On Friday, the British High Court ruled that journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States. The ruling has prompted human rights and press freedom groups to issue condemnations over the decision, with many describing it as a “travesty of justice,” and “hammer blow to free expression.”
In a response to the ruling, Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders 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,” he added. “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,” he added.
“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 said.
“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 director stated, The Independent reported.
“The US government’s indictment poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad,” he added. “If upheld, it would undermine the key role of journalists and publishers in scrutinizing governments and exposing their misdeeds would leave journalists everywhere looking over their shoulders.”
The general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Michelle Stanistreet, described the ruling as “a hammer blow to free expression.”
We have repeatedly urged the Department of Justice to drop its prosecution of Julian Assange, in coalition with two dozen civil liberties and press freedom organizations including ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and more https://t.co/BXfFo8vAJQ— Freedom of the Press (@FreedomofPress) December 10, 2021
“Any journalist who thought they might upset a US administration will reasonably fear that they too could be targeted by a judicial snatch squad,” she said. “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.”
The U.S.-based Freedom of the Press Foundation described the ruling as a “black mark on the history of press freedom.”
“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,” he stated. “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.”
Julian Assange’s fiancee says that the journalist suffered a stroke in prison on October 27 on the first day of the hearing brought by the United States in its continued attempts to extradite him.
She said that the stroke was due to the “constant chess game” and “battle after battle” over his future, The Independent reported. Assange is currently being held at Belmarsh, Britain's high-security prison for men, since his arrest in April 2019, when he was extracted from the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange was given refuge in the London premises for almost seven years.
“Julian Assange suffered a stroke on the first day of the High Court appeal hearing on October 27th. He needs to be freed. Now,” wrote Assange’s fiancee Stella Morris, with whom he has two children.