Britain tries to assuage WikiLeaks founder over extradition fears
British officials claim WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a "double guarantee" against any form of extradition from Sweden to the US - if such a legal procedure were to violate his human rights.
Assange - who is currently holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London - was granted asylum by Quito on August 16. The WikiLeaks founder first entered the embassy on June 19 after all attempts to fight extradition to Sweden - where he faces charges of sexual assault - failed.
Assange, who denies the accusations, is concerned that extradition to Sweden could ultimately lead to his eventual transfer and detention in the United States.
However, British foreign secretary William Hague has gone on record as stating that neither the UK or Sweden would allow Assange to be extradited to the United States if he were to face the death penalty or a breach of his human rights.
"Both the United Kingdom and Sweden are signatories to the European convention on human rights and the British government has complete confidence in the independence and fairness of the Swedish judicial system. As we have discussed with the government of Ecuador, the United Kingdom and Sweden robustly implement and adhere to the highest standards of human rights protection," Hague wrote in an official statement to MPs obtained by the UK-based Guardian.
"The suggestion that Mr Assange's human rights would be put at risk by the possibility of onward extradition from Sweden to a third country is also without foundation. Not only would Sweden – as a signatory to the European convention on human rights – be required to refuse extradition in circumstances which would breach his human rights, but the authorities in Sweden would also be legally obliged to seek the United Kingdom's consent before any extradition to a non-EU member state could proceed."
According to Hague, the Britian's consent would only be given in accordance with the international conventions by which the UK is bound, including the European convention on human rights and domestic law.
"In practice, this means that the United Kingdom could only consent to Mr Assange's onward extradition from Sweden to a third country if satisfied that extradition would be compatible with his human rights, and that there was no prospect of a death sentence being imposed or carried out," he said.
It should be noted that Assange's lawyer Michael Ratner had previously emphasized that Julian was "right" to fear American prosecution.
"The US is on track to prosecute Assange for his work as a journalist. A grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, [empowered] to investigate violations of the Espionage Act - a statute that by its very nature targets speech - has subpoenaed Twitter feeds regarding Assange and WikiLeaks," Ratner wrote in a Guardian op-ed piece.
"An FBI agent, testifying at whistleblower Bradley Manning's trial, said that 'founders, owners and managers' of WikiLeaks are being investigated. And then there is Assange's 42,135-page FBI file – a compilation of curious heft if the government is 'not interested' in investigating its subject."
Ratner also emphasized that Assange was "rightly concerned" about how he would be treated if extradited to the US.
"One need only consider how the US treated Bradley Manning, the army private who allegedly leaked the cables to WikiLeaks to see why. Manning spent close to a year in pre-trial solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, and then eight months under conditions designed to pressure him into providing evidence to incriminate Assange.
"During this time, Manning was stripped of his clothing and made to stand nude for inspection. Thousands of people, including scores of legal scholars and the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, have condemned Manning's treatment as inhumane, and state that it may constitute torture. There is no reason for Assange to expect he will be treated any better," he added.