Julian Assange: Citizen of the World, But Under Whose Jurisdiction?

Julian Assange is truly an international man of misery. While he has attempted to maintain an aura of invincibility under a cloak of invisibility, there are those who want  him  thrown into jail; any jail. The question is: who has personal jurisdiction over Julian Assange?

The quick answer is the U.K. and then possibly Sweden. Assange remains out on bail awaiting his extradition hearing in the U.K. to Sweden for alleged sexual crimes. As James Lumley of Bloomberg.com reports,

“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the outline of his arguments for why he shouldn’t be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault claims will be provided to the media before a court hearing set for next month.

His lawyers have “asked the court to make available to members of the press our skeleton argument, which we’ve had to produce in very short time,” Assange said outside of a London court following a hearing today.

Mark Stephens, who represents Assange, said the arguments may be available as soon as this afternoon via his law firm’s website. The extradition hearing is scheduled to begin Feb. 7.”

Then there’s the spectre of the U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation stemming from WikiLeaks  posting thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents, including a 2007 video helicopter attack in Iraq, which killed a Reuters t.v. cameraman and his driver.

The New American reports that Assange is not backing down:

“Critics of WikiLeaks and founder Julian Assange have called for everything from prosecution and new laws to extrajudicial kidnapping and even assassination to stop the embarrassing leaks and deter future whistleblowers. But the now-famous Australian is fighting back, calling for criminal “incitement-to-murder” prosecutions over the most extreme and prominent outbursts.

Among his targets are people such as failed GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee; former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin; University of Calgary political-science Professor Tom Flanagan, an advisor to former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Vice President Joe Biden; and others around the world who have called for his head — literally.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice is investigating Assange and WikiLeaks. But so far, despite the shrill bipartisan calls for prosecution for conspiracy or espionage, no U.S. charges have been filed yet.”

To make matters worse, there are reports that Assange’s lawyers fear that if Assange were to be extradited to the U.S., he could either be shipped to Guantanamo Bay or,  face the death penalty:

“There is a real risk that, if extradited to Sweden, the U.S. will seek his extradition and/or illegal rendition to the USA,” said the document on the website of law firm Finers Stephens Innocent.

“Indeed, if Mr Assange were rendered to the USA, without assurances that the death penalty would not be carried out, there is a real risk that he could be made subject to the death penalty.”

If Assange ends up in the United States, the document adds, there is “a real risk” he would be subject to ill-treament or even torture, both prohibited under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Finers Stephens Innocent LLP, the UK law firm representing Assange, has posted at Assange’s request, the Preliminary Note of the Skeleton Argument in Sweden v Julian Assange on their firm website available for download here (h/t @Charonqc via Twitter).

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, suspected of providing the classified documents to WikiLeaks, remains:

“…in “maximum custody.” Also, under a “Protection of Injury” order, he is confined to his cell for 23 hours a day, even though his lawyer says a psychologist has determined he isn’t a threat to himself. His lawyer also says that Manning is denied sheets and is unable to exercise in his cell, and that he is not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he is made to sit up or stand by his guards.”

It looks as though everyone wants a piece of Assange, except, Australia, where he retains citizenship. No worries, though. Donald K. Anton and Gregor Urbas (Australian National University (ANU) – College of Law) have posted  a short piece on SSRN entitled: “Why Julian Assange May Have a Case to Answer in Australia, Despite What the AFP Says (or, Why Julia Gillard Might Be Right)”. The abstract reads:

Despite a finding by the Australian Federal Police that it has been unable to identify any breaches of Australian law by Julian Assange, the apparent leader of Wikileaks, we submit that such a finding is far from certain. While we are not in a position to second-guess the AFP on the strength of the evidence available, we highlight that there are matters of public record and a legal background that suggests that Assange and Wikileaks may have come close to committing an offence/s under the Australian Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) relating to telecommunication services.

The authors conclude,

“As a matter of jurisdiction, it appears that the extended geographical jurisdiction of section 15.1 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth) applies: see s475.2:

“Section 15.1 (extended geographical jurisdiction–category A) applies to each offence against this Part”.

If the conduct constituting the alleged offence has occurred wholly outside of Australia, then jurisdiction will not be established unless one of the other bases in s15.1 can be established. With respect to Wikileaks, this may be difficult to establish (more needs to be known about  its corporate structure if any) but with respect to Assange, it is sufficient that he was an Australian citizen at the time of the offence: see s15.1(1)(c)(i).”

2 Responses to “Julian Assange: Citizen of the World, But Under Whose Jurisdiction?”

  1. Blawg Review #294: MLK, Jr. Day edition Says:

    […] Greenwald has more, including a copy of the order. Finally, Antonin Pribetic wrote an excellent post on the thorny issue of just who has personal jurisdiction over Julian Assange and also in the same […]

  2. Irene Carlson Says:

    Jurisdiction… The truth! Citizen Of The World!
    its that simple.

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