Overnight there was a significant legal ruling in London concerning the future of one Mr Julian Assange, currently holed up in the London Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador fleeing from the British courts. At the heart of the decision is a rather scathing judgement on the part of the Magistrate that Mr Assange should front the Court and argue his case rather than continue to avoid the Court’s jurisdiction. The Magistrate makes the point, rightly I believe, that everyone else subject to the granting of bail under English law – everyone, that is, apart from Mr Assange – is answerable for the bail to the Court that granted it. Mr Assange, for whatever reasons, believes that he is not, and that justice must bend to his will and not the other way around.
Regardless of what one thinks of Mr Assange’s actions in releasing classified documents into the public realm – and I’m completely agnostic about it – his actions do not give him the ability to determine which laws he’s prepared to answer to and which he is not. Mr Assange is not a hero – as he is painted by some in the media and the broader domain. He is currently a fugitive from justice, who hides behind an unwarranted public image in a foreign embassy, the subject of a valid arrest warrant for allegedly breaching his bail condition, and subject to arrest the moment he steps back on to any British street. And it is right that he should be such.
Mr Assange, if he has the courage of his convictions, would face the Court, answer the charges that will be preferred against him, submit to the jurisdiction of the Court, and accept whatever consequences come as a result of doing so. Until he does so, until Mr Assange recognises that he is not above the law – regardless of what he claims to have done in the public interest – Mr Assange is not, and cannot be considered to be, a ‘hero’.
Instead, he is entirely worthy of the assessment contained in the judgement of the Court.