The British High Court in London today overturned an earlier lower court decision blocking the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. The ruling sends the case back to Magistrate’s Court with instructions to allow the extradition to be approved or denied by the British Home Secretary Prita Patel. The ruling, which included a decision to continue to hold Assange in a high security prison, is a severe blow to the Wikileaks co-founder’s efforts to prevent his extradition to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act. The extradition is now in the hands of Patel, unless Assange’s lawyers, as expected, file an appeal to the UK Supreme Court within two weeks.
District court judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled in October that Assange could not be extradited because of inhumane conditions in US prisons that would make Assange, who suffers from physical and mental health issues, a suicide risk. The United States, in appealing the decision, gave assurances that Assange would receive adequate medical and psychological care and would not be subject to measures commonly used in high profiled cases such as prolonged isolation and Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMs, which impose draconian rules limiting any communication and allows the government to monitor meetings with attorneys in violation of attorney-client privilege.
The US attempt, begun by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration, to extradite Assange has been widely condemned by civil liberties organizations including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch, which have called it an existential threat to press freedom. If extradited to the United States Assange, who oversaw WikiLeaks publications of documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes, corruption, lies and a range of other illegal and nefarious activities, faces a 175-year prison sentence.
The ruling was read out by Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde. He said the court rejected grounds 1,3 and 4, all dealing with Assange’s fragile psychological state, but allowed the appeal on grounds 2 and 5, which dealt with U.S. assurances that Assange would be held under humane conditions and receive appropriate medical and psychological care.
“For the reasons given in the judgment which is today handed down, the court allowed the appeal on the grounds that … a. the DJ [District Judge], having decided that the threshold for discharge under section 91 of the Extradition Act 2003 was met, ought to have notified the USA of her provisional view, to afford it the opportunity to offer assurances to the court; and b. the USA has now provided the United Kingdom with a package of assurances which respond to the DJ’s specific findings,”
The US has also promised that Assange would be able to serve his sentence in Australia. The Biden administration, however, has given these assurances with provisions. The US has said that he will be subject to SAMs and potentially placed in the ADX Florence Colorado supermax facility if he commits “any future act that met for the test of a SAM.” It has also conditioned his transfer to Australia, where he is a citizen, on a request from the Australian government, which is highly unlikely given Australia’s support for Washington’s campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks.
There was no mention in the ruling of the evidence that showed that UC Global, the Spanish security firm at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, video taped Assange, including his meetings with his attorneys, on behalf of the CIA. Nor did the ruling mention that a key witness who claimed Assange instructed him to hack into US government computers has retracted his testimony. The court also did not accept that this was a politically motivated case or address the ramifications for all who publish classified material.
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.AUTHOR LINK
Dwayne Booth (a.k.a., Mr. Fish) is a cartoonist, freelance writer and ScheerPost regular who has been published in many reputable and prestigious magazines, journals and newspapers. In addition to Harper’s Magazine, his work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones Magazine, the Advocate, Z Magazine, the Utne Reader, Slate.com, MSNBC.com and various European newspapers. He has also written novels, screenplays, short fiction and cultural criticism collections, and several volumes of political cartoons.