Why the European Union Is Passive in the Extradition Case Against Julian Assange

Why the European Union Is Passive in the Extradition Case Against Julian Assange
A case study on human rights, democracy and international relations
By Jezile Torculas
Global Research, July 27, 2022


Julian Assange through WikiLeaks rose to fame in 2010 after his publication of classified military information pertaining to US war crimes and human rights violations in the course of the Iraq and Afghan wars. Of particular importance, one that predicated Assange’s controversial arrest in Britain is an incriminating footage of American soldiers shooting blankly at Iraqi civilians and Reuters news staff in 2007.

WikiLeaks famously dubbed the video as “Collateral Murder” essentially because the deliberate killing of a wounded civilian being separated from a targeted van is downright murder[1].

Following the publication of US war logs, Assange received both compliments and vitriol — one for imperiling personal security and reputation for the sake of truthful journalism, and the other for allegedly risking other people’s safety and endangering national security. The debate concerning the nature of Assange’s activities surfaced, raising questions of whether he is a journalist, a whistleblower or a hacker, and whether or not he should be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges.

The case of Julian Assange is one that is far more complex and controversial than is imaginable. While the topic per se is arguably more legal than political, the centrality of the political motivation behind the extradition request from the US simply cannot be undermined. In 2017, former CIA Director and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a “non-state, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors” and called Assange as “darling of terrorist groups”[2]. Further, then Vice President Joe Biden branded him as a “high-tech terrorist”[3]. Another former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed in an interview that the US prosecution of Assange is a way of sending a “threatening message to whistleblowers and journalists” who expose dirty secrets of the US government[4]. In this respect, the legal underpinnings of the case are of lesser significance in this essay than its political aspect.

Assange’s extradition has both personal and global ramifications vis-à-vis human rights and democracy, particularly on press freedom. The European Union has a key role in the obstruction of the American pursuit of Assange and should therefore play its part as a legitimate institution whose raison d’etre is the promotion and preservation of global norms. While several international human rights organizations[5], civil society groups[6], individual authorities[7] and even the Council of Europe[8] stood for Assange and criticized the extradition case as a crackdown on investigative journalism, the EU as a collective entity could have employed a variety of its human rights instruments to interfere in the criminal proceedings but nevertheless remains mum and passive. The EU and US have long history of diplomatic relations that date back to 1953. Theirs is “one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world”[9]. Against this background, this essay argues that the EU as a rational actor has goals, interests and strategies of its own; the silence surrounding Assange’s extradition case represents a double standard in its commitment, or the lack thereof, to the protection of human rights and democracy that instead of being comprehensively integrated into its external service, in actuality it is just a variable. Realpolitik precedes any normative standard in international relations (IR) insofar as the EU, US and Assange are concerned.


The article, Why the European Union Is Passive in the Extradition Case Against Julian Assange, can be read on globalresearch.ca.