Although Julian Assange Is Granted A Legal Reprieve From Being Extradited To The United States, There Is A Bitter Irony

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Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Julian Assange has been permitted by the London High Court to challenge the UK Home Secretary’s decision to extradite him to the US on allegations of computer abuse and several counts under the US Espionage Act. Nonetheless, there is a catch to the good ruling: the US has the right to halt the appeal process if it provides sufficient guarantees over Julian Assange’s treatment, including protection of his right to free speech. The two-judge bench agreed with some of Julian Assange’s defense team’s arguments while rejecting others. They have given the home secretary and the US government until April 16 to offer any guarantees about the recognized grounds of appeal. Leave to appeal will be given in the absence of guarantees. On May 20, if guarantees are submitted to the court, there will be another hearing. The court denied the following appeal grounds:

  • The extradition treaty between the US and the UK would not allow extradition (this answers the notion that charges are for political offenses).
  • That the prosecution for a political opinion is the reason extradition is prohibited.
  • That the European Convention on Human Rights Articles 6 (right to a fair trial) and 7 (prohibition on retroactive criminal legislation) conflict with extradition
  • That the ECHR’s Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 (prohibition of torture and cruel or degrading treatment) are incompatible with extradition.

The grounds that the court has accepted provisionally are:

  • That the ECHR’s Article 10 (freedom of expression) conflicts with extradition
  • Because extradition is forbidden under the UK Extradition Act in situations where the accused might face discrimination due to their nationality.
  • Both the death penalty and the concept of specialization—which states that a person may only be charged with crimes included in the extradition request—are not sufficiently protected.
  • The District Court’s 2021 ruling that extradition should not be permitted because of its oppressive nature makes the grounds of appeal somewhat unexpected.

It appears that at the permission to appeal hearing, the judge was convinced by arguments stating that the acts that Julian Assange is accused of are typical of a journalist. Since the European Court of Human Rights has never determined that extradition would infringe upon the right to free speech, this case may represent a significant shift in the application of the ECHR to the law.

Julian Assange May Ask For Permission To Appeal To The UK Supreme Court 

Prejudice based on nationality seems to be connected to allegations that Assange would not be able to depend on First Amendment protections for freedom of expression since he is not a US citizen. Since the grounds for appeal are outside of the guarantees provided by the US government in 2021 in response to the District Court ruling, the court has requested more assurances. The ruling of today permits a thorough appeal. Though hearing dates have not yet been determined, the appeal will most likely take place later this year. Should the appeal be granted, the extradition procedure will conclude. By then, Assange would most likely be deported to Australia after being freed from Belmarsh jail.

He may ask for permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court if the appeal is denied. At that point, he would have used up all of his options in the UK if leave was refused or if a further appeal was unsuccessful. As soon as Assange uses up all of his UK options, US Marshals will probably try to extradite him to the US. His legal team will file a case with the European Court of Human Rights to stop that. In 2022, Julian Assange’s attorneys applied with the European Court of Human Rights. However, on December 13, 2022, the case was deemed inadmissible without a reason given, most likely because Assange had not yet used up all available remedies in the United Kingdom. If Assange has used up all of his options in the British legal system, his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights will most likely be accepted. Along with the application, a request for urgent interim measures will be made to get an injunction that forbids the UK from extraditing Julian Assange until the European Court has decided on his case. Usually, only situations affecting the right to life or the proscription against torture and cruel or degrading treatment qualify for the granting of interim remedies. According to the District Court’s 2021 ruling, it would be harsh to extradite him. A claim under the European Convention on Human Rights that extradition would violate Assange’s right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment could be supported by the facts supporting that finding, which indicated that Assange’s chances of attempting suicide were increased by the likely conditions of his prison in the US.

Before the February hearing, Alice Edwards, the Special Rapporteur on Torture for the United Nations, warned that Assange may be subjected to torture or other cruel treatment or punishment. According to rumors that circulated last week, Julian Assange might be eligible for a plea deal from the US authorities that would free him from custody based on the amount of time he has already spent in Belmarsh. At that point, Julian Assange’s American attorneys said they hadn’t heard from the US authorities, and Assange’s associates haven’t commented since. A plea deal might start to seem like a fair solution for all parties involved if the case is expected to go on for months or even years. A British judge decided in 2021 that Assange shouldn’t be extradited because of the harsh jail system in the United States. Assange has been detained in London’s Belmarsh jail since 2019. Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the UK first suggested that Julian Assange shouldn’t be extradited in an unexpected verdict, citing Julian Assange‘s mental state and risk of suicide given the conditions he would encounter in the U.S. Mr. Assange is likely to be placed in extremely restricted custody circumstances that are intended to minimize social interaction, eliminate physical touch, and limit communication with the outside world. Judge Baraitser noted back in 2021, “He faces these prospects as someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide.” In addition, the judge’s decision said that Assange may be forced to spend 23 hours a day in solitary confinement as he awaited trial in the United States—a penalty that many rich nations view as torture. In reaction to reports of the diplomatic letter that the United States had given to the United Kingdom, Julian Assange’s spouse, Stella Assange, stated on Tuesday. She described the terms as “blatant weasel words” that do not genuinely ensure that Julian may assert protections under the First Amendment as a foreign citizen.

According to the AFP, Stella Assange stated, “The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future—his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in U.S. prison for publishing award-winning journalism.” On May 20, attorneys for the United States and Julian Assange are expected to re-convene in a British courtroom. However, it is still unknown how many opportunities Assange will have to contest any ruling that may ultimately result in his deportation. To his legion of admirers, he is an anti-establishment hero facing persecution for disclosing information of purported war crimes and U.S. malfeasance hidden in top-secret, classified papers. According to U.S. officials, he is being charged for his illegal conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, to get the disclosed data, rather than for publishing them. “The Biden administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late,” Assange stated.