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Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Pressure Mounts on Patel Over Assange Decision

Posted by M. C. on May 24, 2022

Consortium News

By Joe Lauria
in London
Special to Consortium News

At some point during the next nine days, British Home Secretary Priti Patel will decide whether or not to extradite imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges for publishing accurate information revealing U.S. war crimes.

Pressure is building from both sides on the home secretary.  Press freedom and human rights organizations, a Nobel laureate, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, journalists and Assange supporters have appealed to Patel to let Assange go. 

While it would be deemed improper for outside influence to be brought on judges, it would not be fanciful to imagine that behind the scenes Patel is getting the message from the U.S. Department of Justice and possibly from U.S. and U.K. intelligence services about what is expected of her.

The home secretary should know without prodding what the U.S. and British governments want her to do. Patel is a highly-ambitious politician who no doubt will calculate how her decision will impact her career. 

“Politicians think about their next election, they think about their voters … that’s what makes them tick,” Kristinn Hrafnnson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, told Consortium News at a protest outside the Home Office in London last Wednesday. “For the first time it’s in the hands of a politician, and Priti Patel, if she wants to think about her legacy … she should do the right thing.” 

“Politics is a strange beast,” Hrafnsson said. “Anything can happen. I’m hoping this is something that will be taken up in the Cabinet here. Let’s not forget that Boris Johnson was a journalist. He was part of the media community and should have better understanding of this case than many others.”

Patel is acting after the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal of a High Court decision to overturn a lower court ruling barring Assange’s extradition on health grounds and the danger of U.S. prisons. The High Court decided solely on conditional U.S. promises that Assange would be well treated in custody.

With the courts no longer involved and the decision solely in Patel’s hands, the case now is purely political, meaning political pressure can be brought to bear on the home secretary. 

“The home secretary has the discretion to block this extradition, and there is a lot of pressure from civil society and press freedom groups for her to do so,” said Stella Assange at a film screening on Thursday. 

She said the “heaviest” pressure had come from Dunja Mijatovic, the human rights commissioner for the Council of Europe, “urging Patel to block it.” Mijatovic wrote to Patel on May 10, saying:

“I have been following the developments in Mr Assange’s case with great attention. In the judicial proceedings so far, the focus has mainly been on Mr Assange’s personal circumstances upon his possible extradition to the United States. While a very important matter, this also means, in my opinion, that the wider human rights implications of Mr Assange’s possible extradition, which reach far beyond his individual case, have not been adequately considered so far.

In particular, it is my view that the indictment by the United States against Mr Assange raises important questions about the protection of those that publish classified information in the public interest, including information that exposes human rights violations. The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Mr Assange, and of the offences listed in the indictment, are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond.

Consequently, allowing Mr Assange’s extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies.”

https://dontextraditeassange.com/post/letter-from-adolfo-perez-esquivel-nobel-peace-laureate-to-uk-secretary-of-state-priti-patel/embed/#?secret=gbxb0f8uSN#?secret=69h6qbVq8D

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Pérez Esquive has also written to Patel. “I join the growing collective concern about the violations of the human, civil and political rights of Mr. Julian Assange,” the Argentine wrote. He called the extradition request “illegal and abusive” and said it imperiled press freedom and could bring “potentially fatal consequences” to Assange. 

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