Swiss Refuse To Extradite Roman Polanski

In a surprising rebuke to the United States, the Swiss have decided to block the extradition of filmmaker Roman Polanski on the curious grounds “that it was not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty a fault in the US extraditionary request.” Putting aside that the reason is incomprehensible, the decision appears to affirm that there are two different systems of justice for celebrities and non-celebrities.

Previously, Justice Minister Widmer-Schlumpf insisted that extradition was needed to show that “[i]t is the rule of law and everybody is treated the same way, whether it is an ordinary citizen or a famous personality.” France and international stars, however, waged a determined campaign to block the efforts to punish Polanski for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

The Swiss seem to struggle to come up with some plausible reason for blocking the extradition given the fact that, while Polanski is no commoner, his crime is a common case of a fugitive avoiding jail: “Considering all the aspects of this case – and in particular the extradition request which is not satisfying as far as the presentation of the facts of the case is concerned and the principles of state action deriving from international public order – the extradition request has to be rejected.” That is a great deal of effort and many words to excuse an unprincipled decision.

Polanski, 76, has been under house arrest in his Gstaad chalet and can now leave his gilded cage.

Source: SwissInfo.

40 thoughts on “Swiss Refuse To Extradite Roman Polanski”

  1. “Isn’t that like a star chamber?”

    pardon my ignorance, what’s a star chamber? (aside from a really cool sounding sci-fi adventure?

  2. Does no one else recall the actual story that was around at the time?

    The story was that it was a blackmail setup. This girl’s mother and her mother’s boyfriend maneuvered her into Polanski’s bed then tried to blackmail him. When he wouldn’t bite they went to the cops with the notion that they could force Polanski into an out of court settlement not realizing you can’t do that in a criminal case. Once the prosecutor charged him they were stuck with their story or they might end up in jail themselves.

    Polanski is then advised to agree to whatever the prosecutor and court say to get it behind him as fast as possible so he agrees to the prosecutor’s description of the whole event with the assurance of getting out on time served. The judge, a famous right-wing crank, then reneges on it and threatens to keep him in jail until he agrees to ‘voluntary’ deportation.

    The testimony the US prosecutors won’t let the Swiss see apparently speaks to this.

    So why won’t they let the Swiss see it? Isn’t this, at the least, a gross breach of professional courtesy?

    They’re saying to the Swiss court, you don’t deserve to see this, this is how we operate, fuck you.

  3. What a miseralble little coward.

    Are there no meaningful sanctions that the U.S. Government can impose against the Swiss for this? (since I am not up on my Internet extradition law this month–ha!)

  4. The Moar, since reading your post I have racked my brains trying to recall an instance in which a 13 year old girl intiated sex for the purpose of “advancing her career.” Can’t think of a single example. Although I appreciate your criticism of American attitudes toward sex, I believe it is quite a stretch to conclude that the prosecutor in this instance erred in failing to excuse drug and alcohol induced sex with a minor as a harmless dalliance. The excuse given by the Swiss for refusing extradition bears no relationship to law and very little to grammar.

  5. Nescio: you must be new to the World Wide Web. Let me extend a warm welcome to the internets.

    On the world wide web you can find just about anything, including thousands and thousands of articles and blog posts written by American military personnel, journalists, politicians, statesmen, lawyers, judges, law enforcement officers, members of the CIA, National security officials and civilians like myself regarding the Bush regime and torture and our vehement opposition to it.

  6. Moar’s comment about teenagers having sex with adults doesn’t work in this case for two reasons: she was 13 not a relatively more mature 16 or 17 and she was given alcohol and prescription drugs (quaaludes? barbiturates?) As a result, this wasn’t a “gray area”, this appears to have been unambiguous rape of a child.

    Didn’t the US go after Swiss bank accounts/tax evaders at the same time? Forcing the banks to reveal their American tax-cheat depositors was, I suspect, a very big deal to the Swiss, and they ended up giving in to the US pressure. Perhaps they viewed letting go one measly child-rapist as a small, if symbolic, response?

  7. Are the Swiss upset at abuse of minors by priests? I believe they are upset about that, just not about this. A life of a child has little value when compared to the life of a wealthy celebrity.

    While it is true that we have a two tier justice system, that should make us want to work for justice instead of displaying docility in the face of evil. Many things that used to be taken for granted as social norms are no longer acceptable. Certain actions only became illegal and ethically unacceptable when people stand up for their rights and the rights of others (ie, torture). That is what we are called to do now that we face such great injustice in our own nation.

  8. If the US prosecutors refuse to provide information the Swiss deemed relevant where is the injustice? Isn’t that like a star chamber?

    It seems to me rather an indictment of the US justice system that is hopelessly self-serving.

  9. Nescio

    A country that willfully and vehemently ignores the fact their government engaged in war crimes (remember the Bush torture regime?) should not be that upset when they identify certain double-standards.


    I, as a citizen of this country, did not willfully or vehemently ignore the Bush torture regime or the Obama support of Bush torture regime. Quite the opposite. Neither do I willfully ignore adults f**king children as obviously the Swiss government’s regime does.

    As we are stuck with the torture triad of Bush, Cheney, and Obama … the Swiss get Polanski.

    The Rule of Law is a joke on all of us.

  10. Thanks, Prof. Turley, for confirming my reaction. Polanski fled the US to avoid sentencing, which is a State and federal crime. This is a fact which everyone admits. And it’s all the Swiss court needed to extradite him. No deeper delving into the facts of the case was required.

  11. A country that willfully and vehemently ignores the fact their government engaged in war crimes (remember the Bush torture regime?) should not be that upset when they identify certain double-standards.

  12. Buddah is absolutely right. The United States can not be taken seriously on matters of law. The opinion the professor cites however is entirely dishonest. The Swiss should have just said, “We want to look forward, not back.” This is revolting.

  13. Blouise I’m with you. Big ick factor. But why does this whole thing remind me of how I felt when Martha Stewart was being pursued for her crimes at the height of Enron and a lot of other financial shenanigans?

    While I know Mr. Polanski committed a crime, I’m not sure that the torrid media solicitations and houndings by legal authorities that cherry pick and plunder isn’t exactly the same perpetration already committed on Mr. Polanski and other less well known victims of/by our legal system.

    Our legal system has a ‘plank’ in its eye that may have become too damn big to remove.

  14. I enjoyed the give and take between the Moar and Buddha and learned something from it, but in this case … ugh …Roman Polanski is just dam creepy and the Swiss can keep him.

  15. “for an incident that wasn’t a crime when it happened almost 40 years ago.”

    Please explain this statement, for I am fairly certain having sex with a 13-year-old was indeed illegal in California at the time.

    And I am fairly certain drugging her with quaaludes first, and having sex with her despite her protests, was and still is illegal EVERYWHERE civilized. So I hope America does NOT “get over it.”

  16. The Moar,

    I won’t disagree that American laws reflect a Puritan and totally unrealistic view of human sexuality. However, that is a secondary issue when one considers the massive systemic dangers inherent in an inequitable application of laws (whether you agree with the law or not). A bad law can be corrected. A malfunction legal system leads to revolution and civil unrest.

  17. There are two systems of justice in this country. There is one for wealthy people and one for everyone else. It is not anything new. A wealthy person never receives the death penalty.

  18. Please. This has nothing to do with “two systems of justice, one for celebrities and one for everyone else”, although such a dual system of justice certainly does exist.

    The Swiss simply don’t share America’s moral panic over teenage sexuality and have rightly refused to send a man back to die in a United States prison for an incident that wasn’t a crime when it happened almost 40 years ago.

    Younger women have been having sex with older men for career advancement since the dawn of mankind. Get over it, America.

  19. I see this not only as evidence of a two-tiered system and the inherent injustice that results from such a structure, but as a response to the blatant failures of the Obama Administration to right the wrongs and arrest the criminals and put on trial the criminals from the Bush Administration.

    If we don’t have to be equitable, why should they?

    This is what happens when you throw out the rule of law. Law becomes lawless. When the law becomes lawless, it is worse than criminal. It is tyranny.

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