The Guardian reported yesterday:
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could be at “real risk” of the death penalty or detention in Guantánamo Bay if he is extradited to Sweden on accusations of rape and sexual assault, his lawyers claim.
In a skeleton summary of their defence against attempts by the Swedish director of public prosecutions to extradite him, released today, Assange’s legal team argue that there is a similar likelihood that the US would subsequently seek his extradition “and/or illegal rendition”, “where there will be a real risk of him being detained at Guantánamo Bay or elsewhere”.
“Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty. It is well known that prominent figures have implied, if not stated outright, that Mr Assange should be executed.”
Glenn Greenwald notes:
Paragraphs 92-99 of the outline detail Sweden’s history of violating the Convention Against Torture by rendering War on Terror suspects to Egypt to be tortured, and concludes: “based on its record as condemned by the United Nations Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Committee, Sweden would bow to US pressure and/or rely naively on diplomatic assurances from the USA that Mr. Assange would not be mistreated, with the consequence that he would be deported/expelled to the USA, where he would suffer serious ill-treatment.” This danger is legally relevant because the governing Extradition Act bars the expulsion of a prisoner where “extradition would be [in]compatible with the Convention rights within the meaning of the Human Rights Act 1998.” The outline also cited vigilante calls from leading right-wing figures for Assange’s murder (yesterday, it was discovered that a prominent right-wing blogger, Melissa Clouthier, had registered the website JulianAssangeMustDie.com).
It’s quite notable that the mere threat of ending up in American custody is considered (at least by Assange’s lawyers) to be a viable basis for contesting extradition on human rights grounds. Indeed, this argument is not unusual. Numerous countries often demand, as a condition for extradition to the U.S., assurances from the U.S. Government that the death penalty will not be applied. Similarly, there are currently cases pending in EU courts contesting the extradition of War on Terror detainees to the U.S. on the ground that they will be treated inhumanely by virtue of the type of prolonged, intensive solitary confinement to which Bradley Manning — and thousands of other actual convicts — are subjected.
And now we have the spectacle of Julian Assange’s lawyers citing the Obama administration’s policies of rendition and indefinite detention at Guantanamo as a reason why human rights treaties bar his extradition to any country (such as Sweden) which might transfer him to American custody. Indeed, almost every person with whom I’ve spoken who has or had anything to do with WikiLeaks expresses one fear above all others: the possibility that they will end up in American custody and subjected to its lawless War on Terror “justice system.” Americans still like to think of themselves as “leaders of the free world,” but in the eyes of many, it’s exactly the “free world” to which American policies are so antithetical and threatening.
A statement released by WikiLeaks, innumerates the many instances in which prominent figures in the US media have called for Assange’s murder:
WikiLeaks staff and contributors have also been the target of unprecedented violent rhetoric by US prominent media personalities, including Sarah Palin, who urged the US administration to “Hunt down the WikiLeaks chief like the Taliban”. Prominent US politician Mike Huckabee called for the execution of WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange on his Fox News program last November, and Fox News commentator Bob Beckel, referring to Assange, publicly called for people to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” US radio personality Rush Limbaugh has called for pressure to “Give [Fox News President Roger] Ailes the order and [then] there is no Assange, I’ll guarantee you, and there will be no fingerprints on it.”, while the Washington Times columnist Jeffery T. Kuhner titled his column “Assassinate Assange” captioned with a picture Julian Assange overlayed with a gun site, blood spatters, and “WANTED DEAD or ALIVE” with the alive crossed out.
John Hawkins of Townhall.com has stated “If Julian Assange is shot in the head tomorrow or if his car is blown up when he turns the key, what message do you think that would send about releasing sensitive American data?”
Christian Whiton in a Fox News opinion piece called for violence against WikiLeaks publishers and editors, saying the US should “designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.”
WikiLeaks spokesman Julian Assange said: “No organisation anywhere in the world is a more devoted advocate of free speech than Wikileaks but when senior politicians and attention seeking media commentators call for specific individuals or groups of people to be killed they should be charged with incitement — to murder. Those who call for an act of murder deserve as significant share of the guilt as those raising a gun to pull the trigger.”