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article imageOp-Ed: Richard Falk on the hounding of Edward Snowden

By Ken Hanly     Jul 11, 2013 in Politics
Washington - In an article in Al Jazeera, Richard Falk argues that Snowden should not even be required to ask for asylum but should be granted residence status since his alleged US crimes were political and without violence or monetary motivation.
Richard Falk is Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, In 2008 he was appointed to a six-year terms as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. The appointment was vehemently opposed by Israel who refused him a visa. Ban Ki-moon and others have been critical of some of his writings which are very critical of Israel.
Falk claims that international law makes it clear that any person who has committed a political crime is exempted from mandatory extradition even if there were a treaty that imposed a duty to extradite an individual who had been engaged in serious criminal activity. Even though from the US point of view Snowden's activities clearly violate the Espionage Act, Snowden's acts were clearly a political crime with no violence against any person. Falk also claims that no person can be harmed by the disclosures. No doubt the US authorities would dispute that.
Falk is puzzled by why commentators think that the refusal of countries such as Russia and Hong Kong to hand over Snowden raises any kind of serious question except why the US so arrogantly made the request in the first place. Falk should hardly wonder about this when the US arrogance extends to asking four European countries to deny a plane carrying the Bolivian president transit through their airspace on the grounds that Snowden was suspected of being aboard. The US hubris is boundless it would seem.
Falk maintains that the extent of secret surveillance both in the US and globally is a threat to democracy and the rights to privacy of individuals and therefore, Snowden is an authentic whistle blower. He can also be regarded as performing acts of civil disobedience.
Falk points out the huge hypocrisy of the US stand. Luis Posada Carriles a Cuban exile alleged to have blown up a Cuban passenger plane in 1976 with the loss of 73 persons, lives without legal difficulties in the US, which refuses to allow him to be extradited to face justice.
Falk argues that reciprocity is indispensable for effective international law. He asks what would happen if a Chinese Snowden made comparable revelations about Chinese surveillance that violated Chinese law and fled to the US, would the US send him back to China. He thinks not. He asks what would be the US reaction if the Chinese tried to have countries through which they thought the culprit was traveling to deny their air space to a plane they thought to be carrying him, especially if the plane were that of the president of a sovereign state.
The blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng fled house arrest and eventually landed up in the US where he has a study visa. What would happen if China decided that he should be extradited back to China since he illegally fled house arrest? Would the US feel obligated to return him and do so. What if China threatened trade relations unless Guangcheng were extradited back to China.
Falk argues that countries giving sanctuary for political crimes are doing the world a service in that they encourage political dissent and pluralism. They also act as a defense against autocratic states. Falk finds very regrettable is that the US refuses to engage in self-examination to ask itself if its excessive surveillance and secrecy are not an over-reaction to 9/11 that is altering in an anti-democratic manner the balance between the state and individual privacy rights and freedoms. A healthy response to Snowden's revelations would be to establish limits on government surveillance both domestically and on foreign targets. Instead, the media concentrates upon the messenger and ignores the message.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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