Assange – the legal battle is not over

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By BALTASAR GARZON*

US and England systematically violate Assange's rights, yet extradition could be reversed

Ten years ago, on June 19, 2012, Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he would remain until April 11, 2019.

I remember that when I took over the coordination of his defense, a month later, I thought that we were all affected by the fight that Assange had undertaken since 2010, horrifying and terrible news was published in the main newspapers of the world, revealing the cruelty of the US army and the authorities who directed the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A few days ago, the decision of the British Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel, to agree to hand over Julian Assange to the United States, will go down in the history of ignominy. It is a decision that criminalizes the activity of journalism in its essence. With it, it is understood that what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks did, receiving truthful information, which witnessed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing and publishing them as of public interest, can be punished as a crime and its authors tried and convicted. Therefore, Patel's decision is a precedent that puts every investigative journalist in the world at risk.

As in other countries, including Spain, the British extradition process relies on the intervention of the executive branch. In addition to going through the courts, with multiple instances and appeals, extraditions in the United Kingdom are also the responsibility of the Government.

Something that was very visible in the Pinochet case, in which the extradition to Spain of the Chilean general had been agreed in court, but, upon reaching British Minister of the Interior Jack Straw, he agreed to hand him over to his country of nationality, the Chile, supposedly due to his delicate state of health.

Although later, when the former Chilean dictator arrived in his country, he got out of his wheelchair and mockingly revealed to the world that his state of health was not the one alleged. The big difference between this case and the current one of Julian Assange is that that decision was intended to impunity for the dictator and with this the pursuit and conviction of the journalist was consummated.

Now, the Minister of the Interior, Patel, had humanitarian and health reasons for having blocked the extradition. Already in the first instance, before the district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, medical reports were released that testified, and thus affirmed, that the psychological and mental health situation of Julian Assange was so debilitated that he could die in prison.

Furthermore, the UN Rapporteur against Torture visited him in his place of detention, the high security prison of Belmarch, and also concluded that his deteriorating health condition made the possibility that he might die in a northern prison very credible. -American.

However, Boris Johnson's government, through Patel, has not shown any complacency for the journalist's health, as Straw did in his time in favor of the former Chilean dictator.

 

The legal battle begins

However, the decision adopted yesterday [June 20, 2022] does not mean the end of the extradition process in the United Kingdom, on the contrary, the nuclear part of the legal battle now begins. Against Minister Patel's decision will now be appealed to the British Supreme Court and, eventually, may also be made later to the UK Supreme Court.

All the arguments against extradition that were invoked by the defense and denied by the District Judge, Vanessa Baraitser, in the first instance, can now also be submitted to a “cross appeal”. At the time, Judge Baraitser denied extradition on the grounds that Julian Assange could die in a US prison, as he would be subject to a very severe prison system (Special Administrative Measures) and would enter a maximum security prison, a situation of abuse that would not find support in European norms.

The United States appealed against this humanitarian element, before the superior court, providing a set of vague and imprecise diplomatic guarantees about the treatment that would be given to the extradited journalist. Surprisingly, the superior court, in a concise sentence, decided to reverse the previous non-extradition decision.

Finally, the appeal before the Supreme Court, regarding this element, was not seen on its merits because, notably, the highest British judicial body understood that no legal element existed to analyze in the diplomatic guarantees given by the United States, even if the defense has given multiple precedents of violations of those same judicial guarantees by the United States with other European countries.

But now, all the legal elements that were denied in the first instance by Judge Baraitser, and that were not appealed, will be reviewed and studied on appeal (“cross appeal”) by the defense before the Superior Court.

And there are the most controversial legal elements of this extradition, such as the fact that we are facing political persecution because journalistic activity cannot be a crime, the lack of double criminality by the US Espionage Act of 1917 applied to the press, the violation of the principle of proportionality with penalties of up to 175 years in prison, or the abusive use of US jurisdiction in an extraterritorial manner to prosecute a foreign journalist who published abroad. (In Spain, for example, this possibility would be unfeasible, according to the Organic Law of the Judiciary).

All this will be clarified from now on, as the legal battle is not over, moreover, it is entering a path in which the true essence of the violation of the right to freedom of expression and nuclear defense of freedom of access to information will have to be determined. information and its dissemination.

In line with the above, in the event of the exhaustion of internal judicial bodies, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) would also remain, if the British Prime Minister, between one party and another, does not decide that Great Britain does not only the European Union, but also the Council of Europe and therefore the ECtHR.

 

Mike Pompeo's Satisfaction

One of the most striking elements of Minister Patel's decision was the scant support obtained. Virtually the entire international human rights community, including United Nations agencies, the Council of Europe and the most relevant civil society organizations, took a stand against it.

Of course, she got remarkable support: that of Mike Pompeo, former director of the CIA and former secretary of state during the administration of Donald Trump. It is delusional that Mike Pompeo hails Priti Patel's decision on Twitter a few days after it became known that the Spanish National Court has agreed to call him to testify as an investigator in relation to the case instructed by magistrate Judge Santiago Pedraz, head of the Central Court of Instruction 5.

The subpoena is due to the fact that a Spanish security company that was in charge of the security of the Embassy of Ecuador in London, when Julian Assange was in asylum, would have worked for the CIA using extreme measures of espionage through video cameras with microphones , hidden microphones hidden in the embassy, ​​and accessing the phones and IDs of visitors and lawyers when we left them at the entrance.

Along with Pompeo, William Evanina, who at the time was head of counterintelligence, is also expected to testify on the same condition. He recently confessed that the US intelligence community actually designed a plan to penetrate the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, gaining access to everything that went on inside.

But not only that, Evanina also told how they planned the kidnapping, and even the murder, of Julian Assange within the diplomatic mission. In the confession of Evanina and other CIA agents to the American press, it was very clear that Mike Pompeo was responsible for that operation and those proposals. And with these antecedents, authorization is granted for the delivery of Julian Assange to the USA.

It is truly dangerous that this decision could become effective.

International support is welcome and we need it to make British justice aware of the importance of this case and the need for the decision to be overturned if we are to continue believing in the goodness of a true rights protection system. Indeed, “we are all Julian Assange”.

*Baltasar Garzon was a judge of the Superior Court of Spain.

Translation: Cesar Locatelli protocols for Forum 21.

Originally Posted By elDiarioAr

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