The Crime of Journalism and the Attempts to Extradite Julian Assange

The Crime of Journalism and the Attempts to Extradite Julian Assange
Mr Assange and District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, January 2021, Julia Quenzler Ho (BBC)

04/11/2021

Luuk Lars Breebaart

International Justice Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defencse.

The U.S. government has once more initiated proceedings to have Julian Assange extradited for his role as whistleblower concerning crimes committed by U.S. Armed forces in the Middle East. [1] Amidst a row of legal proceedings in the UK, where Julian Assange is currently incarcerated, the U.S. seeks to overturn Judge Baraitser’s January decision that Assange could not be extradited for fears over his mental health and likelihood of suicide in a U.S. prison. If he were to be extradited, Assange would be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, as per his 23 May 2019 indictment, counting a total of 18 charges. [2] If convicted, he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison. 

The idea that ones’ freedom of speech takes primacy over confidential, yet immoral acts committed by governments, and informing the masses of such acts, have made whistleblowers prime targets for those wishing to silence them. Julian Assange, who, with the help of Chelsea Manning, published the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ video of the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike on 5 April 2010, have been targets themselves ever since. [3] The legality of the airstrike has been questioned extensively, including that it ought to be considered a war crime.

Protests for his release, and the dropping of charges raised against him have been ever present since his original indictment and current imprisonment in the UK. The High Court decision on the extradition appeal, whose ruling is expected to be made by the end of November 2021, however, will most likely not be the end of it. The losing side may still appeal the decision at the Supreme Court if the High Court does not remand the case. 

Sources and further reading:

[1] Stefan Simanowitz, ‘Julian Assange must be freed, now: The US government’s efforts to extradite the Wikileaks founder pose a grave threat to press freedom both in the US and abroad’ (Aljazeera, 27 October 2021) <https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/10/27/free-julian-assange-now> accessed 3 November 2021

[2] United States of America v. Julian Paul Assange (Superseding Indictment), District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 1:18-cr-00111-CMH, 23 May 2019

[3] Wikileaks, ‘Collateral Murder’ (Wikileaks, 5 April 2010) <https://collateralmurder.wikileaks.org/> accessed 3 November 2021