Julian Assange fails in bid to have British arrest warrant withdrawn

Julian Assange

Credit: David G Silvers, CC BY-SA 2.0

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has failed in an application to Westminster Magistrates’ Court to have a warrant for his arrest withdrawn.

An arrest warrant was issued by the court in 2012 after Mr Assange failed to surrender following an order that he be extradited to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault charges.

In two separate rulings, the Chief Magistrate, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected his lawyers’ arguments that the warrant issued under section 7 of the Bail Act 1976 is obsolete as the Swedish proceedings were discontinued in 2017, and that any proceedings under section 6 for failing to surrender are disproportionate and not in the public interest.

Mark Summers QC, representing Mr Assange, highlighted a ruling by the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which said Mr Assange was being arbitrarily detained.

Judge Arbuthnot said she gave it “little weight”, adding: “I suspect if one were to ask one of the men incarcerated in Wandsworth Prison whether conditions in the Ecuadorian Embassy were akin to a remand in custody, the prisoner would dispute the Working Group’s assertion.”

Handing down the second and final ruling on the application yesterday, Judge Arbuthnot said: “The impression I have, and this may well be dispelled if and when Mr Assange finally appears in court, is that he is a man who wants to impose his terms on the course of justice, whether the course of justice is in this jurisdiction or in Sweden.

“He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour. As long as the court process is going his way, he is willing to be bailed conditionally but as soon as the Supreme Court rules against him, he no longer wants to participate on the court’s terms but on his terms.

“I have had to consider whether it is proportionate not to withdraw the warrant for his arrest. On the one hand he is a man who has failed to attend court and has thwarted the course of justice but on the other he has been unable to leave a small flat for a number of years and is suffering physically and mentally as a result.

“Having weighed up the factors for and against and considered Mr Summers’ arguments I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years. Defendants on bail up and down the country, and requested persons facing extradition, come to court to face the consequences of their own choices. He should have the courage to do so too.”