Richard Falk writes: I would have thought that there was a clear set of principles that make the American diplomatic pursuit of Edward Snowden as a fugitive from justice a rather empty and futile gesture. As far as I can tell, there is not even a need for asylum as governments should have been prepared to grant Snowden residence status because his alleged criminal acts in the United States were without question political crimes , without violence or monetary motivation.
I had thought it was as clear as law can be that any person who has committed a political crime should be exempted from mandatory extradition even if a treaty existed imposed a duty on its parties to hand over individuals accused of serious criminal activity. To be sure, from the perspective of the United States government, Snowden’s exposure of the PRISM surveillance program was a flagrant violation of the Espionage Act. But it was also as clearly a political crime as almost any undertaking can be. There was no violence involved or threatened, and no person can be harmed by the disclosures.
What puzzles me is why the refusal to hand Snowden over by expelling him to the United States, which is what Washington has asked Russia to do, raises any kind of serious question beyond wondering how the US government officials arrogantly made the request in the first place. As it was put to Moscow by the US government: “We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Snowden to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged.”
It is also puzzling is why foreign governments do not make this simple point in response that international criminal law enforcement does not extend to political crimes even in the relation of governments friendly with one another, and there are good public policy and humanitarian reasons why such “criminals” should not be treated internationally as fugitives from justice. [Continue reading…]