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A Scorecard for Human Rights: Who Will Stand for Snowden?

As nations duck chance to stand up for whistleblower, critics wonder who will challenge US

- Jon Queally, staff writer

According to a list put out by WikiLeaks, NSA whistleblower Snowden has officially requested political asylum in the following twenty-one countries: Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and Venezuela.

His supporters call his whistleblowing a heroic act of international importance, but which country or powerful group of private citizens will stand up for Edward Snowden and help him achieve the political asylum he is asking for? (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Though he remains currently in legal limbo at the Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, Snowden said in a statement released Monday that his attempt to achieve political asylum is a "basic right," one "that belongs to everybody."

Though most countries have responded to Snowden's application by saying that legal norms demand the applicant's physical presence in order to process asylum requests, the US has revoked his passport, making it very difficult for him to leave Russia.

Calling on nations and individuals to stand up to the US—who Snowden and others have claimed is "bullying" foreign governments against his request for asylum—foreign policy expert Mark Weisbrot penned an op-ed on Monday saying that what the former intelligence contractor has performed by his exposure of the NSA's secret spying programs is a "heroic service to the people of the US and the world."

Weisbrot argued that those who understand this—nation states and civil society both—now have an obligation "to make sure he is not persecuted for doing so."

In that context, what follows is a current rundown on the status of each of Snowden's requests.

NATION STATUS
Austria

Request reviewed only on Austrian soil

The Guardian reports that Austria's interior minister, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, said Snowden would have to submit his request for asylum while on Austrian soil. Mikl-Leitner added, however, that Snowden would not be deported if he arrived in Austria because "no international arrest warrant" exists for the US whistleblower.

Bolivia

Willing to consider

Bolivia's president Evo Morales told Russia Today television station in Moscow that Bolivia “is ready to give political asylum to the people who expose spying activities” and said his country was willing to “enter into discussions” with Mr Snowden regarding his asylum request.

Brazil

Rejected

Brazil will not grant asylum said a spokesman for its Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, who added somewhat strangely that Snowden's request would remain "unanswered."

China

Not responded

Though Snowden's journey began in Hong Kong, the central government of China has not weighed in on his official request

Cuba

Not responded

When Snowden first arrived in Russia it was widely reported that his next stop was Havana, Cuba. Despite those reports and Cuba's role as an outlier to US influence, the island nation has not made official pronouncements regarding the request

Ecuador

Request reviewed only on Ecuadorean soil

President Rafael Correa and his government have been the center of much discussion around Snowden as it emerged early as the whistleblower's preferred destination. And despite early assistance from Ecuador's foreign service in the form of temporary travel papers intended to help Snowden, those papers were nullified by Correa who said the papers were not fully authorized and a constituted a mistake by the nation's envoy in London. Despite the confusion of Ecuador's support, Correa said that his country would review Snowden's request if and when he finds himself on Ecuadorean soil, including one of its embassies or consulates.
Finland

Request reviewed only on Finnish soil

From Reuters: "Finland said on Tuesday it had received a request for political asylum from U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, but that it could not accept his application as Finnish law required him to be in the country.

"Finnish foreign ministry spokeswoman Tytti Pylkko said that Snowden, who is holed up in the transit area at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, had sent his request by fax to Finland's embassy in Moscow."

France

No response. Call from political left to grant asylum grows

French officials have not responded, saying no request has yet been received or processed.

However, as Agence France-Presse reports:

French party leaders from across the political spectrum have called on France to grant US whistleblower Edward Snowden political asylum, amid demands for ongoing free trade talks between the EU and Washington to be put on hold.

Jean-Luc Mélanchon, leader of France’s Left Party (Parti de Gauche) told BFMTV on Sunday that the extent of alleged US spying on European communications was “arrogant” and “breathtaking”.

“The Americans are spying on EU institutions, so they are already fully aware of the mandate for negotiations that the EU has begun with the US for a free trade agreement,” he said. “We should put these negotiations on hold until the Americans have given some clarity.”

“Edward Snowden... has done us a good service,” he said. “It’s thanks to him that we know we have been spied on. It is not acceptable that we allow a situation whereby he wanders uncertainly around the planet. He is a defender of all our freedoms.”

Germany

Not responded. Green party leader calls for granting "safe haven"

The Guardian says asylum in Germany is "unlikely," citing Foreign minister Guido Westerwelle who said the German government would review the asylum request "according to the law", but added he "could not imagine" it would be approved.

But Der Spiegel reports:

Jürgen Trittin, parliamentary floor leader for the Green Party, said in a television interview on Monday that it was Germany's duty to take in Snowden.

"He should get safe haven here in Europe because he has done Europe a service," said Trittin. "Democratic countries should be ashamed that someone who has served democracy and revealed a massive breach of fundamental rights should need to seek refuge with despots who do not themselves uphold fundamental rights."

 

Iceland

Not responded.

From the Iceland Review:

"The application has been forwarded to the Icelandic Ministry for the Interior. Minister of the Interior Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir had earlier declared that Snowden’s application will be processed the same way as all other applications for political asylum in Iceland."

India

Rejected

“We have carefully examined the request,” a spokesman for India's foreign ministry told Reuters. “Following that examination, we have concluded that we see no reason to accede to the request.”

In an interview with the Times of India before the decision was made, WikiLeaks Julian Assange urged India to grant Snowden political asylum and protect him from prosecution by the US. "If a small nation like Ecuador with just 14 million people could have the guts to provide him asylum," he said,"India, which has considerable global standing with a billion plus population, should not be afraid of standing up for human rights and giving Snowden asylum."


 

Italy

Not responded

The request was received by Rome has made no official announcements regarding its status.

Ireland

Request reviewed only on Irish soil

Irish Times reports: "A spokesman for the Department of Justice said that Irish legislation stated that an asylum application can only be accepted from a person who has landed in or is within the State.

"It is understood the Irish embassy in Moscow this morning received a letter from Mr Snowden apparently outlining his wish to seek asylum in Ireland. Irish law prohibits the authorities here from commenting on individual cases."

The Netherlands

Rejected. Must be on Dutch soil

According to the Wall Street Journal: A "spokeswoman for the Dutch ministry of justice confirmed that the Dutch Embassy in Moscow received an asylum request. She said the request will be denied because–under Dutch law–applicants can’t seek asylum when they aren’t physically present in the Netherlands."

Nicaragua No response
Norway

Rejected. Application from abroad not allowed

"Delivering an application for asylum from abroad is in principle not allowed," Norwegian deputy justice secretary Paal Loenseth told Norwegian media outlet NRK.

"Applying for asylum should be done on Norwegian soil. According to normal procedures ... his demand will be denied."
 

Poland

Rejected

Perhaps Snowden's harshest rejection came from Poland, who said that Snowden's application was not in order, but even if it had been, their answer would be the same.

From Inside-Poland: "Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski used the Twitter social media network on July 2, to state that the government had received a document which did not meet the formal requirements for an application for asylum. Mr Sikorski added that, even if the paperwork had been in order, he would not recommend that Mr Snowden be granted asylum in Poland because ‘Poland and the United States are allies.’"

Russia

Snowden rejects offer

Though Russia was reported to have accepted Snowden's asylum request on Monday, it was subsequently reported by the Guardian that Snowden rejected this offer after it was revealed that it came only with the caveat from Russia's President Vladimir Putin that Snowden must end his whistleblowing activity that was "bringing harm" to the United States.

Despite the impasse, Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would not expel the US citizen. “The extradition of Snowden to such a country as the United States, which applies the death penalty, is impossible,” he said.

Spain

Request reviewed only on Spanish soil

Spanish foreign minister, José García-Margallo, told reporters in the Spanish parliament: "For it [the application] to be legally admissible, it has to be made by a person who is in Spain."

Obviously, he said, this was not the case with Snowden.

Switzerland

No response

However, according to The Wall Street Journal (h/t Mashable), "asylum applicants must be in Swiss territory to apply, but can request a three-month humanitarian visa to fly to Switzerland and apply for asylum. However, these visas are usually granted with a person's life is in danger."

Venezuela

 Deserves protection. No application received.

"He deserves the world's protection," Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro told Reuters during a state visit to Moscow this week.

However, Maduro indicated that Venezuela had yet to receive a request.

"He has a right to protection because the United States in its actions is persecuting him ... Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war."

"We think this young person has done something very important for humanity, has done a favour to humanity, has spoken great truths to deconstruct a world … that is controlled by an imperialist American elite," Maduro said.