Free Julian Assange: Exposing human rights violations is not a crime

Press release
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Julian Assange’s request for an appeal against the decision to extradite him to the United States of America (US) is being evaluated by the London High Court. This is the final appeal avenue in the United Kingdom (UK) for Assange. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) denounces his current incarceration and threat of extradition as contrary to international law and a grave threat to the freedom of the press. 

London, Paris, 22 February 2024. The protracted legal persecution against Julian Assange has no end in sight. The High Court has heard over two days the arguments pleading for the possibility for Assange to appeal against his extradition to the US. Opposing the investigative journalist in the Court, is the US government, which wants him transferred to face charges of espionage. At the end of the two-day hearing that took place on 20 and 21 February, the Court gave until 4 March 2024 for the defence team to submit complementary elements before its final ruling.

For Alexis Deswaef, FIDH Vice-President, who was in the courtroom during the hearing and who gave a speech in support of Assange in front of the Court, “What meaning can freedom of the press have when revealing crimes committed by State powers is getting criminalised ? Protecting the capacity of democracies to have independent voices who can hold governments accountable is essential for the respect of international law, the defence of human rights and the fight against impunity”; before adding “ultimately the real criminals that should face prosecution are the individuals that ordered and conducted the grave human rights violations revealed by WikiLeaks. Instead so far we’re seeing total impunity for the international crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

The protection of whistleblowers must become standard for all democracies

In spite of U.S “guarantees”, which justified the overturn of the prior decision to reject the extradition demand, Assange’s likely incarceration in a high security prison following his transfer would pose a real risk of detention conditions that could amount to ill-treatment and torture. Furthermore, on top of the 175 years sentence Assange may face, the array of charges which the US government is attempting to use against him carries the potential for the death penalty. This abhorrent punishment was called for by US officials, among which none other than former US-president, and current Republican Party candidate for the US 2024 presidential elections, Donald Trump.

FIDH calls for an end to the prosecution of Julian Assange for his involvement in Wikileaks and for his immediate liberation. On top of having contributed to the revealing of large scale grave human rights violations, the legal persecution already suffered by Assange, who has been imprisoned at HM Prison Belmarsh in London for over four years, stands as a human rights violation in and of itself. The High Court’s decision is expected after 4 March 2024, once the complementary elements have been provided by Assange’s defence team. 

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