I’ve received a reply from my MP Alister Jack (who is also Secretary of State for Scotland). I asked him to obtain an explanation from our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC MP, on concerns about the proceedings to extradite Julian Assange to the US, since he is the person accountable. But Mr Jack’s response doesn’t make clear whether the response is his and, if not, where it actually come from.
I wanted to know…
- Why Assange is held under the inhuman conditions reserved for terrorists when he’s a journalist.
- How the Justice Department accounts for Assange’s poor physical and mental state.
- Why the question whether political offences are excluded from extradition under Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty hadn’t been not been addressed before these expensive proceedings began.
- Why Assange’s defence team haven’t been given easier access and more time to prepare.
- Why high-security Belmarsh is chosen for February’s hearing, where the opportunity for public scrutiny is minimal.
- And whether District Judge Baraitser will preside in February when, according to Craig Murray, she has already failed to behave impartially?
In particular I wanted to know why, according to witnesses, Assange’s physical and mental states have deteriorated so rapidly while in the UK justice system’s care.
There’s no attempt to answer most of these points. However, Mr Jack reminds me that Assange was jailed for 50 weeks on 1 May for breaching bail and holing up in the Ecuadore Embassy.
“The UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his interests will be protected,” writes Mr Jack brimming with confidence.
But, he points out, the Home Secretary when signing an extradition warrant is limited in what he’s allowed to consider. For example, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 requires any judgement about human rights and health issues to be made in court.
The administrative hearing on 21 October ruled that Assange will face a 5-day extradition hearing starting 25 February and, Mr Jack says, that’s when his human rights and poor health will be considered. It is for the judge to determine whether or not extradition would be a human rights breach and whether it would be oppressive and unjust on account of his state of health.
In other words, nobody in the UK justice system could give a toss about Assange’s wellbeing for another 4 months – an awful long time when you’re already in bad shape and worried sick that you’ll wind up in Guantanamo Bay for….. for what, exactly?
Former ambassador Craig Murray, a friend of Assange, attended the October hearing and reported that he was distressed by how his appearance had deteriorated after long confinement, and by his rapid ageing and stumbling speech — “the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known” reduced to a “shambling and incoherent wreck”.
Some have expressed concern that Assange may not live to the end of the extradition proceedings.
From tomorrow MPs will cease to exist and Parliament will cease to function until after the general election on 12 December. So nobody is representing anybody in the cesspit of Westminster for the next 5 or 6 weeks.
5 November 2019