Assange: Right decision, wrong reason

There remain very few people who still advocate for the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. From across the political spectrum in the UK, today's decision to refuse the claim of U.S. authorities was broadly welcomed. At its heart the prosecution of a journalist for doing journalism strikes at something rotten in the heart of Western democracy.

Even many of those who advocated for Assange's imprisonment at the time of the Wikileaks scandal a decade ago have since softened in their approach after seeing what the effect has been on the physical and mental health of the man. Between the Ecuadorian embassy and Belmarsh prison the conditions are closer to those endured by a political dissident in Russia or China than what we might expect of the UK or the U.S.

In the end it was this aspect that persuaded District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to rule in Assange's favour:

I am satisfied that, if he is subjected to the extreme conditions of [Special Administrative Measures], Mr. Assange’s mental health will deteriorate to the point where he will commit suicide with the “single minded determination” described by Dr. Deeley [a consultant neuropsychiatrist].

This judgment will be subject to appeal and it is highly likely that the U.S. prosecutors will argue that Assange would not be a suicide risk in custody stateside. This will be no small feat given the terrible conditions known to exist in maximum security facilities and the fact that other prisoners have successfully committed suicide but it does mean that the Wikileaks founder is not out of the woods yet.

That is not right when there are also clear human rights grounds for giving Assange back his freedom and putting a stop to this abusive extradition process. Whether it comes down to a reliance on freedom of expression or, more likely, the prohibition on inhumane treatment it would be hard for any reasonable person to deny that there is a case here. If the U.S. appeal is successful then this is the avenue that Assange's legal team will pursue before the European Court of Human Rights.

It has been a long and painful road for those campaigning on behalf of Julian Assange. This is certainly not the end but it is the end of the beginning.


Meanwhile the podcast is back on for 2021! This week's episode looks at a difficult case that pitted affordable housing against a children's cancer trust. Where there are no winners the Supreme Court nevertheless had to pick a side. Listen below: http://uklawweekly.com/2020-uksc-45/

Stay safe in lockdown.....is it three we are up to now?

Marcus