In the extradition proceedings of Julian Assange, Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled he will not be extradited to the United States, that is, providing a higher court does not overturn the ruling of the magistrates court. That is good news. Granting him bail, after such a protracted period of imprisonment, would be even better news. It is something his supporters must press for.
This blog prides itself in having shamed Judge Baraitser into pretensions of humanity. It is more than six months since I exposed her as a torturer and it is clearly an epithet too burdensome for her to indefinitely carry on her shoulders. Camera-shy Baraitser also has family with high-ranking positions, and, who knows, perhaps they have pressured her into being slightly more lenient to protect the family image.
However, latter-day remorse does not excuse her from the malicious practices and the rod of iron she wielded in her courts. Despite requests, even from the prosecution team, that Julian be allowed to sit in open court where he could properly hear proceedings and have access to his own team, she made him instead endure the whole goings-on in a sidelined transparent bullet-proof cage where he had to pass notes across the floor to his team. Craig Murray reported on the proceedings. When it was put to her:
“Julian was “a gentle, intellectual man” and not a terrorist. Baraitser replied that releasing Assange from the dock into the body of the court would mean he was released from custody. To achieve that would require an application for bail.”
It was a dead-end for the defence. Baraitser had already refused bail and there was no way she was suddenly going to allow it so he could sit in open court. Her persistent torture of Julian had no bounds.
Hundreds of doctors, wrote twice to the Lancet, pointing out how Julian Assange’s continued mistreatment was destroying him psychologically. The International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) described his mistreatment as “shocking and excessive”, he had been handcuffed and moved around from 5 separate holding cells, had client communications with his lawyers prohibited and the Council of Europe called his detention one of “the most severe threats to media freedom”. Baraitser ignored these experts.
Julian’s ongoing torture has included, among privations like long hours of solitary confinement and segregation from others, regular body searches. For those unaware of what body searches entail, they are not like quick frisks searching for some hidden weapon in the clothing, something you might see in the movies, but intimate searches in the most private anatomical places. Vanessa Baraitser could have spared him this indignity should she have chosen. Instead she handed that task to a private security firm of dubious reputation, Group 4.
To further stress-out a sick man Baraitser had proceedings removed from Westminster Magistrates Court to the much smaller Woolwich Magistrates Court which is attached to Belmarsh prison – a prison for high-risk and dangerous inmates – in which the “gentle intellectual” was being held. Public scrutiny was at risk and were it not for human rights’ journalists, like Craig Murray, who queued from the early hours to report proceedings the full details of this torture would have gone unreported.
John Pilger was among journalists who also got into Woolwich and he pointed out Baraitser’s indifference to defence arguments while paying close attention to prosecution arguments. Baraitser did everything in her power to destroy Julian Assange’s mental capabilities and the verdict she has issued today is a verdict one suspects she had in the back of her mind from the very beginning.
While Baraitser initially paid no heed to the 200 plus doctors who told her back in February that he was a victim of torture, she seems to have listened to the testimony of Dr. Michael Kopelman as reported by Binoy Kampmark in Global Research. Dr Kopelman said:
His visits to Assange had yielded a man deprived of sleep, suffering “loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness as a result of threats to his life, the concealment of a razor blade as a means to self-harm and obsessive ruminations of ways of killing himself.” Kopelman was, he stated in submissions to the court, “as certain as a psychiatrist ever can be that, in the event of imminent extradition, Mr Assange would indeed find a way to commit suicide.”
In today’s ruling Vanessa Baraitser did not allow one single point from the opposition, which still must be of concern to the defence, should the prosecution appeal. There are ten days to appeal but it seems unlikely they will – indeed, there has been much more humanity from the prosecution than from Baraitser. That being so I am in agreement with Owen Jones of the Guardian that this is the right result, but unsatisfactory because it does not protect other whistleblowers.
Vanessa Baraitser did everything in her power to derange Julian Assange’s mental faculties, and together with the long-suffering tortures he had previously endured, she eventually had her victory. From the start she had tried to make him out to be mentally unstable, adding her own incessant persecution to the full extent of her powers, so she could make today’s pronouncement, which, though welcome, do nothing to protect journalists in the future. She has served her masters well.
“Granting him bail, after such a protracted period of imprisonment, would be even better news.”
I had thought Assange ought to be released very soon because he has served all of the time relating to his breach of bail crime, which was both the only legal reason he was in the embassy in the first place and the only legal reason he was removed from the embassy. After his removal, the US served the extradition papers to the UK. The sentence was for 50 weeks, laid out in April 2019, which is close to 90 weeks ago. There is no decision pending upon whether Assange ought to stay in prison or be released under British law, as he has served.
In the UK, the defendant is not kept in custody after the litigant’s loss of the original case and before an appeal is heard. Such a defendant is free.
The sentence from the original breach of bail crime having been served already, I think Assange may be being kept for a mental health assessment. It’s very possible he could now be sectioned for mental health problems, and further possible a sectioning could last until the appeal.
Of course, either if it would be perceived by health professionals between now and the appeal that Assange is not as bad and wouldn’t be a likely suicide risk, or if the litigants could argue that successfully anyway, he can still be extradited.
The big failing of the court of first instance was in avoiding deciding anything on points of law – both on that the extradition attempt is politically motivated and on that it infringes human rights in going against the freedoms of journalists to publish from sources.
I am hoping that the UK is not considering new charges for Assange, but it seems unlikely as charges would already have been posted a long time ago.
Thank you for that enlightened legal aspect, gmc500. I do hope it proves to be correct. He has suffered such a long time he needs support to get his life back on track.
“Of course, either if it would be perceived by health professionals between now and the appeal that Assange is not as bad and wouldn’t be a likely suicide risk, or if the litigants could argue that successfully anyway, he can still be extradited.”
My guess is that the litigants, although I hear they have started appeal proceedings, may reconsider. Julian’s fragile state of health is going to be even more of an issue if the case continues. Furthermore, they have everything they want except Julian. A higher court might overrule Judge Baraitser’s carte blanche support for the prosecution.