LONDON. — Some of the most senior judges in Britain withdrew from a legal conference in Glasgow after the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, was booked to speak by video-link.
Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since losing his legal challenge to an extradition request from Sweden in 2012, spoke at a panel session of the Commonwealth Law Conference about surveillance and security on Wednesday.
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.
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these circumstances, the lord president, Lord Gill, and the other Scottish judicial officeholders in attendance have withdrawn from the conference.”
A spokesman for the UK supreme court added: “Lord Neuberger and Lord Hodge share the concerns expressed by Lord Gill and his fellow senior Scottish judges regarding the late addition of Mr Assange to the conference programme.
“As a result of this unfortunate development, they trust that delegates will understand their decision to withdraw from the conference.
The justices took this action regretfully, as they value greatly the work of the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the role of the conference as an important forum for sharing experiences and good practice across the legal profession.”
A spokesman for judiciary of England and Wales said: “The lord chief justice shares the concerns expressed by Lord Gill and Lord Neuberger in relation to the late change to the conference programme.
He agreed with the position taken by both, and the judges of England and Wales also withdrew from the conference.
The lord chief justice and the judiciary continue to express their strong commitment to the rule of law across the Commonwealth, and internationally.”
More than 20 Commonwealth judges attended the session at which Assange spoke and listened to a discussion about legal professional privilege. — The Guardian.