UN makes last ditch plea on Assange extradition, European Parliament opens exhibition

As the High Court decision on the fate of Julian Assange looms, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has made a last-minute appeal to UK authorities to halt his extradition to the United States, while European Parliament inaugurated an exhibition dedicated to him and his work.

Assange is being held in Belmarsh Prison and is facing 18 charges in the United States relating to the leaking of US army documents and diplomatic cables. The leak was embarrassing for the US government as it included damning evidence of US attacks on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as internal diplomatic cables.

If extradited from the UK and found guilty, he faces up to 175 years behind bars.

The matter of his extradition and legal attempts to stop it have been ongoing for several years, but a final decision is expected from the UK’s highest court between February 20 and 21.

With just days until the decision will be announced, the OHCHR released a statement from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, urging the UK government to halt the imminent extradition.

“Julian Assange suffers from a long-standing and recurrent depressive disorder. He is assessed as being at risk of committing suicide. In the United States, he faces numerous charges, including under the Espionage Act of 1917, for alleged unlawful releases of diplomatic and other cables and documents via WikiLeaks. If extradited, he could be detained in prolonged isolation while awaiting trial or as an inmate. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison,” Edwards said. 

She added that the risk of him being placed in solitary confinement on a prolonged basis and to receive a potentially disproportionate sentence, raises questions on whether his extradition to the US would be compatible with the UK’s human rights obligations.

“Diplomatic assurances of humane treatment provided by the Government of the United States are not a sufficient guarantee to protect Mr. Assange against such risk,” Edwards said. “They are not legally binding, are limited in their scope, and the person the assurances aim to protect may have no recourse if they are violated.”

In addition, she asked the government to ensure that any extradition order is reviewed to ensure its full compliance with the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of refoulement to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and take all the necessary measures to safeguard Assange’s physical and mental health.

Assange has been imprisoned in the UK since 2019 after he left the Ecuadorian embassy where he had been seeking refuge for seven years.

Meanwhile, in the European Parliament, an exhibition dedicated to Assange opened on Tuesday (6 February), entitled “The Assange Case: Awards and Rewards”.

It features several awards he has received for his work with WikiLeaks, as well as honorary citizenships of the Italian city of Naples and artwork of him and his family.

Several Italian members of the European Parliament are also expected to be at the court hearing later in the month, with civil society organisations expected to protest in London and other European cities.

If the UK court rules in favour of his extradition, Assange will have exhausted all possible recourse under British law. His wife, Stella, has said that if this happens, they will try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to block the extradition.


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A. Fan
A. Fan
16 days ago

“If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime” comes to mind. Seems to me that Assange and his cohorts were fully aware of the risks. The end really doesn’t always justify the means. Should we excuse all manner of criminal activity because the victim ‘had it coming’? Allowing each individual to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore is a slippery slope that ultimately leads to total collapse of law and order. Western democracies elect representatives with the collective power to change ‘bad’ legislation every few years. Maybe that’s where Assange should also have focused his efforts.

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