This edition of A Question of Law will focus on the topics of extradition, freedom of the press and Julian Assange. Our guest Ben Keith, barrister at 5 Saint Andrew’s Hill, will explain these concepts and put them in perspective in the context of Julian Assange’s extradition requests.
Explaining, at first, the extradition proceedings that Assange has been subjected to (7:15), Ben will clarify how the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) functions, its speedy and efficient procedures which until the UK exited the EU was adapted to its needs (8:50). We will soon understand that the process requires very little evidence about the offence allegedly committed as the EAW is based on trust and cooperation between all European countries.
We’ll then discuss whether the use of this ultra-effective instrument was appropriate and proportional in Julian Assange’s case ( 13:25), taking into account the controversies around the allegations, the lack of charges and the fear of further extradition to the US. Ben will explain that the issue was mainly to do with two different legal systems (14:25), that there was no risk of further extradition and that the process did not infringe on Assange’s freedom of movement under the European Convention of Human Rights (8:54).
Similarly, Ben will explicate how the extradition treaty between the UK and the USA works (24:30). Despite a few inherent imbalances (24:56), the procedure is, here too, fundamentally grounded on trust.
Then we will explore the recent Court’s decision to block Julian Assange’s extradition request to the US (27:37). Summarising the most important points, Ben will provide highly informative insights on the Judge’s decision to reject the argument according to which the request was politically motivated (28:09) and shed light on the differences between political motivation and political offence (28:36). Instead, he will explain how she looked at the combination of horrific prison conditions in the US and Assange’s mental health issues (29:18) to conclude that sending him to a supermax prison would almost certainly lead him to commit suicide (31:50).
Ben will then turn to the question of freedom of speech and whether Julian Assange acted as a journalist expressing his press freedom when he released classified information to mainstream newspapers or whether there were sufficient reasons to believe that this constituted an offence susceptible to justify his extradition (37.06).
Based on these analyses, he will reveal why he thinks this decision is particularly interesting (39:20) and what is likely to happen at the appeal stage (40:08).
Finally, he will share with us why he decided to become a barrister (41:16) will reveal the proudest moment of his career (43:00), the significant hurdles intrinsic to the profession (44:06), the most important lesson he has learnt (44:54) and provide valuable advice for aspiring barristers (46:13).