UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom Of Expression: Don’t Prosecute Assange

Frank La Rue is the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In an interview with the Elanor Hall of the Australian outlet ABC Today he said plainly that Julian Assange and Wikileaks should not be held criminally responsible for being the medium through which classified documents were leaked.

ELEANOR HALL: So do you think given that then that the US Government has any grounds to charge the WikiLeaks founder and to seek his extradition?

FRANK LA RUE: I don’t think so. I think with the WikiLeaks founder there’s two issues at stake. He supposedly is going to be extradited to Sweden for other types of crime not related at all to freedom of expression.

If that is the case I have nothing to say except that I wish that Sweden or any country where he will be tried give him the full guarantees of due process of law and a full possibility of defence.

But in reference to what has been published in WikiLeaks I think there is no criminal responsibility for being the medium. This is one of the big debates in internet and up to now the general doctrine is that there is no responsibility just to transfer information.

There is a responsibility in I would say in this case in two situations. One is that some statements can clearly be a threat to national security. And the second issue is the personal safety of individuals. Those are the cases that really have to be looked at.

But having said that just the fact that the information is embarrassing information to a government does not make it subject to be blocked or filtered or reprisals to the director/founder of the service.

I’d say this is a pretty compelling summation of a how to comprehend the Wikileaks cable release, though I doubt Assange’s die hard fans or much of the political class here in Washington will like it.

On the one side, you have dogmatic supporters of wikileaks who believe that government secrecy itself is the problem. On the other hand, you have politicians well within the political mainstream in the United States describing Assange as an “enemy combatant” and calling for his indictment on treason charges.

La Rue meanwhile, provides a reasonable middle ground between these extremes.  We would all do well to heed his advice.