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Assange, Judge Arbuthnot and the Arrest Warrant

Justice is an elastic concept. Like other terms in law, it has room to expand and contract. But one weakness burdens legal strictures that supposedly have an objective reality to them: power. Power brutish, power as a spectral force, and power arbitrarily exercised.

Any reading of Julian Assange’s case must be, to that end, understood as a dynamic less of law than power. Having challenged its operations in the international system, he was bound to be its recipient. In assessing his conditions of detention on the Ecuadorean embassy in London, black letter lawyers prefer an interpretation without the influence of power, clean and clear. Focus is had on individual volition and purpose: up stakes, Assange, and face the legal music! That music remains the scoresheet of a warrant for his arrest.

Such reasoning is woefully inadequate given the feathers the man has rustled. A number of states, the United States most preeminent amongst them, has demanded his pound of flesh. Mike Pompeo of the Central Intelligence Agency has admitted with refreshing candour how US authorities are considering avenues on prosecuting Assange and those associated with WikiLeaks.

Having soiled many a stable with the work of WikiLeaks and disclosures of classified information, treating Assange as a minor offender, one merely deserving of a parking ticket, is entirely erroneous. But it is a view that persists, even after the collapse of the Swedish case against him.

Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, taking a view shared by many members of her profession, proved inelastic in assessing Assange’s appeal against the arrest warrant. She did not, for instance, feel that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had much truck in its 2016 decision favourable to him.

Assange, she was more or less surmising, was an unconscionable brat, a person who believed laws insufficient to bind him. “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.” The arch manipulator had to come clean and descend from his Olympus.

“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. He appears to consider himself above the normal rules of law and wants justice only if it goes in his favour.”

Some observers were not immune to the sense that the judge had gotten personal.  Rather than focusing on the finer points of the ruling, a moral assessment was in order. “At times,” went ABC correspondent Lisa Millar, “it felt like a character assessment that went beyond what was needed for this ruling.”

The only way Judge Arbuthnot could understand Assange’s case was like any other defendant, an understanding both flawed and naïve. “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.”

The problem with this reasoning is that the “choices” in question have been shown to be thinly manipulated grounds, notably those centred on a prosecutor’s brief from Sweden that was pursued till it expired with time. At no point was Assange ever charged for sexual offences, a niggling point that the righteous followers of positive law forget.

When concessions were finally made to interview him in the Ecuadorean embassy on his Swedish sojourn, nothing of substance emerged. What did, however, lurk with sinister force was the role played by British authorities to prolong the matter.

It is beside the point that Assange may leave his confines at any time. But removing a police presence before a minefield doesn’t remove the mines. He may well walk out and face the heralds of law. But the issue of skipping bail is not a standalone matter of legal delinquency. The grounds for extraditing him to Sweden have evaporated, making the issue academic. What remains is the prospect of surrender to the United States, a point that is far from negligible.

None of this matters to the judge, who decided she knew geopolitical malice, or issues of trust, better than most. “I do not accept that Sweden would have rendered Mr Assange to the United States.”

A good dose of speculation followed. “If that had happened there would have been a diplomatic crisis between the UK, Sweden and the US, which would have affected international relationships and extradition proceedings between states.”

Not in the least. What all three states have demonstrated are strong ties in terms of extradition, common grounds when it comes to dealing with international trouble makers. The Lauri Love decision does, admittedly, offer some room for hackers and those of Assange’s ilk to avoid the fate of ending up in the US prison system.

Far from precipitating a crisis, rendering Assange or extraditing him would have been seen as the ridding of a problem, removing a chaos maker, as it were, from the already troubled soup of international relations. Charmingly for such judicial officials as Judge Arbuthnot, the rule of law remains immune from political influence, despite scant evidence of its practice.


  1. paul walter

    How true this factoid linked actually is I can’t verify, but if it’s remotely true, doesn’t it say a lot about this filthy, corrupted process Assange has been subject to?


    As for the rest, I am an Assange supporter, so have given much thought to the issues Dr Kampmark addresses.

    What I think is, Assange is like the Kafkaesque Russian worker sent to a gulag for reading, say, Animal Farm, a proscribed book. On what basis would the law of Stalin ever be related to an absolute,deontological final definition of justice, handed down before the masses by an immortal divine entity? There is no FINAL justification for the course Arbuthnot takes, not at all!

    Think also of Winston Smith from 1984, who finally unfogs his brainwashed mind to glimpse the true nature of the society he lives in and is then hauled off for a painful re-education.

    What has Assange ever done that is wrong in a “justice” sense?

    I won’t include the laughable slanders over some vague sexual infringement dreamed up to offer an excuse slander and punish him as a sort of Foucaultian example; must be criminal to question to make sure, let alone mad, as a warning to other dissenters.

    He spoke truth to power?

    So Arbuthnot talks of “the law” and “justice” without the faintest concept of what these terms actually mean. The”law” is (actually) the “law” of the Western security apparatus, devised to protect the war crimes and financially corrupt guilty, determined to clamp down on any dissent whatsover that questions or challenges Oligarchic rule, employing the excuse of a nebulous “terrorism for what is actually repression and dumbing down within THIS society. But to what confirmed Absolute does Arbuthnot’s decision making relate to? What is her annhilatory idea of “justice”

    “Justice” intrinsically comprises the notion of fair play in relation to sentient existence in this actuality, something this woman seems not to have even a remote clue concerning, or thought of even considering. Contempt prior to investigation, no desire to listen, a closed mind.

    What has really happened is that the authorities have decided some one is expendable, but not, of course, themselves.

    If Aristotle comment that,

    “The unconsidered life is hardly worth the consideration”.

    seeks a home, surely it finds in Magistrate “unconscious nihilist” Arbuthnot.

  2. Chris

    Good on you Paul. ….not like these other cowards. 😉

  3. Trevor

    The Law is an ass is an ass is an ass open to political interferance since white folks could spell.

  4. Christopher

    Thanks Binoy and Paul, I heard on news his lawyer talking about appeal. Very wrong decision.

    We can all see that all he has done is to provide the means by which whistleblowers can reveal bad stuff going on. That is, he is not revealing secrets, although sites like the pirate bay have fallen foul of authorities for providing the means for people to share copyrighted files, so there’s that similarity.

    He has every reason to be fearful as there is evidence that a grand jury met in 2010 to indite him – see http://edition.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/12/13/wikileaks.investigation/index.html

    The UK would give him up in a heartbeat if he steps out of his place of refuge.

  5. James

    While I am a supporter of J. Assange, I guess to me it shows just how pathetic our scumbag government truly is, they have failed to offer any protection for Mr Assange, he is a citizen after all, but then as the world knows Australia is the fluffy poodle of the American government

  6. crypt0

    Australia defends Assange to the degree that anyone would expect … which is to say , not at all.
    Anyone surprised by this has just not been paying attention.
    Truly pathetic.
    And we talk about becoming a republic … just how much difference would that make in a case like this I wonder ?

  7. helvityni

    Earlier on, I was no fan of Assange, but now I have to say that I have no respect for Judge Arbuthnot; where is her humanity, Assange has done more than his time, let the man go…

    crypt0, you are so right, Australia has done NOTHING to help Assange; we are as hard as Ms Arbuthnot, shame on us…

  8. johnF

    “..it is admitted at para 43 of “Lady” Arbuthnot’s judgement that the Crown Prosecution Service actively referred the Swedish authorities to Wikileaks activities in the United States as a reason not to drop the arrest warrant, a fact which the UK mainstream media has still never reported and which obviates “Lady” Arbuthnot’s trite observation that there is no evidence that Sweden would have extradited Assange to the USA.”

  9. paul walter

    The Establishment is making a subceptional statement, Do as we say, not as we do.

    Pretty fascist, eh, in the end?

  10. diannaart

    Very Kafkaesque, Paul.

    If I was faced with a very strong probability of winding up a prisoner of the land of the “free” and home of the bullies “brave”, I’d take the sanctuary offered by Ecuadorean embassy, without a second thought.

    As for Judge Arbuthnot’s description of Assange as a brat. What does that make Murdoch, a man who lives to suit himself, manipulates power on scale which dwarf’s Wikileaks and is never, ever held to account.

    Daring to tell the truth has become a crime according to the (still) most powerful nation on earth, which is about all Assange is guilty of doing. May he walk free – as he is entitled to do.

    The world does not need another scapegoat.

  11. paul walter

    Thanks, Diannaart..

  12. Glenn Barry

    Two words come to mind when considering the Australian gubmints protection of our citizens subject to abuse at the hands of the US of A

    David Hicks

    Howard took things to a truly atrocious level with that episode, they’ve continued at that level ever since

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