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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?


Arguments supporting this position



Under the ECHR, any European country facing an extradition request is obliged to consider the individual’s ability to receive a fair trial in the country. Assange's case is inherently political. This could result in an unfair trial, in which case, the UK should not extradite Assange.

The Argument

Given the nature of his crimes, Assange would be unlikely to receive a fair trial in the US legal system. The US government appoints the country’s judges, and the government was on the receiving end of Assange’s leaks. It would be impossible for him to receive fair and impartial treatment in the US judiciary.[1] A US judge would be able to seal evidence and restrict the defence team’s access to government documents. It could even meet in private with the prosecution team, as occurred in the high-profile case of whistleblower John Kiriakou when he was accused of espionage after revealing details of the US government’s illegal use of torture.[2] The Eastern District of Virginia is known as the ‘Espionage court’ and illustrates how weighted the US legal system is against whistleblowers and those accused of exposing national security secrets. No national security defendant has ever won a case there.[2]

Counter arguments

The right to a fair trial in all civil and criminal proceedings that take place on US soil is enshrined in the US Fourteenth Amendment in the Constitution. The US Justice System also meets the international requirements for an independent and impartial judiciary as laid out in article 14 of the OHCHR.[3] The UK, therefore, would have no legal grounds to reject the United States' extradition request over concerns that Assange would not receive a fair trial in the US legal system.


[P1] The UK is obliged to consider whether the defendant would receive a fair trial before approving their extradition. [P2] Assange would not receive a fair trial in the US. [P3] Therefore, the UK should not approve the extradition request.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Assange would receive a fair trial.




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This page was last edited on Monday, 29 Apr 2019 at 21:02 UTC