IBAHRI urges US President Joe Biden to drop all charges against Julian Assange
IBAHRI urges US President Joe Biden to drop all charges against Julian Assange
  • Yoo Jin, Reporter
  • 승인 2024.06.10 09:32
  • 수정 2024.06.10 09:32
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Free Assange Campaign. /AP
Free Assange Campaign. /AP Yonhap

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges United States President Joe Biden, to drop all charges against Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in relation to the Wikileaks publication, in 2010, of more than 250,000 leaked classified documents – exposing alleged human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the US army during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

It was reported in April 2024 that the US President said ‘we’re considering it’ in response to a journalist’s question about a request from the Australian Government that Mr Assange be allowed to return to his native country.

Mr Biden’s comment followed Australia’s Parliament passing a motion in February 2024, backed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, that called on the US and the United Kingdom – from where Mr Assange is fighting extradition to the US – to return Mr Assange to Australia.

Recently, on 20 May 2024, the UK High Court of Justice granted Mr Assange the right to appeal against his extradition to the US. The IBAHRI has welcomed the ruling and underscores the exceptional significance of the judgment in reaffirming international laws and standards that protect the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the protection of media personnel and public interest journalism worldwide.

Given the inherent risks posed in extraditing Mr Assange to the US, where a prison sentence of up to 175 years could be imposed under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the IBAHRI has closely followed the case. 

Free Assange Campaign. /AP Yonhap

IBAHRI Co-Chair and past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, stated:

‘The High Court decision to grant an appeal against the extradition of Mr Assange marks a pivotal moment in this judicial saga, not only for Mr Assange and his legal team, but also for public interest journalism, which is also on trial in this case. The IBAHRI reiterates the concerns of United Nations Experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dr Alice Jill Edwards, and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, who have emphasised that if Mr Assange were to be extradited, his case would set a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in the US and beyond. It is interesting that much time and effort have been expended in pursuing the Wikileaks founder, but seemingly less to investigating possible war crimes that resulted in the death of civilians allegedly perpetrated by the US military during the war in Afghanistan. President Biden is urged by the IBAHRI to drop all charges against Mr Assange.’

IBAHRI Director Baroness Helena Kennedy LT KC commented:

‘The High Court’s decision to grant Mr Assange leave to appeal his extradition is an important and long-awaited step. The IBAHRI reiterates that the potential extradition of Mr Assange from the UK to the US, where he may face a prejudicial and potentially politically motivated trial, would be in contravention with the Extradition Treaty between the two countries, not least a violation of international laws and standards concerning the extradition of accused individuals. Further, it would make Mr Assange the first publisher extradited under the Espionage Act, setting a dangerous precedent for media freedom globally. The appeal will be judged on its merits before the High Court and we urge the Court to uphold the fundamental right to free expression and protect the indispensable role of a free, independent media as the watchdogs of democratic societies.’

Free Assange Campaign /AP Yonhap
Free Assange Campaign /AP Yonhap

In February 2024, the IBAHRI reiterated its call to halt the extradition of Mr Assange to the US, as the UK High Court deliberated the case in a two-day hearing. On 26 March, the High Court deferred its judgment on Mr Assange’s request to appeal the extradition order, pending satisfactory assurances from the US that Mr Assange would:

Judges Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson ruled that, in the absence of satisfactory assurances, Mr Assange would be granted the right to appeal without a further hearing. On 16 April 2024, the Biden Administration provided assurances to the High Court, noting that the applicability of the First Amendment would be exclusively within the purview of the US courts.

In a judgment delivered on 20 May, Dame Sharp and Mr Johnson accepted the assurances provided by the US in relation to the death penalty.

However, the judges found the US assurances of 16 April 2024 to be insufficient overall and, thereby, granted leave to appeal the extradition on two grounds: (a) a real risk of discrimination based on nationality (Section 81(b) of the Extradition Act 2003), since Mr Assange would not be able to rely on the First Amendment as US nationals would be entitled to; (b) – only as a consequence of (a) – a real risk of flagrant denial of Mr Assange’s right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

Stella Assange, the wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, delivers a speech outside The Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London on March 26, 2024. /AFP Yonhap
Stella Assange, the wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, delivers a speech outside The Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London on March 26, 2024. /AFP Yonhap

Mr Assange and his legal team now prepare for the appeal hearing to challenge the extradition order, a date for which is yet to be set.

Assange’s legal team argued in Monday’s hearing that the judges, Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson, should not accept the assurances given by US prosecutors that he could seek to rely on the rights and protections under the US First Amendment.

His team made the case that, if extradited, Assange could be discriminated against on the basis of his nationality, as an Australian-born foreign national.

In a short ruling, the judges said the US submissions were not sufficient, granting Assange permission to a full appeal in relation to the legal points on freedom of speech and nationality.

A date has not yet been set for the next hearing.

The 52-year-old is wanted by US authorities on espionage charges connected to his organization’s publication of thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011. Assange faces spending the rest of his life behind bars if convicted.

Free Assange! Protesters made human chain around British Parliament. 8 Oct. 2022. /Reuters= Yonhap
Free Assange! Protesters made human chain around British Parliament. 8 Oct. 2022. /Reuters= Yonhap

An Assange supporter pictured with a placard reading "Let him go Joe" outside London's Royal Courts of Justice. Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images
Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, said outside the court that Monday’s ruling “marks a turning point.”

“Everyone can see what is going on here: the US case is offensive, it offends our democratic principles. It offends our right to know it is an attack on journalists everywhere,” she continued.

“We are relieved as a family that the courts took the right decision today. But how long can this go on for?”

Activist Redde Jean-Baptiste told CNN that one of Assange’s lawyers had said the WikiLeaks founder had been having sleepless nights.

“(He’s) trying to prepare for a case that would determine his life or his death, so as you can imagine the pressure he’s been under that is torture in itself,” Jean-Baptiste said.

Jean-Baptiste added that Monday’s ruling is a “glimpse of hope for him” and “we are now on the right path.”

Supporters of Julian Assange display signs and a banner, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Yonhap
Supporters of Julian Assange display signs and a banner, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain December 10, 2021. REUTERS/Yonhap
'Free Wikileaks founder Julian Assange' in London on February 22, 2020 /AFP=Yonhap
'Free Wikileaks founder Julian Assange' in London on February 22, 2020 /AFP=Yonhap
A protester stands outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Wednesday, February 21, 2024., where Julian Assange's lawyers are on their final UK legal challenge to stop the WikiLeaks founder from being sent to the United States to face spying charges [AP Yonhap]
A protester stands outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Wednesday, February 21, 2024., where Julian Assange's lawyers are on their final UK legal challenge to stop the WikiLeaks founder from being sent to the United States to face spying charges [AP Yonhap]

 

WikiLeaks/ CNN

 

yoojin@wikileaks-kr.org

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