, document our findings in a good way. It will be more difficult [to convict] if someone makes a claim one month after it [the alleged rape] happened.

The debate got intensified when the prosecutor Rolf Hillegren claimed that "When rapes are mentioned one thinks about scary rapes. But look at a man and a woman who know eachother and the woman says she doesn't feel like having sex and the man still goes on. Of course it is not nice, but maybe not worth two years in prison. It looks more like a minor crime."

This statement made a lot of feminists upset and ended with Rolf Hillegren being retired from his position as prosecutor.

Claes Borgstrom and Thomas Bodstrom got very upset about the Hillegren statement and had their opinions about it published by SvD. They wrote: "If the wife feels that she was forced by her husbands behaviour, to have sex it is a crime. Sexual abuse is not less abusive because it happens within a marriage. And a serious crime, such as rape cannot not be argued to not have happened for the reason that there are difficulties to provethat it happened. The character of the crime makes it difficult to prove and often there is word against word. At the same time better routines within the prosecutors and the police as well as improved documentation led to the fact that many guilty people are convicted, even in cases where there were no violence involved."

Two recent cases published on dagensjuridik.se in February 2011 proves though that the District Courts and prosecutors did not pay much attention to the 2009 statements by the Supreme Court, but rather followed the ideology of Borgström and Bodström, to rather convict alleged rapists based solely on the story of the accusor, than free a suspect due to lack of solid evidence.


The first case where the Court of Appeal acquitted a man convicted by the District Court was about a woman claiming that she had been sexually harassed by a man during a Moderate Youth Party convention, she had been making out with a man in a pool room when her boyfriend found them, she then claimed she had been harassed by the man and the District Court found it beyond doubt that the man had pushed the woman against a pool table and touched her breats, thighs and crotch. The District Court convicted the man but the Court of Appeal acquitted him as they could not ignore the fact that the woman might have lied about the situation when her boyfriend came to into the room and that there is not enough evidence to support the woman's version.


The second case concerned a man that was acquitted from alleged rape by the District Court, but the judge and one laymen found that he would be convicted for rape and the case was appealed to the Court of Appeal. The man was accused by his  as his ex-girlfriend that claimed that he had sex with her while she was asleep at three occassions, the evidence to support the woman's story was some postings made in Facebook where the man agreed on having had sex with his sleeping girlfriend. The Court of Appeal, however, acquitted the man as they found it not possible that the woman could have been asleep during the sexual act and beleived the man's story that he had made the postings on Facebook to get his girlfriend back.  

I has not been noted whether any of the women that might have lied in court have been prosecuted for lying under oath. It appears as if still today, a woman can accuse a man of a serious crime such as rape and be pretty sure he will be convicted in the District Court and later acquitted in the Court of Appeal. This after have been arrested, stigmatized and humiliated by the Swedish legal system, while women making false accusations appear not to be prosecuted for the crime of lying in court.

The twisted reasoning that a rape conviction can and shall be made without solid evidence obviously prevails in the District Courts. One hardly claim then, that Sweden is a state that protects equality in front of the law.  

 Julian Assange's Swedish defense lawyer, Björn Hurtig, was accused of being unreliable and giving false information by the English judge Howard Riddle. The Swedish Bar Association, Svenska Advokat Samfundet via Secretary General  Anne Ramberg is now investigating the case and has given Björn Hurtig until March 14 to respond to the accusations that Anne Ramberg finds extremely serious.

Björn Hurtig and the other Swedes heard in London did not do much to help the Assange case and hopefully the Assange legal team will learn from the mistakes next time and not call in retired lagel professionals and laymen to prove their case.

The only issue to develop is the human right aspects of the case, but can and shall Julian Assange really finance such a fundamental issue?

This issue should have been pushed by Swedish mainstream media and active legal professionals in Sweden to make sure that this scandalous treatment of innocent men stops and that women that lie in court are punished accordingly. Everyone that watches The Real Housewifes here in the US know what women are capable of, time to stop putting the women and their sexuality on a piedestal and make sure we have equality in front of the law. And for heaven's sake stop listening to Bodström and Borgström!  

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