A British court on December 9 granted a request by the U.S. government that Britain extradite Julian Assange to the United States, despite the journalist’s deteriorated health, citing the Biden administration’s “guarantee” of humanitarian treatment. The court’s ruling overturns last January’s decision of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which had rejected the extradition on humanitarian grounds.
The judge’s ruling states that there are sufficient assurances that the WikiLeaks founder will be treated properly on U.S. soil. One cannot help but wonder what “guarantees” could be offered by the United States, a country that continues its extrajudicial detentions in the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where serious human rights violations are routine — something WikiLeaks helped reveal.
Although there are still chances to appeal, the ruling is a setback in the fight against extradition and for the freedom of the Australian journalist. The U.S. government now has a clearer path to making the extradition a reality.
The persecution of Assange has been denounced by a wide range of human rights organizations, journalists, and defenders of freedoms around the world. The Australian journalist’s condition is very serious after 11 years of arbitrary detention, and nine years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, without access to sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and adequate medical care. Assange’s physical health is quite deteriorated, his mental health is fragile, and there have been several suicide attempts. So, this ruling represents a danger to his life. Assange faces 175 years in prison for exposing U.S. war crimes.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh maximum security prison, south of London, since April 2019, when he was forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy by British agents.
The persecution of Julian Assange is a sign of the hypocrisy of U.S. imperialism, which attacks freedom of the press at the very moment Biden is holding a “Summit for Democracy” in an effort to win international support against China and Russia.
It is now urgent to redouble the campaign for the immediate release of Assange, both because of his health conditions and because this is an attack on freedom of the press, especially for those who denounce the abuses of U.S. imperialism around the world.
Immediate freedom for Julian Assange. #FreeAssange
First published in Spanish on December 10 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translation by Scott Cooper