Julian Assange's Extradition Ruling
On Monday, January 4th, 2021, a British judge rejected an American request to extradite WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to the United States, declaring that this would be a concern for his mental health. Wikileaks is an international organization which publishes news leaks and confidential information given by anonymous people. It’s founder, a 49-year-old Australian, is charged with hacking US government computers and violating the US Espionage Act in 2010 and 2011, by publishing hundreds of thousands of confidential documents and diplomatic cables about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Since he released documents that provide evidence of US war crimes and human rights abuse, Assange’s lawyers state that his prosecution is “politically motivated.”
In 2020, James Lewis, a lawyer representing the U.S. government, told the British court, “Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a license to break ordinary criminal laws.” However, organizations, such as Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International, wish for all charges to be dropped. Julia Hill, Amnesty International’s expert on counterterrorism and criminal justice in Europe, told New York Times, “The activities that Julian Assange engaged in are activities that journalists engage in all the time. We wouldn’t have information without them.”
Numerous doctors say that Assange is suffering from depression and memory loss, which was caused by the psychological torture he has received in British prison and could lead to him committing sucide if deported back to the United States. In December of 2020, Nils Melzer, the United Nations rapporteur on torture and ill treatment, urged President Trump to pardon Assange, “I can attest to the fact that his health has seriously deteriorated, to the point where his life is now in danger.” In her ruling, Judge Baraitser, who denied the US’ extradition request, said,“the American authorities pursued the case in good faith and Mr. Assange was not merely acting as a journalist.” However, if Assange is extradited to the US, it would be a huge risk, because he would kill himself. "I have decided that extradition would be oppressive and I order his discharge," Judge Baraitser stated.
After this ruling, the focus shifts to a US appeal for which leave is expected to be granted in a few weeks. Once the appeal goes to the high court, this case could go to the Supreme Court. If legal rulings continue to be in his favor, Assange will be discharged from prison, however, the US will most likely limit his traveling beyond the UK for the rest of his life. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Mexico’s president, told reporters that he would ask the UK foreign ministry officials to free Assange, so he could accept a Mexican offer of asylum. President-elect Joe Biden will play an essential role in determining the fate of Julian Assange.
In August of 2010, Assange was also accused of sexual assault in Sweden, however, he denied all allgeations. He was issued an international warrant for his arrest so he could be extradited back to Sweden, then was released on bail in the UK and granted asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in June 2012, where he hid from the US government for 7 years. All sexual assault charges were dropped against Assange on November 19, 2019.
“Julian Assange Cannot Be Extradited to US, British Judge Rules.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Jan. 2021, www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jan/04/julian-assange-cannot-be-extradited-to-us-british-judge-rules.
Peltier, Elian. “The Julian Assange Extradition Case: What You Need to Know.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Jan. 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/01/03/world/europe/assange-extradition-explainer.html.
“Julian Assange Extradition Ruling: What Happens Now?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 Jan. 2021, www.theguardian.com/media/2021/jan/04/julian-assange-extradition-fate-remains-unclear.