Assange extradition: great danger for him and press freedom

If Britain extradites Julian Assange to the United States, it will violate the ban on torture and set a dangerous precedent for journalists worldwide. Julian Assange is the founder of Wikileaks and is currently being held in a high-security prison in London. America wants to prosecute him for publishing secret military documents and spying.

A British judge ruled last month that Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States. Only British Home Secretary Priti Patel needs to sign off on the extradition. Patel has until 18 May to decide on the extradition. According to Amnesty International, despite promises by America, Assange will run a great risk of becoming a victim of human rights violations in an American prison.

Britain has a obligation not to send anyone to a place where their safety is at risk. The British government must not abdicate that responsibility,’ said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general. ‘The US authorities have said clearly that they can change the terms of Assange’s detention if they believe it is necessary. This means that Assange is at great risk of suffering serious harm, both psychological and physical, during his detention.’

According to Callamard, the extradition of Julian Assange will also have devastating consequences for press freedom and the general public, which has the right to know what governments are doing in their name.

‘Publishing information that is in the public interest is one of the core values of press freedom,’ says Callamard. ‘Extraditing Assange to stand trial on charges of espionage by publishing classified information will set a dangerous precedent and cause journalists worldwide to be on their guard.’

Long-term solitary confinement is common in US prisons with maximum security. Furthermore, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in these prisons is prohibited by international law. The United States’ assurances of fair treatment for Assange leave much to be desired and can be withdrawn at any time. This means that, if Julian Assange is extradited to the United States, he risks serious violations of his human rights. Superficial diplomatic assurances will not protect him.

If the British Government allows another country to prosecute someone for publishing information from Britain, other countries can follow suit. They can use the same legal means to imprison journalists and silence the press far beyond the borders of their own countries.

‘Assange should never have been charged for these things in the first place,’ says Agnes Callamard. ‘It is not too late for the US authorities to do the right thing and drop the charges. In the meantime, given the political nature of this case and its serious implications for freedom of expression, Britain will not have to stand by the United States in further appeals.’


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