Peters & Peters

Court asks for further assurances in Assange’s extradition case

The finishing line may be getting closer, but in the latest twist in Julian Assange’s marathon fight against his extradition to the US, the High Court has asked the US and the Secretary of State for some further assurances.

At a two-day hearing in February, the High Court considered whether the WikiLeaks founder could be granted leave to appeal against the 2022 extradition decision made by then Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The court has now provisionally given Mr Assange leave to appeal on three of his nine grounds of appeal, giving the US government and the Secretary of State until mid-April to address those three grounds, and rejecting the other six.

Nick Vamos, who was the former Head of Extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service, was quoted in the media about the latest round of this judicial saga, including by CNN, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Reuters, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.

Anna Bradshaw also appeared on BBC News, commenting on the finer aspect of this latest development.

Three weeks to offer further assurances

The US authorities have given a number of assurances in the past. However, this time round, the assurances sought are that:

– Mr Assange can rely on the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which protects free speech;
– he is not prejudiced at trial (including sentence) because of his nationality;
– he is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a US citizen; and
– the death penalty is not imposed.

Anna explained that, should those assurances be forthcoming, then the next stage will be for Mr Assange and the US authority to submit their thoughts on them.

“Once those further submissions have been received, there will be a hearing on 20 May to air any concerns that have been raised at that stage about the assurances provided,” Anna said.


How likely are those assurances?

Nick said he thought that the US government would have” little difficulty in providing these assurances and Mr Assange’s extradition will finally be ordered”.

He thought that the death penalty assurance was “straightforward”, adding that “it addresses a theoretical possibility which the US has never suggested it will realise”.

As to the First Amendment assurance, this is “essentially an issue of trial tactics, i.e. whether the prosecution will run a particular argument or not”.

“Neither assurance will set a binding precedent, but will be a pragmatic solution in this case because of its unique facts.”

Why some grounds were dismissed

Nick also explained why some of Mr Assange’s grounds were dismissed, including those regarding political motivation, freedom of speech and journalistic protections.


“The court [made] it clear that Mr Assange was not being prosecuted for journalism or for exposing grave State crimes, but for hacking and then publishing the names of sources who were put in serious danger,” Nick said.

“In short, journalists do not have immunity from prosecution for criminal conduct simply because that conduct is also a journalistic activity.”