By Alan MacLeod
The high profile extradition hearing of publisher and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange continued in Central London today. But it did so without oversight from international human rights groups. Julia Hall, an expert on criminal justice and human rights for Amnesty International, revealed that her organization was again denied entry to the court today, despite their repeated requests to be recognized as fair trial monitors.
Fair trial monitors are a critical component to upholding transparency and regulation in courtrooms across the world, reminding authorities that independent witnesses are scrutinizing them. Hall noted that Amnesty monitors have been recognized as international fair trial monitors for cases in many repressive states, including Bahrain and Turkey, and even oversaw cases at Guantanamo Bay. “It is a disgrace that the UK has failed to recognize that international fair trial monitors should be officially recognized and permitted access to the Assange hearings. Open justice is not served by this failure, it is profoundly undermined,” she wrote.
Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, described the hearing as a “full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression,” noting that if he were prosecuted, it would have a “chilling effect on media freedom, leading publishers and journalists to self-censor in fear of retaliation.” Hall added that it was not only Assange who was on trial but the fundamental tenets of media freedom. Amnesty also warned that an international smear campaign against him had threatened his right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Britain would also be breaking its obligation to international human rights law by transferring the Australian to a known human rights abusing nation, according to the organization.
1/ .@amnesty denied access again today to the court in the #Assange extradition hearing. We’ve made 3 applications requesting recognition as expert fair trial monitors. Judge states that no “special provision” will be made for our trial monitor’s attendance. pic.twitter.com/psQ53H4aKU
— Julia Hall (@JuliaHall18) September 16, 2020
Assange is charged with violating the US Espionage Act and 17 counts of publishing secret American government information. If extradited from the United Kingdom,