Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the National Union of Journalists have expressed disappointment and anger at the refusal of the UK Supreme Court to consider the appeal in the extradition case against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange.

More than two years after extradition proceedings began, the case will now be sent back to the Home Office for a political decision.

RSF has urged the Home Office to act in the interest of journalism and press freedom by refusing extradition and immediately releasing Assange from prison.

On 14 March, Assange’s defence lawyers issued a statement publicising the fact that the Supreme Court has refused Assange permission to appeal on the basis that “the application does not raise an arguable point of law.” The case will now be sent back to the Home Secretary to decide whether to approve or reject extradition, nearly three years after the same office greenlighted the US government’s extradition request in the first place.

This announcement followed the 24 January decision by the High Court allowing Assange to file an appeal with the Supreme Court, requesting review of a narrow point related to the lateness in the US government’s provision of diplomatic assurances regarding Assange’s treatment if extradited.

RSF is deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision, which represents a serious blow to Assange’s fight against extradition to the United States.There, he faces the possibility of a prison sentence of up to 175 years, in connection with Wikileaks’ publication of leaked classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The documents exposed war crimes and human rights violations which have never been prosecuted.

RSF’s Director of Operations and Campaigns, Rebecca Vincent, said: “Julian Assange’s case is overwhelmingly in the public interest, and it deserved review by the highest court in the UK. After two full years of extradition proceedings, once again Assange’s fate has become a political decision. We call on the Home Office to act in the interest of journalism and press freedom by refusing extradition and releasing Assange from prison without further delay.”

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has meanwhile renewed its call for UK government intervention in Julian Assange’s case, saying the Supreme Court’s decision to deny him the right to appeal his extradition to the US is a new blow to free expression.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ General Secretary said: “The legal shortcomings in the case to extradite Julian Assange are clear, as are the risks to free speech from this attempted prosecution. This comes against a backdrop of legal threats to reporting, among them the production order sought against Chris Mullin, proposed reforms of the Official Secrets Act and plans to scrap the Human Rights Act.

“The Home Secretary should call a halt to this extradition attempt and affirm the government’s support for a free media.”

The NUJ has repeatedly highlighted wider risks to journalism if efforts to extradite Julian Assange are successful, and says it will continue its calls for him to be released.

The UK is ranked 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Sources: Reporters Without Borders and National Union of Journalists