IBAHRI urges US President Joe Biden to drop all charges against Julian Assange

Friday 7 June 2024

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) urges United States President Joe Biden, to drop all charges against Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in relation to the Wikileaks publication, in 2010, of more than 250,000 leaked classified documents – exposing alleged human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by the US army during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

It was reported in April 2024 that the US President said ‘we’re considering it’ in response to a journalist’s question about a request from the Australian Government that Mr Assange be allowed to return to his native country.

Mr Biden’s comment followed Australia’s Parliament passing a motion in February 2024, backed by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, that called on the US and the United Kingdom – from where Mr Assange is fighting extradition to the US – to return Mr Assange to Australia.

Recently, on 20 May 2024, the UK High Court of Justice granted Mr Assange the right to appeal against his extradition to the US. The IBAHRI has welcomed the ruling and underscores the exceptional significance of the judgment in reaffirming international laws and standards that protect the fundamental right to freedom of expression and the protection of media personnel and public interest journalism worldwide.

Given the inherent risks posed in extraditing Mr Assange to the US, where a prison sentence of up to 175 years could be imposed under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the IBAHRI has closely followed the case.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, stated: ‘The High Court decision to grant an appeal against the extradition of Mr Assange marks a pivotal moment in this judicial saga, not only for Mr Assange and his legal team, but also for public interest journalism, which is also on trial in this case. The IBAHRI reiterates the concerns of United Nations Experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Dr Alice Jill Edwards, and the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, who have emphasised that if Mr Assange were to be extradited, his case would set a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on investigative journalism in the US and beyond. It is interesting that much time and effort have been expended in pursuing the Wikileaks founder, but seemingly less to investigating possible war crimes that resulted in the death of civilians allegedly perpetrated by the US military during the war in Afghanistan. President Biden is urged by the IBAHRI to drop all charges against Mr Assange.’

IBAHRI Director Baroness Helena Kennedy LT KC commented: ‘The High Court’s decision to grant Mr Assange leave to appeal his extradition is an important and long-awaited step. The IBAHRI reiterates that the potential extradition of Mr Assange from the UK to the US, where he may face a prejudicial and potentially politically motivated trial, would be in contravention with the Extradition Treaty between the two countries, not least a violation of international laws and standards concerning the extradition of accused individuals. Further, it would make Mr Assange the first publisher extradited under the Espionage Act, setting a dangerous precedent for media freedom globally. The appeal will be judged on its merits before the High Court and we urge the Court to uphold the fundamental right to free expression and protect the indispensable role of a free, independent media as the watchdogs of democratic societies.’

In February 2024, the IBAHRI reiterated its call to halt the extradition of Mr Assange to the US, as the UK High Court deliberated the case in a two-day hearing. On 26 March, the High Court deferred its judgment on Mr Assange’s request to appeal the extradition order, pending satisfactory assurances from the US that Mr Assange would:

Judges Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson ruled that, in the absence of satisfactory assurances, Mr Assange would be granted the right to appeal without a further hearing. On 16 April 2024, the Biden Administration provided assurances to the High Court, noting that the applicability of the First Amendment would be exclusively within the purview of the US courts.

In a judgment delivered on 20 May, Dame Sharp and Mr Johnson accepted the assurances provided by the US in relation to the death penalty. However, the judges found the US assurances of 16 April 2024 to be insufficient overall and, thereby, granted leave to appeal the extradition on two grounds: (a) a real risk of discrimination based on nationality (Section 81(b) of the Extradition Act 2003), since Mr Assange would not be able to rely on the First Amendment as US nationals would be entitled to; (b) – only as a consequence of (a) – a real risk of flagrant denial of Mr Assange’s right to freedom of expression (Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights).

Mr Assange and his legal team now prepare for the appeal hearing to challenge the extradition order, a date for which is yet to be set.


Contact: IBAHRI@int-bar.org

Notes to the Editor 

  1. Background: Julian Assange was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been given asylum for almost seven years. He was arrested for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and further arrested on behalf of the US authorities under an extradition warrant for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. In May 2019, the US Department of Justice filed 17 additional charges against Mr Assange, accusing him of violating the Espionage Act by exposing information many have argued to be in the public interest, bringing the number of charges against him to 18.
  2. Related material:
  3. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

  4. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:
  5. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

Website page link for this news release:

Short link: www.tinyurl.com/4987pcvf
Full link: www.ibanet.org/IBAHRI-urges-US-President-Joe-Biden-to-drop-all-charges-against-Julian-Assange