After the U.K. Supreme Court rejected his petition to appeal, hope seems to be running out for Julian Assange. We discuss the court’s ruling and the way forward. Watch the replay.
Julian Assange, the imprisoned publisher of WikiLeaks, is running out of options to avoid extradition to the United States. The UK Supreme Court this week refused his petition to appeal a High Court ruling that cleared the way to send him to stand trial in Alexandria, Virginia.
Assange is accused of committing espionage by publishing accurate information that revealed U.S. crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces up to 175 years in a U.S. dungeon.
Assange had won his case to bar extradition in a magistrate’s court in London in January 2021. The judge, who sided with the U.S. on every point of law, said however that he was too suicidal and U.S. prisons were too harsh to send him to the U.S. After losing its case, the U.S. made diplomatic assurances to Britain that Assange would receive adequate health care and would not be put under draconian Special Administrative Measures or SAMS in a U.S. prison.
Based on those assurances, the U.S. appealed the district judge’s decision not to extradite, to the High Court of England Wales. The High did not dispute the lower court ruling at all, that Assange was too sick to extradite. But it wiped that all away exclusively on the strength of the U.S. promises and allowed the extradition to go ahead. The High Court didn’t doubt that U.S. prisons were horrible. It didn’t doubt that Assange was too suicidal to be sent there. It just believed that the DOJ, the BOP and the CIA, which has a say in national security cases, would treat Assange humanely.
His lawyers protested that those assurances should have been presented during the lower court hearing so that they could have challenged them. Instead the High Court accepted the promises, unchallenged.
The petition for appeal that Assange filed with the Supreme Court did not challenge the credibility of the U.S. promises, which a British court would very unlikely question. But rather the law on the timing of when those assurances should have been submitted, in other words during the lower court hearing and not afterwards. Even on those narrow grounds the Supreme Court rejected the petition saying it did not rise to a point of law of sufficient public interest.
The case was sent to Home Secretary Priti Patel. Assange has four weeks to make submissions to Patel to persuade her not to send him to Alexandria.
If Patel rejects Assange’s arguments, and there is every indication that she will, she will send the case back to magistrate’s court where it began, to execute the extradition. It is at that point that Assange’s team can launch a cross appeal to the High Court, to challenge all of the points of law that the lower court judge agreed with when she decided not to extradite Assange solely on the basis of his health and the condition of U.S. prisons.
If the High Court rejects the cross appeal, Assange’s last stand is the European Court of Human Rights, but even if that court rules in his favor, Britain might well ignore its decision as it is up to members states of the Council of Europe to enforce rulings themselves.