The high court’s decision overturned an earlier decision by a district court, which said it would be “unjust and oppressive” to extradite Assange to the United States because there he could be prone to suicide under possible prison conditions. Huh. In the view of the High Court, assurances from the US government substantially mitigated this risk.
One more appeal
WikiLeaks has already announced that Assange will appeal against the Home Minister’s decision in UK courts. He can appeal on an issue of law or fact, but he has to take the permission of the High Court to initiate an appeal. This is a new legal process rather than a continuation of the judicial phase of extradition after his arrest in 2019. Assange’s brother has said the appeal will include new information, including reports of a conspiracy to murder Assange.
Several legal issues argued before the District Court in 2020 are also likely to be taken up in the next appeal. Notably, after the District Court decided the question of whether the charges were political offences, and therefore not extraditable offences, the question of how the Home Secretary decided on the issue may now be a matter of debate. Assange’s next appeal will seek a retrial on whether the assurances given by the US government about Assange’s prison terms are sufficient or credible. His lawyers will again ask UK courts to consider the role of freedom of expression in determining whether to extradite Assange.
He will remain in Belmarsh prison during Assange’s appeal. On his appeal against the decision of the Home Minister, an appeal can be made to the Supreme Court against the decision of the High Court. If all legal avenues in the UK are closed and extradition comes to the fore, Assange could pursue human rights action at the European Court of Human Rights. However, except in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment, the European Court of Justice has rarely declared extradition contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. It has not yet considered freedom of expression in the extradition case. Further appeals could add years to the saga of Assange’s detention.
Assange’s family and human rights advocates have given their reaction in this regard. Assange’s wife, Stella Morris, called Patel’s decision “seditious”. His brother, Gabriel Shipton, called it “shameful”. He has vowed to fight against his extradition decision by every available legal means. According to Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard: Assange could face a high risk of prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate a ban on torture or other abuse. The diplomatic assurance provided by the US that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be called credible in view of past history.
What role for the Australian government?
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfuss responded to the latest developments last night. They confirmed that Australia will continue to provide consular assistance to Assange: in our view the Australian Government is clear that the Assange case has dragged on and should be closed. We will continue to express this view to the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. However, it is not clear what the nature of Australia’s diplomatic or political advocacy will be.
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(This news has not been edited by NDTV team. It has been published directly from Syndicate feed.)