UK: RSF leads a coalition of 16 organisations in urging Home Secretary Suella Braverman to urgently intervene in Assange extradition
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has led a coalition of 16 organisations in urging the new UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, to intervene in the US government's request to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. These groups, representing press freedom, free expression, and journalists' organisations, have also requested a meeting with Braverman to discuss concerns in the case, after a request for a meeting with former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, went unanswered. The full text of the letter is below.
The Rt. Hon Suella Braverman
Secretary of State for the Home Department
2 Marsham Street
7 October 2022
Dear Home Secretary,
We, the undersigned press freedom, free expression and journalists’ organisations, are writing to raise the case of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange and request you to urgently intervene to ensure he is not extradited to the United States.
In June your predecessor, Priti Patel, signed the order to extradite Mr Assange, despite widespread international concern that his extradition would have alarming implications for journalism and press freedom. In fact, many of the signatories in this letter wrote to Ms Patel warning that Assange’s prosecution “would set a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media outlet that published stories based on leaked information, or indeed any journalist, publisher or source anywhere in the world.”
Our request for a meeting was unfortunately left unanswered. We are therefore now asking you, Home Secretary, to meet with the signatories of this letter to discuss the case in detail.
We urge you, Home Secretary, to intervene in this extradition request as a matter of priority. In the US, Mr Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years. He is highly likely to be detained there in conditions of isolation or solitary confinement despite the US government’s assurances, which would severely exacerbate his risk of suicide.
Further, Mr Assange would be unable to adequately defend himself in the US courts, as the Espionage Act lacks a public interest defence. This would not align with the values of fairness, justice and a public commitment to media freedom that the UK continues to promote.
You now have an opportunity to ensure that this extradition does not proceed. An opportunity to demonstrate through action that the UK means what it says in its commitment to media freedom. And most importantly, the opportunity to reunite Mr Assange with his young family after many years of separation – an act that may ultimately save his life. We ask you to seize this opportunity as a matter of urgency and ensure that the UK government acts in the interest of journalism and press freedom and does not enable the US government to continue to pursue this more than decade-old, politically motivated case.
We look forward to hearing from you and discussing the case further. We would be grateful for a prompt response. Please reply via Azzurra Moores at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) at [email protected].
Rebecca Vincent, Director of Operations and Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Laurens Hueting, Senior Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Séamus Dooley, Assistant General Secretary, National Union of Journalists
Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Ruth Smeeth, Chief Executive, Index on Censorship
Mark Johnson, Legal & Policy Officer, Big Brother Watch
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Dr Suelette Dreyfus, Executive Director, Blueprint for Free Speech
Romana Cacchioli, Executive Director, PEN International
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN
Ricky Monahan Brown, President, Scottish PEN
Alix Parodi, President, PEN Suisse Romand
Tanja Tuma, President, Slovene PEN
Alix Parodi, President, PEN Suisse Romand
Zoë Rodriguez, joint President, PEN Sydney, and Chair of the PEN International Women Writers
Jesper Bengtsson, President, Swedish PEN