Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is deeply concerned by the UK High Court’s decision rejecting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s appeal against his extradition order, bringing him dangerously close to being extradited to the United States, where he could face the rest of his life in prison for publishing leaked classified documents in 2010.
In a three-page written decision issued on 6 June, a single judge, Justice Swift, rejected all eight grounds of Assange’s appeal against the extradition order signed by then-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2022. This leaves only one final step in the UK courts, as the defence has five working days to submit an appeal of only 20 pages to a panel of two judges, who will convene a public hearing. Further appeals will not be possible at the domestic level, but Assange could bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“It is absurd that a single judge can issue a three-page decision that could land Julian Assange in prison for the rest of his life and permanently impact the climate for journalism around the world. The historical weight of what happens next cannot be overstated; it is time to put a stop to this relentless targeting of Assange and act instead to protect journalism and press freedom. Our call on President Biden is now more urgent than ever: drop these charges, close the case against Assange, and allow for his release without further delay.Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s Director of Campaigns
Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, made a statement on Twitter: “On Tuesday next week my husband Julian Assange will make a renewed application for appeal to the High Court. The matter will then proceed to a public hearing before two new judges at the High Court and we remain optimistic that we will prevail and that Julian will not be extradited to the United States where he faces charges that could result in him spending the rest of his life in a maximum security prison for publishing true information that revealed war crimes committed by the U.S. government.”
This is the latest stage in more than three years of legal proceedings in UK courts, as the US government has made its case to extradite Assange in order to try him on 18 counts in connection with WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents that informed public interest reporting around the world. Although the first instance court ruled against extradition on mental health grounds, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision in consideration of diplomatic assurances presented by the US government. Assange would be the first publisher prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which lacks a public interest defence. He faces a combined total sentence of a possible 175 years in prison.
RSF is the only NGO to have monitored the entire extradition proceedings despite extensive barriers to observation. In April 2023, RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire and Director of Campaigns Rebecca Vincent were arbitrarily barred access to visit Assange in Belmarsh prison, where he has been held on remand for more than four years. RSF continues to seek access to the prison and to campaign globally for Assange’s release.
Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) is an international non-profit organisation governed by principles of democratic governance. We are neither a trade union nor a representative of media companies.
Founded in 1985 in Montpellier by four journalists, RSF is at the forefront of the defence and promotion of freedom of information. Recognised as a public interest organisation in France since 1995, RSF has consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF).