Yesterday the UK government, and a large portion of the media, tried to portray the decision of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's decision over Julian Assange as "ridiculous". I have now read through the report, which is available from this page, and would urge others to do the same. The report follows an extensive investigation, with which the UK and Swedish authorities had cooperated, and whose submissions are included in it; so it is a bit rich to at first take the investigation seriously, but then ridicule the WGAD because it finds against them.
I've embedded two videos. The first is the full version of Assange's speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, and the second is a reaction from John Pilger, another Australian whose journalism has consistently proved embarrassing to those in positions of power.
For me, the most obvious point to make is that the UK authorities have based their action on a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden, but that if that same warrant was presented now, the request for extradition would be rejected. Specifically, the UK changed the law applicable to EAWs in 2014 precisely in order to stop the abuse of, for example, an EAW being issued merely for questioning. This is an extract from the report:
The changes to UK extradition legislation following Mr. Assange’s case. In brief, the United Kingdom has now concluded:
(i) By virtue of a binding decision of the UK Supreme Court in 2013, that the UK will no longer, where a request is made under a European Arrest Warrant, permit the extradition of individuals where the warrant is not initiated by a judicial authority. It has determined that the requirement of a “judicial authority” cannot be interpreted as being fulfilled by a prosecutor as is the case in relation to Mr. Assange.
(ii) By virtue of legislation in force since July 2014, that the UK will no longer permit extradition on the basis of a bare accusation (as opposed to a formal completed decision to prosecute and charge) as is the case in relation to Mr. Assange.
(iii) By virtue of the same legislation now in force, that the United Kingdom will no longer permit extradition under a European Arrest Warrant without consideration by a court of its proportionality (Mr. Assange’s case was decided on the basis that such consideration was at that time not permitted).
The UK authorities are basing their position on sticking obstinately to a set of rules that used to apply to EAWs, even though they subsequently changed those rules because of this sort of abuse. Such an attitude is completely indefensible. Where the letter of an old law conflicts with the cause of justice, justice should prevail.