WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will continue his fight in court against extradition to the US on 24 February. The US case for extradition of the publisher – effectively for the ‘crime’ of exposing government wrongdoing – is littered with flaws and faces widespread opposition from the public.
Now, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights has put another spanner in the works in the case against Assange. The commissioner, Dunja Mijatović, has released a statement insisting that the WikiLeaks founder should not face extradition. She’s not the only senior human rights figure doing so either.
Mijatović released the statement on 20 February, just days before the next round in Assange’s fight against extradition. It reads:
Julian Assange’s potential extradition has human rights implications that reach far beyond his individual case. The indictment raises important questions about the protection of those that publish classified information in the public interest, including those that expose human rights violations.
Assange faces 18 charges in the US indictment against him. All of them relate to his publishing, in particular for releasing classified cables and information regarding the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. As Mijatović says, many of the charges against him “concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond”. As a result, the commissioner asserts, any extradition based on such alleged offences, would have a “chilling effect” on the media and impair its ability to hold power to account.
Mijatović also raises the risk Assange faces at the hands of the US authorities, both in terms of any sentence itself – which could be up to 175 years – and detention conditions. She concludes:
In view of both the press freedom implications and the serious concerns over the treatment Julian Assange would be subjected to in the United States, my assessment as Commissioner for Human Rights is that he should not be extradited.