The Breach of Bail Allegation Against Assange
The only legal issue generally thought to be outstanding for Julian Assange in the UK is a breach of bail conditions. However, a list circulated by Wikileaks to correct misconceptions has rightly stated:
“It is false and defamatory to suggest that Julian Assange has ever “breached his bail”, “jumped bail”, absconded, fled an arrest warrant, or that he has ever been charged with such at any time.”
In fact, bail is not actually breached unless there is a failure to meet bail conditions “without reasonable cause.”
This was mentioned in passing when Emma Arbuthnot ruled to uphold the arrest warrant for breach of bail:
“The offence of absconding by a person released on bail is set out in section 6 of the Bail Act. If a person who is on bail fails without reasonable cause to surrender he shall be guilty of an offence. On a straightforward reading of the section, which makes no mention of any underlying proceedings, 1. Mr Assange has been released on bail, 2. He has failed to surrender and 3. If he has no reasonable cause he will be guilty of an offence.”
The excerpt below from Page 2 of an earlier ruling from Judge Riddle ironically reflects the fact that there was indeed a reasonable cause and that the UK knew it. This reasonable cause was the universal human right to seek asylum, and it was exercised with unprecedented international notoriety. This was apparently not lost on whoever was directing the UK strategy, since it was a full nine days before his appearance was requested with a day’s notice at Belgravia Police Station, predictably followed the next day with an arrest warrant when he did not appear.
“On Tuesday, 19th June 2012 the police received notification that Mr Assange had presented himself to the Ecuador Embassy in London where he was claiming asylum. That same evening the police also received notification that Mr Assange was absent from his bail address. It is not in dispute that Mr Assange has remained at the Ecuador Embassy since 19th June. On Thursday, 28th June Sgt Humphries wrote to Mr Assange requiring him to surrender to the custody of police…
Mr Assange failed to surrender to police on 29th June 2012 at Belgravia Police Station at 11:30am, as required in the letters served on him. The same day a warrant for his arrest was issued at this court by Judge Purdy.” (emphasis added)
With respect to this summons, a statement from that day on the Wikileaks website mentions that “Mr Assange has been advised that he should decline to comply with the police request. This should not be considered any sign of disrespect. Under both international and domestic UK law asylum assessments take priority over extradition claims.”
Yet without such an arrest warrant, the UK would have no pretext to extract him from the embassy. Its awareness of lacking justification was then further shown by waiting another six weeks for Ecuador to fold under pressure to reject the asylum claim. Yet when it was finally obvious that asylum was about to be granted, they did in fact try their luck with a threat to revoke the diplomatic status of the embassy in order to arrest him.
That obviously did not work. Waiting so long and then overplaying their hand was a reassuring indication that their wits didn’t quite measure up to their malice. Yet what else could they do, since it was obvious that international law took precedence on the world stage when he walked into the embassy? They had to pick their means and their moments to defy it, and then hope for the best.
The UN Human Rights Council’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention referred to the question of bail in its 2015 ruling by stating in section 64 that
“the EAW [European arrest warrant] issued by Sweden is the current formal basis for Mr. Assange’s detention, although United Kingdom police have been instructed to arrest Mr. Assange even if the Swedish EAW falls away. In this regard, Mr. Assange continues to face arrest and detention for breaching his house arrest conditions (“bail conditions”) as a result of successfully exercising his right to seek asylum. However the conditions of his house arrest arise directly out of Sweden’s issuance of the EAW.”
The EAW has since been dropped along with Sweden’s investigation, in 2017. Yet the same UN ruling from 2015 had already admonished Britain to let him leave the embassy without arrest.
So however sliced, this bail issue has no more substance than a hole missing its doughnut.
After seven years of underlying nonsense about Assange’s legal status from Western governments and media, the UN was moved in December to directly counter it with a sobering declaration:
“States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable. But when they honestly admit these violations, they do honour the very spirit of the rule of law, earn enhanced respect for doing so, and set worldwide commendable examples.”
Julian Assange is under siege with his life threatened by the US, for publishing truth disseminated by major outlets.
He is not a fugitive from British or any other kind of justice.