Crime,  Law,  Wikileaks

Sympathy for Geoffrey Robertson QC

I’d just like to extend my sincere sympathy to Geoffrey Robertson QC, for the very difficult position that his client, Julian Assange, has put him in. Assange gave a press conference yesterday at which, according to the Guardian, he said the following:

Outside court, Assange … said that Montgomery had represented the former Chilean president Augusto Pinochet at an extradition hearing

Assange is talking about Clare Montgomery QC. He is attempting to smear the counsel for Sweden by suggesting that she is some sort of a Consigliere to despots.

By the same token, detractors of Assange might say of Geoffrey Robertson QC that he has represented a man who not only has been accused of raping a woman by having risky “bareback” sex with her, despite her specific request that he wear a condom, but who now appears to have paid a neo Nazi called “Israel Shamir” to peddle Wikileaks material to tyrants like Belarus’ Lukashenko, who used it to attack pro-democracy campaigners.

That would be an outrageous thing to say. This is why.

Both Robertson and Montgomery are subject to the cab rank rule. They must take any case in their field and competence “irrespective of (i) the party on whose behalf he is instructed (ii) the nature of the case and (iii) any belief or opinion which he may have formed as to the character reputation cause conduct guilt or innocence of that person.”.

Australia operates the cab rank rule, as well.

So, for example, Montgomery is presently defending Mr Dewani, who faces extradition over an alleged plot to murder his wife in South Africa. She prosecuted the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in relation to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. She prosecuted the recent Rwandan genocide request, and has defended  the former President of Bosnia in relation to allegations of war crimes made against him by Serbia.

This is what barristers do. This is how our system of justice works. It doesn’t mean that Montgomery is personally opposed to date rape, but thinks that men should be allowed to kill their wives. Or that she thinks it is a bad thing for Rwandans to commit genocide, but has a soft spot for Bosnians. Or that she hates the Police. She’s just doing her job. Properly.

Obviously, Geoffrey Robertson QC can’t contradict or reprimand his client in public – although I expect he’ll have said something to Clare Montgomery QC, privately.

Still, what can you say about Assange? Even a common criminal refrains from attacking the prosecution brief.