Assange human rights Joe Lauria

Pressure Mounts on Patel Over Assange Decision

The British home secretary is under pressure as she’s about to decide whether to extradite WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
Priti Patel. (Number 10/Flickr)

By Joe Lauria / Consortium News

At some point during the next nine days, British Home Secretary Priti Patel will decide whether or not to extradite imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges for publishing accurate information revealing U.S. war crimes.

Pressure is building from both sides on the home secretary.  Press freedom and human rights organizations, a Nobel laureate, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, journalists and Assange supporters have appealed to Patel to let Assange go.  

While it would be deemed improper for outside influence to be brought on judges, it would not be fanciful to imagine that behind the scenes Patel is getting the message from the U.S. Department of Justice and possibly from U.S. and U.K. intelligence services about what is expected of her.

The home secretary should know without prodding what the U.S. and British governments want her to do. Patel is a highly-ambitious politician who no doubt will calculate how her decision will impact her career. 

“Politicians think about their next election, they think about their voters … that’s what makes them tick,” Kristinn Hrafnnson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, told Consortium News at a protest outside the Home Office in London last Wednesday. “For the first time it’s in the hands of a politician, and Priti Patel, if she wants to think about her legacy … she should do the right thing.” 

“Politics is a strange beast,” Hrafnsson said. “Anything can happen. I’m hoping this is something that will be taken up in the Cabinet here. Let’s not forget that Boris Johnson was a journalist. He was part of the media community and should have better understanding of this case than many others.”

Patel is acting after the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal of a High Court decision to overturn a lower court ruling barring Assange’s extradition on health grounds and the danger of U.S. prisons. The High Court decided solely on conditional U.S. promises that Assange would be well treated in custody.

With the courts no longer involved and the decision solely in Patel’s hands, the case now is purely political, meaning political pressure can be brought to bear on the home secretary.  

“The home secretary has the discretion to block this extradition, and there is a lot of pressure from civil society and press freedom groups for her to do so,” said Stella Assange at a film screening on Thursday. 

She said the “heaviest” pressure had come from Dunja Mijatovic, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, “urging Patel to block it.” Mijatovic wrote to Patel on May 10, saying: 

“I have been following the developments in Mr Assange’s case with great attention. In the judicial proceedings so far, the focus has mainly been on Mr Assange’s personal circumstances upon his possible extradition to the United States. While a very important matter, this also means, in my opinion, that the wider human rights implications of Mr Assange’s possible extradition, which reach far beyond his individual case, have not been adequately considered so far. 

In particular, it is my view that the indictment by the United States against Mr Assange raises important questions about the protection of those that publish classified information in the public interest, including information that exposes human rights violations. The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Mr Assange, and of the offences listed in the indictment, are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond. 

Consequently, allowing Mr Assange’s extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies.”

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquive has also written to Patel. “I join the growing collective concern about the violations of the human, civil and political rights of Mr. Julian Assange,” the Argentine wrote. He called the extradition request “illegal and abusive” and said it imperiled press freedom and could bring “potentially fatal consequences” to Assange. 

Amnesty International released a statement at the end of April calling on Patel to deny extradition. “If the Home Secretary certifies the US request to extradite Julian Assange it will violate the prohibition against torture and set an alarming precedent for publishers and journalists around the world,” Amnesty said. It went on:

“Prolonged solitary confinement is a regular occurrence in the USA’s maximum-security prisons. The practice amounts to torture or other ill-treatment, which is prohibited under international law. The assurances of fair treatment offered by the USA in Julian Assange’s case are deeply flawed and could be revoked at any time. Extradition to the USA would put Assange at risk of serious human rights violations, and hollow diplomatic assurances cannot protect him from such abuse.

If the UK government allows a foreign country to exercise extraterritorial criminal jurisdiction to prosecute a person publishing from the UK, other governments could use the same legal apparatus to imprison journalists and silence the press far beyond the borders of their own countries.” 

“There has been a huge mobilization all over Europe in many countries and 1,800 journalists have written an open letter to Priti Patel saying that this case should be blocked because it affects their safety because of the implications for global press freedom,” Stella Assange said. 

Reporters Without Borders submitted a petition to Patel on Thursday with 65,000 signatures. It was delivered to British embassies in eight countries, Assange said.  More than  700,000 Australians have also signed a petition.

New Australian Government  

The election on Friday of just the fourth Labor government in Australia since the Second World War may bode well for Assange. The new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said publicly that Assange should be returned to his native Australia. 

It is now up to the new prime minister to pick up the phone and call Joe Biden to tell him that “enough is enough” means the prosecution must be dropped and Assange sent home. He also knows Patel’s phone number. 

“Albanese, I hope he will stick to his promises and convictions,” Hrafnsson said. But he is skeptical. “I’ve been a journalist for 30 years to rely on politicians is something … I’d rather be betting on the card table I guess.” 

Cross Appeal 

If Patel decides to extradite Assange it’s not the end of the legal road for Assange. He has the option of launching a “cross” appeal to the High Court. Though he won in magistrate’s court on health grounds and the condition of U.S. prisons, the judge ruled on every other point of law in Washington’s favor. 

Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied that the case was a political offense in violation of the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty; that it violated the U.S. first amendment and threatened press freedom; and that Assange’s rights to due process were violated when it was revealed that the C.I.A. had spied on privileged conversations with his lawyers and she ignored testimony that the C.I.A. had discussed kidnapping or poisoning Assange.  

“The judges will have all the other elements, the important elements, that were discussed by the magistrate’s court but disregarded by the High Court because it was not the appeal point,” Hrafnsson said. The U.S. appeal was only about Assange’s health and U.S. prison conditions and Washington won because it convinced the judges of the credibility of its conditional assurances to treat Assange humanely.  

Since Baraitser’s Jan. 4, 2021 decision, other facts have emerged that could form part of the cross appeal. The C.I.A. plot against Assange was further corroborated by U.S. officials in a Yahoo! News report. A key U.S. witness on computer charges against Assange recanted his testimony. And Assange’s health has further deteriorated when he suffered a mini-stroke last October.  

Assange’s legal team hopes the High Court will hear the cross appeal on at least some of the nine points it would raise. “If Priti Patel signs the extradition, then we will be given the opportunity to seek to appeal on all the points that were lost,” said Stella Assange. “It’s basically as if we had lost back in 2021. That’s the position we are in now. ”

Joe Lauria

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.  He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe 

20 comments

  1. 70 Percent of Australians want Assange sent home?
    And England is Ignoring this?

    Time for Australia to have a Revolution…….

  2. I’ve donated to Julian’s defense fund and have written and called my reps and the DOJ. Is there anything else I can do in the next nine days to help him? I am in the U.S.

  3. Priti Patel is cruel; she’s demonstrated that countless times, most recently in her treatment of Ukrainian
    refugees. The question in the Assange extradition case with most of the world watching is political.
    Which decision–extradite or block–will best benefit Patel’s political career, as she sees it?

  4. I am grateful for the hope that Julian Assange might be freed. His incarceration has saddened us for years.

  5. Sending Assange to the US will ignite a backlash so huge that all so-called free governments will sufferd greatly , much to the benefit of the people in the long run. Fascism is alive and well, and with it, Corruption so deep and wide that it is almost impossible for Patel to ignore her overlords. This is a test of conscience,
    good judgments, fairness, and most of all, the right to report truth to the public even when the Corrupt free states are guilty of crimes against humanity etc.

    The decision will result in a Legacy far reaching no matter what the outcome. Karma is at work and is very real. What is intended not always results in the intended outcome. (i.e. things backfire). The law of unintended consequences of the Cosmos is at work playing its games on humanity-hopefully in ways that benefit us all.. Truth Simplicity and Love will be the future of humanity whether we like it or not.

    1. Edward your views are welcome. Love Kindness Compassion.The greatest power in the Universe.Yes the Kamaric Laws will no doubt define all outcomes.Metta Ed

    2. @Edward William Case
      “Sending Assange to the US will ignite a backlash so huge that all so-called free governments will suffer[] greatly …”

      While I wish that were true, I don’t see how you can say that. I’d bet that most Americans don’t even know who Assange is, and the of the ones who do, the majority buys the U.S. propaganda & lies about him. If the Collateral Murder video didn’t shake things up, Assange’s extradition to the U.S. certainly won’t.

  6. I think the real crime here was embarrassing a bunch of cruddy, scummy politicians. That one will always get you in the crosshairs. Look at the Pentagon Papers. As an American, I understand we have an intelligence industrial complex as well as a military industrial complex….

    1. @Ethan Fanshel
      I call it the military/intelligence/industrial complex. There’s no way I’m letting the deep state spooks off the hook.

  7. Related
    No disability rights organization, specifically autism rights organization has said a word about the cruelty, the torture, the abuses Assange has been enduring all these years.
    A very close friend, who is autistic, has contacted the one organization ran by autistic people (in the US) and they have yet to give her a response about their silence. For context, this organization is always in the frontlines defending abuse in schools, and has been fighting, for years, a facility in Massachusetts (they call it a school) that shocks the people as a form of demanding compliance (The Judge Rotenberg Center). Juan Mendez, the UN rapporteur on torture, declared that the shocks are torture, and and another UN Special Rapporteur on Torture declared that what is happening to Assange is torture. Yet, disability rights organizations choose to ignore Assange’s case. Julian Assange is autistic. The autistic community, the disability community, rightly point out that disability/autism rights are human rights. I guess some people are more human than others. It is unconscionable.

    1. @Adriana Avila
      From what I’ve seen, disability rights groups are very conservative except when it comes to their specific issues. Advocating for Assange would be a step too far for them I’m afraid.

      1. I am sorry I only saw this today. Actually, most organizations I know side on the more liberal side of things. Most are non-profit so they cannot endorse candidates but they are strongly on the side of the establishment in the US, the democrat establishment. I know several of the members in the boards and I know how they vote and who they support. It doesn’t really matter, torture is torture and it is wrong. Their fear is of losing the money from donations form bigger organizations. Strings are firmly attached.

      2. @Adriana Avila
        Liberals, at least in the sense that you’re using it, ARE conservative.

  8. THE LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES.
    As a Australian l’m ashamed of the way a citizen of this country has been treated by the USA ,BRITIAN & the current government of Australia. This is having unintended consequences.
    There is a growing feeling in this country for a reassessment of its Foreign policy..Particulary a in cultivating a closer relationship with our Asian Neighbours. China is held by many here with high regard..This belligerent attitude by West towards China is not considered thoughtful and does not reflect ordinary Australian views.
    Also a changing demographic is having a significant impact in the Country. It is quickly becoming an Eurasian nation ,giving it a more integrated view of itself & the region. A matter of Goeography really.

    The treatment of Jullian by Foreign Countries exercising their power illegally over an Australian Citizen is an insult to all Australians & all freedom loving people…(His only crime is that he has told the truth as a lnternational Journalist.)
    Notwithstanding the egregious crime being commited here against a innocent victim, this is having deleterious impact apon our view of traditional allies & their attack apon freedom of expression by the Press & peoples throughout the world.
    Australia should not be viewed or treated as an appendage of European Colonialism and Washington policy. The treatment of Julian Assange has added meaning in this Country.

  9. Under US urgings the UKRANIANS have convicted a RUSSIAN soldier for killing a civilian. The US however convicts those who publish video of US military civilian killings. Those who shot the Iraqi’s including a reporter from their helicopter still haven’t been charged.

  10. Putin wants his stooge Assange to be freed as well. After all of Assange’s good work making up the conspiracy garbage about DNC staffer Seth Rich death. If he’d be freed Assange could help Putin again getting Trump elected for the second time

    1. Every sentence you utter is rubbish. Its you that is making up the conspiracy garbage.

  11. “With the courts no longer involved and the decision solely in Patel’s hands, the case now is purely political, meaning political pressure can be brought to bear on the home secretary. ”

    Contrary to what you claim in your above statement, the case is not “purely political”; Patel has to abide to specific provisions of the Law of the Extradition Act 2003 as follows from the UK gov. website and I quote :

    “Home Secretary’s role in extradition

    Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Home Secretary’s role is to sign extradition orders. The Home Secretary is bound by law to sign the order unless one of the following grounds for refusal are met:

    Whether the person is at risk of the death penalty;
    Whether specialty arrangements are in place (these need to be in place to ensure that an extradited person only faces proceedings in respect of the conduct for which extradition was ordered). If the requesting state wishes to proceed on the basis of another offence, they must request the UK’s consent before doing so;
    Whether the person concerned has previously been extradited from another country to the UK and the consent of that country to their onward extradition is required; and
    Whether the person has previously been transferred to the UK by the International Criminal Court.

    Individuals have the opportunity to submit representations to the Secretary of State on these grounds.

    If none of the above four tests provide grounds to refuse the request, the Home Secretary must order extradition. The Home Secretary cannot, by law, consider any other grounds.”

    1. @Lowell
      You’re living in some fantasy if you think that politicians or even judges make decisions based on law. These are ALL political decisions, and they’ll just find the laws that support what they want to do. I’ll be shocked if the U.S. lapdog that calls itself the U.K. doesn’t extradite Assange as its master wants. If an honest press corps existed and there were substantial pressure on the government to free Assange, he might have a chance. But since the press works for the same ruling class as the politicians, I see no realistic chance here.

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