As part of what some see as the 'War Against Dissent', a decision by
Canadian immigration officials on the political asylum application of US
soldier and war-resister Jeremy Hinzman was made March 25th, his application
denied. But was that decision based solely upon the merits of his claim, or
rather upon what has been perceived as the current sway of so-called
'realpolitik', effectively denying Americans the right to asylum, regardless
of their claim's legitimacy. And there have been legitimate cases.
Whereas once Americans could flee to Canada or Europe if their nonviolent
politics had prompted 'problems', the safety net exile once afforded is in
serious danger of disintegrating. Even in America, sometimes extraordinary
events can occur, life-threatening events, and mainstream European media did
a good job of highlighting one late-1990's incident in particular.
In light of the Iraq War's alleged 'illegality', a number of international
law experts have been reported as perceiving the validity of Hinzman's
claim. But another US asylum case exists, the one European media
highlighted, and it is one with a basis in both torture and attempted
murder, not war.
That case also met 'problems', doing so despite national and international
It was June 2001 when the UK's 'Guardian' headlined, "European Parliament
committee urges Swedes to rethink". What the Swedes were supposed to
"rethink" was an application for political asylum, one that was my own.
While now a freelance journalist, once I was a successful businessman and
political figure, had a net worth of about $1 million, and also wrote US
police accountability laws. My scope was national; I lived in Connecticut.
The police accountability work received a fair amount of publicity, and one
of America's top-fifty papers, the 'Hartford Courant', even editorialized
supporting my efforts, printing "Consider a statewide review board" in
January 1997. That editorial followed a police accountability hearing I
chaired in Connecticut's legislature the prior month.
Most police were not among my supporters.
It is a matter of record that I was shot at, had the steering purposefully
unscrewed on my car, had my home and offices destroyed, and was attacked
multiple times daily with items such as MACE and pepper spray. A victim of
rogue officers, I endured attempted murder and torture.
Friends urged me to flee while I could, and on July 3, 1997, I boarded a
flight for Sweden, seeking political asylum.
My asylum application was summarily rejected that September, the grounds
being that the US is an internationally recognized democracy with a just
legal system. Expulsion from Sweden was ordered, forcing me underground
where I exist still.
In February 1998, Reuters reported that a Swedish immigration spokesman
explained the country's decision by saying, "it was by individual police and
not authorized by police authorities". Though both Sweden's official
decisions and spokesperson acknowledged the violence I endured, it was
decided my persecution simply didn't count.
The European Parliament differed, noting the Geneva Conventions on refugees
did as well.
Amnesty International's Swedish section later wrote that Sweden's decision
went against Swedish law. Off the record, an immigration official told me
the matter was simply one of politics and its expedients, what some refer to
as the 'politicization of justice'.
Swedish "rethinking" of my circumstances never occurred.
Underground, life is 'harsh'. I have little money, no free meals or
lodging, no medical care, just the constant threat of being discovered.
Having no official identity or work permit, my life and future are pretty
grim. But in some ways I'm lucky.
It was early April 1997 when I spoke with another non-violent activist, Emma
Jones. She was distraught, telling me, "they're (rogue police) after my
children, they're after my children!". On 14 April, her son was shot to
death by an officer claiming that he had tried to run him down with his
In July 2003, a Connecticut jury awarded Jones $2.5 million for her son's
'wrongful death'. And the threat of death did accompany being a police
accountability activist in Connecticut, in fact, I received an anonymous
phone call saying only "you're a dead man", before the caller disconnected.
Another activist's similar plight was reported by the 'Courant', the
headline reading, "Colchester officers accused of death plot", detailing how
the officers' 'paid informant' revealed that he had been approached to
pursue the alleged killing. The officers were never charged, though they
later resigned their positions.
Following the destruction of my home, I tried to flee within the US, finding
myself attacked wherever I went. A private detective wrote how my car was
mysteriously emitting electronic tracking signals, allowing me to be
I introduced my legislation to lawmakers in a number of US states, working
towards a Congressional police accountability hearing. But though the media
hailed my efforts, I was sometimes attacked over twenty times in a day. It
was 'fun' for my assailants; on occasion, there was even laughter - that's
how 'funny' torture is for some.
The Geneva Conventions were created following what many consider the world's
worst refugee crisis - the effects of Fascism and W.W.II. Today, as many
progressives increasingly draw parallels to the nightmares of that period,
perhaps it's worth recalling how so many good people once made such tragic
errors, and the cost.
Ritt Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2005 Ritt Goldstein