Craig Murray: New Legal Hurdles for Julian Assange

Assuming Home Secretary Priti Patel authorizes extradition, the matter returns to the original magistrate’s court for execution. That is where this process takes a remarkable twist.

Middlesex Guildhall in London, home of U.K.Supreme Court. (Tristan Surtel, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Craig Murray

With Julian Assange still, for no rational reason, held in maximum security, the legal process around his extradition continues to meander its way through the overgrown bridlepaths of the UK’s legal system. On Monday, the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal, which was based on the grounds of his health and the effect upon it of incarceration in the conditions of the United States prison service. It stated his appeal had “no arguable legal grounds.”

This is a setback which is, most likely, going to keep him in jail for at least another year.

The legal grounds which the High Court had previously ruled to be arguable were that the U.S. government should not have been permitted to give at appeal new (and highly conditional) diplomatic assurances about Assange’s treatment, which had not been offered at the court of first instance to be considered in the initial decision. One important argument that this should not be allowed is that if given to the original court, the defence could argue about the value and conditionality of such assurances; evidence could be called and the matter weighed by the court.

By introducing the assurances only at the appeal stage – which is only on points of law and had no fact-finding remit – the U.S. had avoided any scrutiny of their validity. The Home Office have always argued that diplomatic assurances must simply be accepted without question. The Home Office is keen on this stance because it makes extradition to countries with appalling human rights records much easier.

In saying there is no arguable point of law, the Supreme Court is accepting that diplomatic assurances are not tested and are to be taken at face value – which has been a major point of controversy in recent jurisprudence. It is now settled that Britain will send someone back to Saudi Arabia if the Saudis give us a piece of paper promising not to chop their head off.

It interested me in particular that the Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal on the basis that there was “no arguable point of law.” When the Supreme Court refused to hear my own appeal against imprisonment, they rather stated their alternative formulation, that there was “no arguable point of law of general public interest.” Meaning there was an arguable point of law, but it was merely an individual injustice, that did not matter to anybody except Craig Murray.

My own view is that, with the Tory government very open about their desire to clip the wings of judges and reduce the reach of the Supreme Court in particular, the Court is simply avoiding hot potatoes at present.

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel at Essex Police Headquarters for new recruits’ graduation parade, October 2020. (Pippa Fowles, No 10 Downing Street, Flickr)

So the extradition now goes to Priti Patel, the home secretary, to decide whether to extradite. The defence has four weeks to make representations to Patel, which she must hear. There are those on the libertarian right of the Tory party who oppose the extradition on freedom of speech grounds, but Patel has not a libertarian thought in her head and appears to revel in deportation, so personally I hold out no particular hope for this stage.

Assuming Patel does authorise extradition, the matter returns to the original magistrate’s court and to Judge Vanessa Baraitser for execution. That is where this process takes a remarkable twist.

The appeals process that has just concluded was the appeal initiated by the United States government, against Baraitser’s original ruling that the combination of Assange’s health and the conditions he would face in U.S. jails, meant that he could not be extradited. The United States government succeeded in this appeal at the High Court. Assange then tried to appeal against that High Court verdict to the Supreme Court, and was refused permission.

But Assange himself has not yet appealed to the High Court, and he can do so, once the matter has been sent back to Baraitser by Patel. His appeal will be against those grounds on which Baraitser initially found in favour of the United States. These are principally:

  • the misuse of the extradition treaty which specifically prohibits political extradition;
  • the breach of the UNCHR Article 10 right of freedom of speech;
  • the misuse of the U.S. Espionage Act
  • the use of tainted, paid evidence from a convicted fraudster who has since publicly admitted his evidence was false
  • the lack of foundation to the hacking charge

None of these points have yet been considered by the High Court. It seems a remarkably strange procedure that having been through the appeals process once, the whole thing starts again after Priti Patel has made her decision, but that is the crazy game of snake and ladders the law puts us through. It is fine for the political establishment, of course, because it enables them to keep Assange locked up under maximum security in Belmarsh.

The defence had asked the High Court to consider what are called the “cross-appeal” points at the same time as hearing the U.S. appeal, but the High Court refused.

So the ray of light that was Baraitser’s ruling on health and prison conditions is now definitively snuffed out. That means that rather than the possibility of release by the Supreme Court this summer, Assange faces at least another year in Belmarsh, which must be a huge blow to him just before his wedding.

On the brighter side, it means that finally, in a senior court, the arguments that will really matter will be heard. I have always felt ambivalent about arguments based on Assange’s health, when there is so much more at stake, and I have never personally reported the health issues out of respect for his privacy. But now the High Court will have to consider whether it really wishes to extradite a journalist for publishing evidence of systematic war crimes by the state requesting his extradition.

Now that will be worth reporting.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

16 comments for “Craig Murray: New Legal Hurdles for Julian Assange

  1. Alistair
    March 17, 2022 at 11:57

    I find it interesting that, at a time when the West is condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and the President of the United States has condemned the Russian President for committing war crimes, that that same country (the US), aided and abetted by the UK, should be seeking to extradite and then incarcerate for a significant number of years whose only ‘crime’ was bringing incidences of war crimes to the public’s attention. Kafkaesque.

  2. mark parker
    March 16, 2022 at 08:38

    The principal is wrong. It’s like a machine that cannot function because it’s been sabotaged. It should be powerful, but the oil has been drained.

    Australia’s most wanted was recently arrested for Conspiracy to murder. Pompeo and Trump were not.

    Civilizations fail when laws only apply to one class of people and not to all classes.

    No criminals should ever be above just law.

    Yet in the UK we see war criminals protected from all prosecution despite the horrific nature of crimes. In the US it’s clearly the same. Where there is no hint even of prosecution despite clear evidence.

    At the other extreme is imprisonment without trial nor crime. Anyone facing jail deserves a just trial before a jury, so the people have their say in justice. There is no higher authority. Governments exist to serve them.

    Nor is there anyone more equipped to judge between right and wrong than the people.

    Nine years imprisonment in Australia for refugees without crime and without trial is outrageous, it’s both illegal and unacceptable. As is the imprisonment or prosecution of whistleblowers for doing the right thing.

    Government is to serve the people. Those exposing government crime also serve the people.

    Law is to punish the guilty and protect the innocent.

    Just law is not to prosecute the innocent and protect the guilty! That is injustice! Some may struggle with the idea, the people do not.

    Government authority in instances of law can be untrustworthy. Look again at the UK who’s justice system is failing from the top. High courts and Supreme courts must make their rulings by excluding the people, by refusing to employ juries. To suggest they are not needed, when clearly they are.

    Look at the Blair case, no Jury.
    The equally scandalous extradition case against Julian Assange. A responsible and truthful journalist who has broken no law. A man gallant in his service to all of mankind.
    And now suffering extremely harsh jail time and treatment, sentenced indefinitely without the safety of a jury.

    Excluding juries is the only way a corrupt judiciary can prevail.

    It’s outrageous to have scandalous knaves mocking law with rampant corruption.

    Law belongs to nations. Nations stand or they fall based on the impartial application of law. There is a terrible cost for allowing law to be subverted.

    The Australian government lift no finger to prevent this unjust abuse of a great Australian, why is that?

    Just know, there is no strength in corruption. It has no honour. It is never admired. History and future generations will look on it with revulsion and disgust.

  3. John
    March 15, 2022 at 20:38

    Thank you for explaining this complex legal process.

  4. Brockroach exterminator
    March 15, 2022 at 19:59

    The process IS the point. The government has no life-span, and thus is in no hurry to speed this along. Why should it when it has Assange exactly where it wants him? When Assange is extradited to the U.S., be assured that he will languish here in pretrial detention while the government delays, claiming that delays are essential for “national security” purposes, and when he is convicted, his appeals will again drag on for years. I am sickened and utterly disgusted with the illegal and unconstitutional treatment of Assange. His situation is yet another example of how thoroughly our system of government has been co-opted by the .01%. The bill of rights is nothing more than a psy-op used to placate ordinary people and bolster the myth that we have a government of laws, not men.

  5. Em
    March 15, 2022 at 19:19

    Those who own and operate the criminal enterprise, called the global economy, whose head is the United States of America, are utterly rational.
    They definitely have their reasons; devoid of the emotions of the rights of humans and direct democracy, or any such facsimile thereof.
    This is cold-blooded gangsterism, run amok, even according to their international rules of law.
    Smedley Butler spoke the truth, already way back when.
    The ongoing American ‘racket of war’ is as criminal an enterprise as it ever was.
    If Ukraine is not the ultimate expression of this conniving enterprises modus operandi, then nothing is.
    The honorable journalist and publisher, Julian Assange, let this insatiably voracious feral cat out of the bag.
    The wrath of the god of money continues, unabated, to show us that vengeance knows no bounds.

  6. Anonymotron
    March 15, 2022 at 17:02

    Tnx CN, Mr. Craig Murray.
    Mr. Murray deserves our thanks just as CN Contributer Mr. John Kiriaku & indeed Mr. Julian Assange himself do: Paying The Price 4 the modern Crime of Speaking Truth 2 Power.
    I admit Id be reluctant 2 put This Much $$$ where My Mouth is!
    Heroism X 3!!!

  7. March 15, 2022 at 16:56

    It is a sad commentary on the US that our MSM has absolutely no interest in this important case. I’m particularly surprised that the Press (our MSM) is not concerned. What does that say about us? Does it say that our press is not even remotely interested in the truth, and if our government wants to imprison a reporter or editor (Assange is arguably both) for telling the truth that’s perfectly o.k? As far as I can tell, CN is the only place to find information about Julian that is current. Thank you CN and keep it up! And thank you Craig Murray for your informative comments!

  8. peter tusinskiI am
    March 15, 2022 at 12:57

    I am astounded by the lack of any sort of morality, compassion and common decency in the British judiciary. These lords and ladies are r than lapdogs to US foreign policy but more likely accomplices in the most unjust proxy murder of the century May they all get their just deserts either here or in the afterlife.

  9. Mike Maddden
    March 15, 2022 at 10:55

    Excellent analysis Mr. Murray. I am in agreement that the issues at stake in the cross appeal are of far greater consequence than the single issue in play during the US appeal.

    Free Julian Assange. Free all political prisoners held by the United States.

  10. Linda
    March 15, 2022 at 10:43

    It’s been difficult to finally accept that the UK and the US are the lying, sadistic cowards they’ve repeatedly shown themselves to be in this case against Assange, the torture chambers of Abu Graib, and their sick, twisted definitions of ‘freedom’ putting them in bed with fanatic jihadists and neo-Nazis alike toward any end.

  11. Anna
    March 15, 2022 at 10:37

    The dishonorable Keir Starmer, known as a protector of Savile (the most famous and sadistic pedophile in the UK) has been actively involved in the victimization of Julian Assange.
    According to the dishonorable Keir Starmer, the extradition system attacking Julian Assange is ‘very good.’ On the other hand, the case of the young motorcyclist killed by CIA agent Anne Sacoolas (who then fled to the US and was protected from extradition by the US security state) was approved by Keir Starmer. He has an exceptionally flexible spine and no morals.
    It looks like the legal system in the UK is thoroughly rotten thanks to the opportunists like Keir Starmer and the whole stinky flowerbed of the UK Supreme Court justices. hxxps://

  12. Ray Peterson
    March 15, 2022 at 10:24

    Consortium News, please consider reporting on a few issues: one, does Stella and kids get to see Julian at
    Belmarsh prison? If so, will they get to see him in a U.S. gulag?
    Who will be the judge at the High Court and will that person(s) be as corruptly biased as Baraitser?
    Considering that the U.K. is the headquarters for the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine
    against Russia, will the CIA and MI6 still have a commanding role in Assange’s appeal?
    Gratefully for you and Consortium’s authentic journalism.

      March 16, 2022 at 00:35

      She does from time to time get to visit Julian Assange in prison. They are to be married later this month in Belmarsh, but so far no photos are allowed, Stella may not be allowed to hold flowers, and all guests (five) must leave as soon as the ceremony is over. It will be the same two High Court judges who sided with the US appeal that will decide whether or not to accept a cross appeal. The CIA has already done enormous damage to Assange.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    March 15, 2022 at 08:22

    Bah! British “justice” is clearly no better than American “justice” and you should read what the Chinese had to say about American justice.

  14. Mike
    March 15, 2022 at 08:16

    Thank you

  15. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    March 15, 2022 at 08:02

    Qui est cette fasciste sur la photo?

    Pour afficher le coquelicot, symbole du fascisme occidental, il faut être psychopathe.

Comments are closed.