Mr Assange’s appeal to the European Court of Human Rights cannot be heard at this time, but comments from the judges confirm an application can be made again to Strasbourg in the future should Mr Assange be dissatisfied with the progress or outcome of his case before the British courts.
A panel of three European Court of Human Rights judges considered Mr Assange’s application. It ruled the application was inadmissible at this time because there are ongoing proceedings in the UK challenging the extradition on other points of law.
The panel further stated, however, that should Mr Assange “be dissatisfied in the future with the progress or outcome of the domestic procedures, it would be open to him to reintroduce his … complaint.”
The panel considered the application on 13 December 2022.
Mr Assange made the application to the European Court in July 2022 in order to comply with the Court’s requirement that applications should be submitted within 4 months of the last domestic decision. The application related to the legal arguments on which Mr Assange had succeeded at first instance in January 2021 when, after a full evidential hearing, a District Judge refused Mr Assange’s extradition and ordered his discharge. She did so on the basis that the extradition would expose Mr Assange, a person suffering from a long-standing and recurrent depressive disorder, and who has autism spectrum disorder, to the virtual certainty of mental deterioration, a high risk of suicide, and the likelihood of detention in conditions of extreme isolation that would be both cruel and inhuman.
The United States appealed the decision of the District Judge to the High Court. For the first time in the proceedings, “assurances” were offered by the United States, some of which purported to address conditions of detention and healthcare in US prisons. The High Court allowed the US appeal against the District Judge’s order for discharge on the basis of these conditional assurances. Amnesty International stated that:
“This is a travesty of justice. By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security
prison. The fact that the US has reserved the right to change its mind at any time means that these assurances are not worth the paper they are written on.”
Although the High Court granted a certificate for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, recognising that their judgment involved a point of law of public importance, upon application by Mr Assange, the Supreme Court did not allow a full appeal.
Dozens of press freedom organizations have expressed concern about the case. The UK’s National Union of Journalists issued a statement saying that “Seeking to prosecute Julian Assange for cultivating a source and encouraging that source to reveal further wrongdoing is
an attack on the very process of journalism.”
Mr Assange’s application to appeal on eight other grounds, including those related to press freedom, is currently before the High Court.