Updated April 11, 2023
Since he came to notoriety as Wikileaks’ founding editor in 2006, Julian Assange has been a controversial figure. Yet certain misconceptions about his plight should now be dispensed with, for timely assurance that nothing is untoward about relevant conduct of the UK.
His legal situation is perfectly simple. He was refused bail two years ago in connection with a US effort to extradite him for publishing leaked data. Though its bid was denied on humanitarian grounds immediately prior to that, appeal to the High Court removed this obstacle with new assurances that nothing will likely drive him to suicide unless particular unforeseen circumstances apply.
In turn, his team moved to appeal this decision in July last year. Yet to date, on the fourth anniversary of incarceration, there is no indication of that being permitted.
Some have taken exception to his prisoner status enduring throughout and a theme of inhumane conditions has long been insurgent. Even the International Bar Association succumbed to misinformation by saying it “condemns UK treatment” of Assange.
In fact the treatment is mostly standard. There have been irregularities like confiscating legal documents, leaving his winter clothes unreturned for the season and consistently bringing him to court after the judge let proceedings develop. Yet all this accords with methods pioneered by the US. Indeed Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh where he waits on fortune is often called Britain’s Guantanamo Bay.
Human downsides of vital security measures can be hard to quantify and thus easily blown out of proportion. So to curtail a moral panic about Assange, the principal history is clarified in what follows.
In May 2019, Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, issued a report to the UK government, detailing action on its part that “amounts to psychological torture.”
Although late by several months, their reply vindicated patience as a concise and comprehensive schooling.
Dear Mr Melzer,
The Government rejects any allegation that Julian Assange has been subjected to torture in any form as a result of actions by the UK Government. The UK Government does not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture for any purpose. The United Kingdom does not accept that Mr Assange was ever arbitrarily detained; he was free to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy at any time.
Mr Assange has been convicted under English law of failing to surrender to custody following due legal process. Judges in the UK are completely impartial and independent from Government. They hear cases based on the evidence presented and in accordance with the law. Mr Assange was legally represented at the hearing and chose not to give or call evidence on his behalf. The detailed sentencing remarks of the District Judge were published on the judicial website and fully explain the decision process. Mr Assange did not appeal his conviction and has withdrawn his appeal against his sentence.
Yours sincerely, Julian Braithwaite
[Ambassador to the United Nations]
Though rightly addressed with ‘Mr’ in that stern reply, Dr Melzer evokes pity as a professor of law at Glasgow University and not least of all because it never dawned on him that UK judges are wholly impartial.
He also seems impervious to the concept that Britain has nothing to do with torture, while his assertion of its opposite crudely breaches decorum.
This factual and moral error was extensively fleshed out through a tissue of accusations, none of which merited any specific reply.
Yet erring on the side of candour to provide just one, by indicating that Assange could have left his sanctuary, at least accords with British renown for sportsmanly conduct.
That his withering under the relevant siege was optional may be demonstrated through the figure of a rabbit indisposed to hounds barking at its hole. If hoping to escape trauma, meet some bodily need or follow any sundry urge, it remains free to take its chances with being ingested. All that prevents it hopping toward lively jaws are signals from its tiny brain. Ergo, nothing detains it unless enveloped in the same fur.
This is not to deny that travellers get detained by disruptive weather, for instance, as they have the wisdom to neither disregard their chief objectives nor leave without some viable direction. By contrast, libertines earning societal disapprobation are models of errancy and at best animals without innocence. Hence it can only fortify virtue to declare one’s lack of empathy for them.
Moreover, the UN is disanalogous to any dog handler because it has no effective power. A formidable stick or blade is essential to subdue a snarling canine, regardless of breed, disease or pack psychosis.
There may well be occasions to say ‘good dog’ or ‘bad dog’, though manifestly not with the incorrect qualitative term. Indeed, censure in that instance can effect immense pain and damage. Yet despite their key responsibilities for welfare, relevantly offending institutions act as if this point were moot. Exposed through such irony are organelles of the UN, the Council of Europe, IBA, Lancet Journal, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International, which grievously traduce Britain over its faultless care of Assange.
Further regarding the embassy standoff, one should be mindful that officers only wanted this fugitive in their custody and thus kept from moving past them, even by way of a round trip to hospital. That cannot be detainment, which is always where an enforcer most prefers.
However, while preference is entailed by such transparent logic, none would suppose it originates on earth when people are detained in traffic or natural events. As this implies a heavenly will, it becomes simple to account for untreatable suffering in a diplomatic mission and likewise reform that expels an asylee.
But whether or not divine, the power which finally brought Assange to British justice was by virtue of that a wholesome one. Many accordingly hope he remains isolated in maximal stress till expiring at a US facility, as an effective deterrent for publishing data from whistleblowers.
Pronouncements issued under auspices of the UN can thus be moves in semantic shell games. Yet they could never obscure the integrity of our legal apparatus. For while judicial failure may dog rogue states, it will always be clear that precisely what makes them rogue is deviation from us.
Bail violation occurs through failure to meet indicated requirements like reporting at a police station, without what is known as reasonable cause.
Such notice was served to Assange in writing, upon his tenth day of domicile under jurisdiction of Ecuador. Yet he never emerged to attend, or thus make any estimable claim that the universal right to seek asylum is reasonable.
Instead, he confused certain radicals with presumed validity of his entry and remaining on sovereign premises, as a lawyer replied to the summons by indicating that assessment of any claim to asylum has priority over extradition and subsidiary matters under UK law.
After sixteen months of weighing submissions from all parties, a UN panel of esteemed jurists garnered their ignorance into a claim of arbitrary detention, rendering null and void Britain’s agreement to abide by the outcome of the group’s undertaking.
Apart from non-applicability of detainment, the problem with their stance is that no relevant UK action was conceivably arbitrary. As just explained, nobody could seriously imagine that the charge of absconding was in any respect ill-founded.
The convicting judge was thus right to brand the offender’s silence, puzzled query and plea of not guilty “the behaviour of a narcissist.”
He also banished allusions from the defence to bias of a previous judge as nothing but smears lobbed at the press.
Assange entirely neglected to arrange for evidence to be presented by himself or his team, who were extremely late. Moreover, that perfect shambles was little more than an hour since the shock of being disenfranchised without notice and carted off to trial. It is thereby assured that nothing could ever drive him or those in his train to take responsibility.
Heaven knows why he didn’t plead guilty, since the lack of submissions and cancellation of appeal implied as much anyway. Nevermind that his remand would follow the term, or that prison measures force a rationing of defence resources. There is no end to such distractions advanced by fevered activists.
Excepting the original allegations, concerning details surrounding condoms which no longer need clarification to a Swedish court, that is the simple history of Assange’s incarceration. As he often expressed paranoia about rendition from that country to the US, one can only wonder at the delusions under which he imposed a decade of unhealthy limitation on himself, just to avoid a maximum of four years in the relative comforts of Sweden.
He might even have been acquitted, or left uncharged with what curiously translates best with an oxymoron: ‘minor rape’. It appears the dropped allegation was only made by prosecutors and court-appointed lawyers, whose conduct drew protest from the domestic legal community in addition to this female complainant and one other who was likewise ostensibly represented, but in regard to a lesser claim around the same time.
The Big Picture
Just prior to dispatch of the letter above, a magistrate applied for parole on his behalf, to preemptively quash it and hold him for the Trump administration on remand.
Such vigilance was naturally apropos to relentless pursuit of accountability for Wikileaks publications from 2010 that left neoconservatives incensed by exposing US military impropriety.
Though legally irrelevant, it would be improper to ignore equal resentment from liberals for publishing internal documents showing corruption of Democratic primaries in 2016 and thereby effecting a Russian scheme to assault US democracy.
This plot was evident to the duly attentive from superficially hedged statements provided by resistance to President Trump in the media and intelligence community. Yet even apart from such, neglecting to withhold any fact that may harm the prospects of some election contender is obviously condemned by ethical persons if not law, excepting that it be done in an immediately equitable fashion and categorically isolated from all foreign interest.
These impacts in 2010 and 2016 were also magnified by prestigious outlets disseminating such information in the global public interest, even breaking the news through extensive partnership in the former instance.
When his unprecedented 50-week sentence expired three years ago, Assange applied for bail. However, vulnerability to Covid19 in jail with a chronic lung issue and other presumed hardship were outweighed by risk of some new country affording him asylum. Though infinitesimal, the likelihood of such a jolt to national dignity if not security was of course intolerable. The entire English-speaking world is yet to recover from his first diplomatic windfall.
Additional examples of due process extend in an unbroken chain which has hung securely, for more than a decade, upon the Home Office resolve to extradite him to some ally or other.
Yet when parsing any legality which binds the UK in this concern, those invested by the UN deem it as turning on covenants violated by his detention.
It would only waste time to indicate cavernous gaps in the logic of this unapproachably surreal position. We have therefore simply maintained that nobody is above the law and that due process has to observed. Yet this is purely ironic in their estimate and activists naturally agree.
Hence it might be chanted that Britain abuses process. We could even be treated to phrases like ‘no office is above the law’ or ‘stop feeding our rights to kangaroo courts’. The upshot of all this is plainly that no limit exists on failure to be reasonable.
Persecution has no more to do with Assange’s extradition than it did with his being granted or stripped of asylum. Resolutely ignorant of this, Melzer compiles “evidence” of nations “mobbing” a publisher. For a leading expert to style a report on such lines is anomalous, in ways that need attention from a range of academics.
In the meantime there is no doubt on how to respond to such UN-based attacks. When all else fails it is necessary and sufficient to be curt and unyielding. That being achieved, no further dialogue is warranted, apart from intermittent assurance of our sound dispositions.
Melzer or any successor could nonetheless persist with a claim that something remains to be accounted. If so, we may follow Sweden by referring them back to exhaustive satisfaction of our obligations under ratified law. That will serve in response to all potential queries and evidential claims, without straining any capacity for comprehension, since it involves nothing more abstruse or extensive than the quote above from Britain’s Ambassador to the UN.
Perhaps some Rapporteur would consider that a further abrogation or even find a clause to highlight as much. But inclinations of that sort merely display ignorance of how diplomatic and legal requirements are conditioned by proportionality. Rescuing our fair quarry is a fantasy crusade which could only be indulged by those who lead the world in condescending blather.
There is nothing newsworthy about that and the press here and abroad know it. Ignorance encroaches from a number of outliers, yet the present exposé shines bright enough to prevail.
If some incidental conduct of Britain appears less than pristine it is nonetheless wrong to draw attention to this or otherwise interfere with things running their course. Though it could hardly come as news, one must preserve cognisance that UK prestige and justice are unsurpassed. Deference to them will thus always be in order, since they could exhibit nothing to fairly critique, let alone decry or resist, should abomination of that nature continue to strike anyone as viable.
Retrospective Editorial Note
After reading the article a second time, more than a few subscribers related impressions of having been an idiot on the first occasion. Most instances of this were dispelled through correspondence, yet a few progressed in disturbing ways and some even culminated in acrimony.
One is advised to avoid overthinking and especially re-reading or lingering through hyperlinks on this occasion. Indeed it may be a sound policy to always go with first impressions rather than second guess the proficiency of labour that goes into a published work of this nature.
A significant consequence of propaganda evolving and proliferating over recent decades is that only confidence in the source being capable and acting straightforwardly with good faith can provide complete assurance that even a rigorous piece like the present one is not self-refuting in transparent ways and for that matter, comprehensively so.