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Julian Assange should not be extradited due to potential impact on press freedom and concerns about ill-treatment

Statement
Strasbourg 20/02/2020
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Julian Assange should not be extradited due to potential impact on press freedom and concerns about ill-treatment

I have been following with great attention the developments concerning Julian Assange’s case, in particular the charges against him and the extradition request submitted by the United States government to the United Kingdom. In addition to my own monitoring and analysis, I have received information from medical professionals, civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists’ associations and others on this case.

Julian Assange’s potential extradition has human rights implications that reach far beyond his individual case. The indictment raises important questions about the protection of those that publish classified information in the public interest, including those that expose human rights violations. The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Julian Assange, and of the offences listed in the indictment, are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond. Consequently, allowing Julian Assange’s extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom, and could ultimately hamper the press in performing its task as purveyor of information and public watchdog in democratic societies.

Furthermore, any extradition to a situation in which the person involved would be at real risk of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment would be contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has made clear that he considers that both the detention conditions in the United States and the sentence likely to be imposed on Julian Assange present such a real risk.

In view of both the press freedom implications and the serious concerns over the treatment Julian Assange would be subjected to in the United States, my assessment as Commissioner for Human Rights is that he should not be extradited.

I will continue to monitor the developments in this case closely.