Julian Assange Is Enduring Unbearable Persecution for Exposing US War Crimes

Since Priti Patel, U.K. Home Secretary, officially ordered the extradition of WikiLeaksJulian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was brought to the United States by press freedom advocates from around the globe.

Assange DefenseThe advisory board of which I am a member, is organizing a national campaign to press President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Galrland to drop the extradition request. There is no better time to act.

Assange could spend 175 years behind bars for reporting on U.S. war crimes.

Last week, Assange’s brother, filmmaker Gabriel Shipton, wrote in an email to Truthout, “UK Home Secretary has decided today that any publisher who exposes national security information of an allied country may face extradition to two lifetimes in prison. Julian will appeal this decision and this once in a lifetime fight for freedom of the press continues.”

Assange’s indictment is based on WikiLeaks’ 2010-2011 disclosures of U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and the military prison at Guantánamo. Those revelations included 400,000 field reports about the Iraq War; 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; and systematic rape, torture, and murder committed by Iraqi forces after the U.S. military “handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad.” WikiLeaks also disclosed the Afghan War Logs, which are 90,000 reports of more civilian casualties by coalition forces than the U.S. military had admitted to. And its revelations additionally included the Guantánamo Files, 779 secret reports showing that 150 innocent people had been held there for years and documenting the torture and abuse of 800 men and boys in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

WikiLeaks also published the notorious “Collateral Murder” video, which documented how in 2007, a U.S. Army Apache helicopter gunship targeted and fired on unarmed civilians in Baghdad. At least 18 civilians died. Two of them were killed. Reuters Two reporters and a man who rushed to help the wounded. Two children were also injured. The U.S. Army Tank drove over one of these bodies, severing it in two. This video shows evidence of three war crimes, which are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions as well as the U.S Army Field Manual.

Numerous civil liberties and human right organizations declared in October 2021They asked Garland to drop the case against Assange because he was a significant threat for First Amendment freedom of expression.

The UK’s decision to extradite Julian Assange to the nation that plotted to assassinate him – the nation that wants to imprison him for 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest – is an abomination,” Write Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg and Alice Walker – co-chairs of Assange Defense – in reaction to Patel’s extradition order. “The U.S. government argues that its venerated Constitution does not protect journalism the government dislikes, and that publishing truthful information in the public interest is a subversive, criminal act. This argument is a threat not only to journalism, but to democracy itself.”

Trevor Timm, Executive Director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, warned that if Assange is extradited to the United States and convicted of the charges against him, it “would potentially make receiving classified information, asking for sources for more information, and publishing certain types of classified information a crime.” Timm noted, “Journalists, of course, engage in all these activities regularly.”

Nils Melzer from the United Nations Special Rapporteur to Torture, stated that Assange suffered psychological torture during his time in the U.K. In December 2021, Melzer tweeted that the “U.K. is literally torturing him to death.”

On June 10, more than 300 doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists calling themselves “Doctors for Assange” wrote to Patel that Assange’s “deteriorating health” made it “medically and ethically unacceptable” to extradite him.

“Julian’s 13-year persecution culminates in a decision of ostentatious callous indifference,” John Shipton, Julian’s father, told Truthout. “Who amongst us would not burn with indignation and loathing?”

Stella Assange was married to Julian in prison recently. called Patel’s decision “a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy.” She told the Associated Press, “Julian did nothing wrong. He has not committed any crime and isn’t a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.”

Yet U.K. officials disregarded Assange’s health and the injustice of his prosecution, insisting that the U.S. would treat him “appropriately.” In its June 17 statement ordering Assange’s extradition, the UK Home Office wrote :

The UK courts have not ruled that extradition of Mr Assange would be unjust, oppressive or a misuse of process in this case. They also found that extradition would not be compatible with his human rights, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, as well as his right to be treated fairly in the USA, including in regard to his health.

After a three-week evidentiary hearing in the U.K., Vanessa Baraitser, U.K. District Judge, ruled that Assange would likely attempt suicide if he was extradited to the United States because of his mental condition and the harsh conditions in U.S. prisons.

The United States later came forward with qualified “assurances” that Assange wouldn’t be kept in solitary confinement and the U.K. High Court reversed Baraitser’s decision in January 2022. The U.K. Supreme Court affirmed the High Court’s dismissal of Assange’s appeal in March, paving the way for Patel’s decision ordering extradition.

Amnesty International’s Agnes Callamard — former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary execution — was skeptical of the so-called assurances that Assange would be treated humanely in U.S. custody. “Diplomatic assurances provided by the U.S. that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be taken on face value given previous history,” Callamard said , referring to the U.S. reneging on past extradition assurances.

Assange now has until July 1 to appeal Patel’s decision and apply to the High Court to reverse Baraitser’s rulings on other issues Assange raised at the extradition hearing. They include:

  • The U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty prohibits extradition for a political offense and “espionage” is a political offense;
  • Extradition is forbidden as the U.S. request is based on Assange’s political opinions;
  • Extradition requests are an abuse of process because they were made with a political motive, and not in good faith.
  • Extradition would be oppressive, or unjust because so many years have passed.
  • The charges against Assange do not comply with the “dual criminality test” because they encompass acts that are not criminal offenses in both the U.S. and the U.K.; and
  • Extradition would violate Assange’s rights to free expression and a fair trial, in addition to the prohibition against inhuman and degrading treatment in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Assange will also raise on appeal the CIA’s plot to kidnap and assassinate him while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy under a grant of asylum.

If Assange loses appeals to the U.K. Supreme Court and High Court, he can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. The appeals could take months, or even years.

U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton has been assigned the indictment against Assange. He also jailed Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, in 2019 for refusing a federal grand jury investigating Assange. According to the indictment, Assange was accused of conspiring with Manning to gain computer access to government computers.

This is the first case in which the United States has charged a journalist or media outlet with publishing classified information. Julian Assange’s extradition, trial, and conviction would have terrifying implications for investigative journalism. On June 17, the editorial board of The Guardian wrote, “This action potentially opens the door for journalists anywhere in the world to be extradited to the US for exposing information deemed classified by Washington.”