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Following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum, Julian Assange was arrested and removed from the country's embassy in London. He faces charges in the US of conspiracy to break into a computer, relating to Wikileaks' publication of more than 250,000 classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010. Should Assange be extradited to the US to face these charges? Was he doing a public service? Will he get a fair trial? Should he be sent to Sweden to face sexual assault charges instead?

Positions

Arguments supporting this position

Details

Context

Article 4 of the US-UK extradition treaty demands that no prisoner can be extradited for "relative" political offences based on political motivations.[1]

The Argument

Assange is essentially facing charges in the US for exposing misconduct and the killing of civilians by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The charges are politically motivated and represent an attack on whistleblowers. This is best illustrated by the timing. The alleged crimes are reported to have taken place in 2010. This means that the crimes were known to the government when Chelsea Manning went to a pretrial hearing in the military courts in 2011. However, the indictment was not unsealed until now. Why the long delay? If there was sufficient evidence, why wouldn't the charges have been brought against Assange in 2011 or 2010?[2] The US government is deliberately trying to dress it up as a breaking into a computer charge, perhaps to avoid the “political offence” clause in the extradition agreement, but make no mistake, Assange’s charges are political.[3] If the UK accedes to the United State’s government, it would be a strong statement on how the UK views whistleblowers. It would also set a dangerous precedent for other truth-seekers and journalists using the UK as a safe haven from repressive governments who wish to have them extradited on politically motivated charges.

Counter arguments

The definition of a political offence is not defined in the US-UK extradition document, leaving it open to interpretation. Historically, the definition of political offence has been defined under international law as crimes against the state, including espionage or treason. Assange does not stand accused of any of these crimes. His charges are for conspiring the break into a computer. This does not count as a “political offence” in the historical, international legal definition of the term. Therefore, he is not exempt from extradition in this circumstance. This is a provable crime. If the court finds evidence that he did conspire to break into a government computer, he will be found guilty. If there is no evidence or insufficient evidence of the crime, he will not.[2] The very narrow scope of the charges does not allow for any political agenda to bleed into the trial. The US government cannot add any further charges to his case. The US-UK extradition agreement states that only the charges filed in the indictment request can be brought against the prisoner.

Premises

[P1] Assange faces politically motivated charges in the US due to his exposure of US atrocities. [P2] The US-UK extradition treaty explicitly exempts extradition requests based on politically motivated charges. [P3] Therefore, Assange should not be extradited to the US.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejected P1] The charges are not politically motivated. He stands accused of conspiring to break into a government computer. This is a clear-cut criminal accusation.

References

  1. https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/187784.pdf
  2. https://www.politico.com/story/2019/04/11/julian-assange-extradition-1271842
  3. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/14/713304653/can-julian-assange-legally-be-extradited-to-the-u-s

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This page was last edited on Friday, 26 Apr 2019 at 15:49 UTC