Julian Assange extradition ruling labelled a ‘travesty of justice’

Reporters Without Borders condemned the decision, which it said will prove historic ‘for all the wrong reasons’.

Tom Pilgrim
Friday 10 December 2021 13:32
Julian Assange supporters gathered outside the High Court in London on Friday as the ruling was handed down (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Julian Assange supporters gathered outside the High Court in London on Friday as the ruling was handed down (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Human rights and press freedom groups have condemned a High Court ruling that Julian Assange can be extradited to the US as a “travesty of justice” and “hammer-blow to free expression”.

Responding to the decision on Friday, Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said: “We condemn today’s decision, which will prove historic for all the wrong reasons.

“We fully believe that Julian Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism, and we defend this case because of its dangerous implications for the future of journalism and press freedom around the world.

“It is time to put a stop to this more than decade-long persecution once and for all. It is time to free Assange.”

Nils Muiznieks, Amnesty International’s Europe director, said: “This is a travesty of justice.

“By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.

“The fact that the US has reserved the right to change its mind at any time means that these assurances are not worth the paper they are written on.”

He added: “If extradited to the US, Julian Assange could not only face trial on charges under the Espionage Act but also a real risk of serious human rights violations due to detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

“The US government’s indictment poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad. If upheld, it would undermine the key role of journalists and publishers in scrutinising governments and exposing their misdeeds would leave journalists everywhere looking over their shoulders.”

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), said that for Assange to be extradited “to answer charges for cultivating a source and encouraging the revelation of criminality” would be “a hammer-blow to free expression”.

She continued: “Any journalist who thought they might upset a US administration will reasonably fear that they too could be targeted by a judicial snatch squad.

“When the freedom of our judiciary is under threat, it is disappointing that senior judges should buckle in the face of such unconvincing US blandishments.”

Trevor Timm, executive director of the US non-profit Freedom of the Press Foundation, labelled the High Court ruling as “a black mark on the history of press freedom”.

He added: “That United States prosecutors continued to push for this outcome is a betrayal of the journalistic principles the Biden administration has taken credit for celebrating.

“As brave whistleblowers have explained for decades, this kind of abuse of the Espionage Act against sources — and now journalists and publishers — is an embarrassment to basic ideals of justice and to core First Amendment values.”

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