The 50-year-old’s lawyers had argued that he should not be taken to the US because of a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide and won the right to appeal in Britain‘s highest court. However, on Monday the Supreme Court concluded that his application did not “raise an arguable point of law”. The case will now go to Priti Patel for a sign off on his extradition to the US, with four weeks’ time for his lawyers to make representations to the minister directly.
“We regret that the opportunity has not been taken to consider the troubling circumstances in which requesting states can provide caveated guarantees after the conclusion of a full evidential hearing,” reads a statement from his law firm Birnberg Peirce.
“In Mr Assange’s case, the court had found that there was a real risk of prohibited treatment in the event of his onward extradition,” the spokesperson said.
Under the next steps in the legal process, the case will now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, whose function thereafter is limited to referring the decision for extradition to the Home Secretary. The minister then decides whether to order or refuse extradition to the United States on a number of statutory bases. The defence is entitled to make submissions to the Home Secretary within the following four weeks, in advance of her making any decision.
In the long-drawn legal battle, the High Court in London had overturned a lower court’s decision that Assange could not be extradited due to concerns over his mental health, noting that the American government’s “solemn undertakings” were enough to guarantee humane treatment. In January, Assange had secured the right from the High Court in London to seek an appeal against that ruling in the Supreme Court, based on a point of law that is of “general public importance”.
The point certified for the potential consideration by the Supreme Court was: “In what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings”.
A panel of three judges of the Supreme Court considered the application on paper and refused permission to appeal on the basis that “the application does not raise an arguable point of law”.
Assange’s legal team highlighted that Assange had succeeded at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court level on the issue subsequently appealed by the US government to the High Court. No appeal to the High Court has yet been filed by him in respect of the other “important issues” raised previously at the magistrates’ court level, indicating that a separate process of appeal may yet be likely with reference to other points.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Assange, who remains at Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, is to marry his fiancee lawyer Stella Moris, with whom he has two children. According to UK media reports, Moris met Assange when he was living in exile at the Ecuador Embassy in London and will now get married in a small ceremony in the prison attended by witnesses and security guards.
The WikiLeaks campaigner has been in prison since 2019, after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions. He had been living in the embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.
The US indictment against him claims Assange conspired to crack a scrambled password, known as “hash”, to a classified US defence department computer. Assange denies the charge and maintains there is no evidence anyone’s safety was put at risk.