Can Julian Assange win his Supreme Court extradition case?

Feb 1, 2012

If judges find in favour of the WikiLeaks boss, any other extraditions to Europe would be difficult

JULIAN ASSANGE'S fight against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual misconduct, reaches its climax today when the Supreme Court meets to consider his appeal. It is a measure of how important the court considers the WikiLeaks editor's case that seven judges will hear it, rather than the usual five. The hearing will last two days, but a decision could take several weeks.

What is Assange's case?
Assange's case essentially amounts to an attack on the Swedish legal system - and those of other European countries. His lawyers believe that a Swedish prosecutor should not have been allowed to issue a European arrest warrant (EAW) because holders of this office are not a valid judicial authority. Furthermore, since they are in charge of the prosecution, they are not neutral.

Can Assange win?
The Supreme Court says Assange has raised an issue of "great public importance", which is why seven judges are hearing his case. However, two lawyers have told The Guardian they do not believe Assange will win. Karen Todner, an extradition specialist at Kaim Todner Solicitors, said British judges "absolutely defer" to the justice systems of European countries. Peter Caldwell, an extradition barrister at Dyers Chambers, said that although Assange's case is "well argued... it doesn't get beyond the obligation of the UK to give effect to European law".

What will happen if Assange wins?
Extradition to European countries would effectively end until the law could be changed. Julian Knowles QC, a barrister specialising in extradition law at Matrix Chambers, told The Guardian: "It would basically mean, until the law is rewritten, that extradition to Europe [would] become very difficult, if not impossible. Because in the vast majority of European extradition requests, the arrest warrant is issued not by a court, as it would be in England, but by a prosecutor."

Can Assange appeal again?
Yes, to the European Court of Human Rights, but as Sweden is also a member, it will not stop Assange being extradited - probably within two weeks of the Supreme Court's decision.

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