Julian Assange, the creator of Wikileaks, had his extradition appeal rejected by the High Court yesterday. The court did not consider that his extradition to Sweden would be ‘unfair and unlawful’, as his legal team has submitted.
Swedish authorities are seeking to have Assange extradited, from the UK, over allegations that he sexually assaulted two different women during a visit to Stockholm in 2010. Assange has denied the accusations and has said that any sexual contact between him and the two women concerned was consensual and that no sexual assault took place.
Although Assange has yet to be charged, Swedish prosecutors issued a European Arrest Warrant for his extradition so that they could question him over the allegations.
Assanges’ lawyers have argued that such arrest warrants are not valid when they are solely concerned with the questioning of a suspect. However, at a previous hearing, lawyers appearing on behalf of the Swedish prosecutor’s office clarified that Assange would be charged if he is extradited.
The decision was made by President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Sir John Thomas, who sat with Mr Justice Ouseley. The warrant itself had been issued by a prosecutor, not a judicial authority, which the High Court considered immaterial in relation to its validity. The judges said that the prosecutor’s actions were subject to independent judicial scrutiny in Sweden.
Assange has resisted extradition on several grounds. For example, his legal team claimed that his human rights would be breached and that his life would be in danger if the extradition was granted, as he risked facing ‘rendition’ to the US.
“There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the US will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA, where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantánamo Bay or elsewhere … there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty,” according to the skeleton argument submitted by Assange’s lawyers.
The court gave Assange time to consider whether to apply to take his case to the Supreme Court for a final ruling. However, for such an appeal to be granted, his lawyers must show that the case raises issues of general public importance.
Assange has continually held that the case is politically motivated and that it is an attempt to stop him from revealing state secrets. The allegations were made towards Assange whilst the Australian was living temporarily in the UK on a visa. Many people around the world are carefully following Assange’s struggle, and he has wide support from many freedom of information campaigners. Regardless of the end result, the case is likely to be criticised from one side or the other.
More on immigration and human right: