As a lawyer I once specialized in refugee law, or, more precisely, asylum law, which is the term for the law governing refugees who present themselves to the government of a country of which they are not citizens, seeking permission to stay.
So it is interesting to speculate on what grounds Russia has decided to grant Edward Snowden temporary asylum. As a practical matter, with these sort of "show" asylum grants, the country in question usually isn't paying strict attention to the law about whether someone qualifies as a "refugee", anyway. But just for fun, here is the legal definition of a "refugee" in international law: a person outside of his or her home country who has a well-founded fear of returning to his or her home country because of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
In any event, today's found poem is taken from the NYT article about Russia's recent decision.
Brushing aside pleas and warnings from American officials,
Russia granted Edward J. Snowden temporary asylum
and allowed him to walk free out of a Moscow airport.
Russia’s decision, which infuriated American officials,
ended five weeks of legal limbo for Mr. Snowden,
the former intelligence analyst wanted by the United States
for leaking details of the National Security Agency’s
Even as his leaks continued with new disclosures
from files he leaked, Mr. Snowden now has legal permission to live
and even work in Russia for as long as a year,
safely out of the reach of American prosecutors.
Mr. Snowden now has an international platform
to continue defending his actions as a whistle-blower
exposing wrongdoing by the American government.
In a statement issued by WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy organization
that has been assisting him since he made his disclosures in June,
Mr. Snowden thanked Russia and accused the Obama administration
of disregarding domestic and international law since his disclosures.
But he added that “in the end, the law is winning."
The case raises interesting questions of when and why "prosecution" sometimes is treated as "persecution." More fundamentally, to my mind, it demonstrates how governments continue to use asylum status as a political tactic, rather than granting it purely on the basis of humanitarian need.