Julian Assange and press freedom: Following up on a Berkeley forum

Londoners rally to demand the freedom of Julian Assange.

by Ann Garrison

On July 6, Nozomi Hayase and I spoke at “Julian Assange and Press Freedom,” a forum at the Starry Plough Pub in Berkeley, California, sponsored by the Alameda Peace and Freedom Party, Oakland Greens, Task Force on the Americas and Bay Area System Change, Not Climate Change. These are a few follow-up notes and links to answer questions only partially answered at the forum.

European Court of Human Rights

Julian Assange and his lawyers are trying to stop his extradition to the US in a UK court, where the next hearing will take place in February. Should that fail he will no doubt appeal to a higher UK court. If all legal efforts to stop extradition fail in the UK, he will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is an institution of the 47-member Council of Europe founded in 1949, predating the 28-member European Union founded in 1993. The UK is a member of the Council of Europe, so a long-awaited Brexit from the EU should not cancel the court’s jurisdiction in the UK.

The European Convention of Human Rights is also an institution of the Council of Europe, which includes this Article 10 guaranteeing freedom of speech and press.

Article 10 – Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

This is nowhere near as protective as the First Amendment to the US Constitution because it includes so many caveats that there’s great latitude for interpretation by judges who define national security, public safety and morals, and “the disclosure of information received in confidence.”

Nevertheless, University of Illinois Law Professor Francis Boyle told me:

My educated guess based upon the second [US] indictment is that Assange has a pretty good chance of getting a temporary restraining order and then a judgment on the merits in the ECHR. But people really need to organize in Britain to bring public pressure to bear upon the government against extradition.

In the ECHR, there would be first an indication of provisional measures of protection, which is the equivalent of a US temporary restraining order, while the proceedings on the merits go forward until there is a judgment on the merits. But please make it clear in whatever you report that I am not a lawyer on this case and I am certainly not authorized to speak for them or Assange. This is just my own opinion based upon what has been publicly reported so far. And I am not an expert on UK extradition law either.

(So many journalists have asked to speak to Assange’s lawyers that one is lucky to get a ticket and stand in line.)

If the European Court of Human Rights issues the equivalent of a temporary restraining order, it should prevent Assange’s extradition to the US until his case has been heard there. A judgment in his favor should stop his extradition to the US (in a law-abiding world).

On another positive note, Francis Boyle said that, “On the basis of the proceedings so far, it’s obvious that his lawyers know exactly what they are doing. So let’s see what happens on the extradition hearing scheduled for February.”

Recording of Starry Plough forum

With rudimentary equipment and considerable pub noise in the background: https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/07/08/18824550.php

Links regarding rape allegations against Julian Assange in Sweden

“Sex, Lies, and Julian Assange,” a documentary by Journeyman Pictures, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5usm9x

George Galloway on rape allegations against Assange: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/aug/20/george-galloway-julian-assange-rape

Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English organization supporting Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange in the UK

WISE Up Action – A Solidarity Network for Manning and Assange (WISE = Welsh, Irish, Scottish and English), https://wiseupaction.info/

Write to Julian Assange

Letters pouring into Belmarsh Prison prove the world cares. Here are instructions for making sure your letters get past prison censors: https://writejulian.com/.

‘WikiLeaks, the Global Fourth Estate: History Is Happening’

Download Nozomi Hayase’s book free on her website: http://nozomihayase.com/book.

Read my review of Nozomi’s book on the Black Agenda Report: https://blackagendareport.com/wikileaks-global-fourth-estate-history-happening.

San Francisco Labor Fest Forum on Julian Assange, July 20

https://laborfest.net/event/press-freedom-whistleblowers-and-the-case-of-assange-manning-and-carmody/

WikiLeaks

https://wikileaks.org. Browse and search but be careful. It may be hard to stop.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.