12 February 2020 — Off Guardian
The judge who was previously in charge of the Julian Assange extradition case was in the headlines again over another extradition case, this time refusing to extradite a UK couple because they faced a life sentence for murder, with no prospect of release.
Senior District Judge Emma Arbuthnot ruled that a London couple could not be extradited to India for trial over a double murder because, if convicted, they faced life imprisonment with no prospect of release – she said “an irreducible sentence” and a lack of a review would be “inhuman and degrading”, under the UK Human Rights Act, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.
Instead, the couple will now be allowed to go free and receive no trial at all, despite accepted prima facie evidence implicating them in a brutal double murder.
By contrast, this same judge, Emma Arbuthnot, foresaw no such problems extraditing Julian Assange to the USA, to face a 175 year prison-sentence. Realistically, Assange would have no prospect of release, in any circumstances.
In USA, sentences of life without parole are frequently imposed, often for quite minor offences, under “three strikes” laws – these prisoners are frequently kept in until they die, with no compassionate release. If these minor offenders have no chance of parole, what chance has Assange? Parole after 1/3 of his sentence – i.e. after 58 years?
Or is the mere existence of a nominal review process, regardless of whether this has any real meaning, enough to satisfy the Human Rights Act? Is this what human rights are about in Britain – a mere box-tick, rather than real protection?
Is the USA a nation that applies the standards of treatment for prisoners required by Human Rights Act and the ECHR? What about the other abuses applied to political prisoners, such as the conditions under which Bradley/Chelsea Manning was held, in solitary confinement, wakened every 20 minutes during the night, as alleged “suicide protection”?
What about other prisoners held for decades in solitary confinement, such as Albert Woodfox in solitary for 40 years? What about the widespread, often systemic, abuse of ordinary prisoners, which has led to protests, huge prisoner–strikes and uprisings?
This is before even considering whether any nation that wants to prosecute a journalist for the political crime of telling the truth has any meaningful system of justice at all, or whether its courts merely hold show-trials.
What does the Human Rights Act require, in terms of treatment of prisoners, in the eyes of Judge Emma Arbuthnot and of British justice in general?