On the eve of Day X, calls to free Julian Assange are more urgent than ever

With the UK High Court set to consider Julian Assange’s final application to appeal the order for his extradition, the WikiLeaks publisher’s fate hangs in the balance, as this hearing marks the beginning of the end of the extradition proceedings against him. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will be present in court to monitor “Day X,” and reiterates its urgent call for the US government to drop the case against Assange and allow for his release from prison without further delay.

From 20 to 21 February, a panel of two High Court judges will convene the last stage of UK proceedings in the US government’s extradition case against Assange, considering his final application to appeal the extradition order signed by the Home Secretary in June 2022. Referred to by #FreeAssange supporters as “Day X,” this hearing marks the beginning of the end of the extradition case, as any grounds rejected by these judges cannot be further appealed in the UK – bringing Assange dangerously close to extradition.

The hearing has generated significant buzz, with international attention to Assange’s case growing, along with widespread calls for his release, from free expression and human rights communities, to journalists and media organisations, to policymakers around the world, including in Assange’s home country of Australia. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Dr Alice Jill Edwards, is the latest to add her voice to the call for the UK to halt Assange’s imminent extradition, citing the serious risks to Assange’s mental health and the risk of suicide. RSF reiterates its warning that the prosecution of Assange would have alarming implications for the future of journalism and would represent an unprecedented blow to press freedom.

“All eyes are on the UK High Court during this fateful hearing, but it remains to be seen whether the British judiciary can deliver some form of justice by preventing Assange’s extradition at this late stage. Regardless, none of this is inevitable – it remains within the US government’s power to bring this judicial tragedy to an end by dropping its 13 year-old case against Assange and ceasing this endless persecution. No one should face such treatment for publishing information in the public interest. It’s time to protect journalism, press freedom, and all of our right to know. It’s time to free Assange now.

Rebecca Vincent
RSF’s Director of Campaigns

Although it cannot fully be predicted how the court will proceed, it is unlikely that the court will issue a decision immediately – this will likely follow some weeks later. If the court accepts some or all of Assange’s grounds for appeal, a further hearing could take place. If all grounds are rejected, Assange’s extradition could be imminent. His only remaining legal recourse would be at the European Court of Human Rights.

As the only NGO that has monitored the entire extradition proceedings in UK courts over the past four years despite extensive barriers to observation, RSF will be back in court to monitor Day X. RSF has also recently gone public about its series of visits to Assange in Belmarsh prison from August 2023 to January 2024, as the only NGO to gain visitation access following the prison’s previous arbitrary barring of access to RSF’s representatives.

The UK and US are respectively ranked 26th and 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2023 World Press Freedom Index

23/ 180
Score : 77.51
55/ 180
Score : 66.59
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