from the wigging-out dept
In case you were wondering about the current state of Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder is still holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, evading an extradition request to Sweden and living the life of a fugitive. Of course, it's not like he can't communicate with the outside world and, given some of the impressive leaks Wikileaks has released these past years, it's not uncommon for news organizations, academics, and others to seek interviews and input from him. One group recently interested in Assange's take on surveillance and its implications was a conference in Glasgow. Assange gave a speech via video-conference from the embassy and the audience, which included many officers of many courts, including judges, listened.
But several UK judges, including several supposed to also speak at the conference, missed seeing Assange speak after deciding to walk away from the whole conference due to Assange's inclusion.
Judges from Scotland, England and Wales and the UK supreme court had agreed to speak at or chair other sessions but withdrew – in some cases after arriving at the conference centre– when they found out about Assange’s appearance.Among those to boycott the conference were the most senior judge in Scotland, Lord Gill, and two judges on the supreme court, Lord Neuberger and Lord Hodge. Representatives of the judges said it would have been inappropriate for them to have attended, because of Assange’s legal status.I suppose I shouldn't, but I find it hard to imagine how people could attain some of the highest judicial positions in a country while being so thoroughly thin-skinned. It should be noted that Assange was not to be speaking on anything to do with why he's currently evading extradition, which is ostensibly about a sexual assault charge, or whatever authorities are drumming up for him these days. On the matter of surveillance and technology security, it's difficult to think of someone more qualified than Assange. The judges deciding to take a walk because of his fugitive status, failing to take part in a discussion about the laws around surveillance, only serves to do two things: make sure their point of view isn't heard and aggrandize Assange even more than he's already been.
A spokesperson for the Judicial Office for Scotland said: “The conference programme was changed to include Mr Assange’s participation at short notice and without consultation. Mr Assange is, as a matter of law, currently a fugitive from justice, and it would therefore not be appropriate for judges to be addressed by him. Under these circumstances, the lord president, Lord Gill, and the other Scottish judicial officeholders in attendance have withdrawn from the conference.”
So buck up, UK judges. Your takes on these issues are important. You may not like Assange. Hell, I don't like him either. But throwing a fit just because he was asked to speak at a conference isn't befitting your legal-y splendor.