Biden must drop charges against Assange, says IBA

Biden must drop charges against Assange, says IBA

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is urging US President Joe Biden to drop all charges against Julian Assange over the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents in 2010.

Jerome Doraisamy10 June 2024  POLITICS

In mid-May, the UK High Court of Justice granted Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the right to appeal against his extradition to the US. The IBAHRI has welcomed the ruling, noting its “exceptional significance” 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.

In 2010, Assange and Wikileaks published more than 250,000 leaked classified documents, exposing alleged human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the US Army during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

President Biden has said that the US is “considering” allowing Assange to return to Australia, following the passage in Australian Parliament of a motion, back in February, calling on the US and the UK to return him to his homeland.

In late March, the UK High Court deferred its judgment on Assange’s request to appeal the extradition order, pending satisfactory assurances from the US that Assange would not receive the death penalty when tried in the US, be able to rely on the First Amendment to the US constitution, which protects freedom of speech, and not face prejudice because of his Australian identity.

Judge Dame Victoria Sharp and Justice Jeremy Johnson ruled that, in the absence of satisfactory assurances, Assange would be granted the right to appeal without a further hearing.

In their judgment delivered on 20 May, Dame Sharp and Justice Johnson accepted the assurances provided by the Biden administration 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 based on a real risk of discrimination and the real risk of flagrant denial of Assange’s right to freedom of expression.

IBAHRI co-chair and former secretary general of the Swedish Bar Association Anne Ramberg said: “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,” she said.

“It is interesting that much time and effort have been expended in pursuing the Wikileaks founder, but seemingly less to investigate possible war crimes that resulted in the death of civilians allegedly perpetrated by the US military during the war in Afghanistan.”

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,” she said.

“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.”

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.