Julian Assange has been incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison since April 2019, for over 3 years, at the behest of the US Government. He exposed US and UK war crimes, torture and corruption during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the release of the Iraqi War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs and Cablegate using the Wikileaks platform in 2010. He has been charged with espionage, when, in fact, he only published documents passed onto him by whistle-blower, Chelsea Manning.
In 2009, Manning was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq. She was an intelligence analyst and therefore had access to classified information. The information included videos showing unarmed civilians being shot at and killed which she passed on to Julian Assange. Assange has not committed any crime or put any operative in danger but exposed many state-backed war crimes and state corruption.
18th May was the deadline for the UK’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to sign the extradition order for him to be prosecuted in the Eastern State of Virginia. 80% of Virginia’s population work at either the nearby CIA and NSA headquarters or the Pentagon, from where the jury will be chosen. Consequently, the state has never lost an espionage case here. It is possible Assange will receive a 175-year prison sentence, effectively a death sentence.
Prior to his incarceration in Belmarsh, Assange spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy to escape being sent to Sweden on bogus rape charges, from where he could have been extradited to the US. There, then US President Obama was considering his prosecution. Assange had agreed to be interviewed by Swedish police at the embassy, but the British Crown Prosecution Service prevented Swedish prosecutors coming to the UK, in an attempt to force his extradition to Sweden. Keir Starmer was the Director of the Crown Prosecution Service at the time.
Nils Melzer, the UN Special Raconteur on Torture, stated he visited Julian Assange in prison and spoke to the authorities in charge, as well as to lawyers and all the states involved: Britain, Sweden, Ecuador and the USA. He requested clarification and recommended specific measures to improve Assange’s situation. None of the four governments were willing to engage in constructive dialogue. He was confronted with rhetorical attacks or generalised platitudes. When he insisted on these issues being addressed, the dialogue was ended by all the governments concerned.
The mistreatment of Assange intensified at this time. His due process rights were blatantly violated, and Melzer’s public appeals to ensure Assange’s human rights were ignored. Within the UN system Melzer received little support, with some notable exceptions. He voiced his concerns about the obstructive response from the four nations involved at the UN in Geneva and the General Assembly in New York, without any constructive interaction. He requested a meeting with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights but was ignored. He requested other countries intervene but again was ignored. He was watching institutions he had believed were present to help protect human rights crumbling before his eyes.
Even though Assange is not the only person who has ever experienced state torture, nor is it the most severe form of torture Melzer had investigated, Melzer’s reason for engaging so completely with the case was that it revealed a generalised systemic failure which gravely undermines our well-established institutions of fundamental rights and the rule of law in general. It highlights deliberate arbitrary rendition within western democracies, while they try to portray their human rights credentials as exemplary.
The intelligence services of each country have colluded, behind the backs of their national parliaments and without people’s knowledge, to ensure a truth teller can never be freely allowed to publish the truth about our decaying capitalist system, a system which has nothing left to support its goals but endless war and austerity.
This case highlights the extraordinary level of manipulation and controlled reporting in the mainstream media for the clear purpose of demonising, isolating and destroying this one man. Melzer states this case shines a light on the man who has been scapegoated for our societal failure to address government corruption and state-sanctioned crimes. Melzer has published his two-year investigation into the trials and tribulations of Julian Assange because all other routes for progress have been closed to him and he feels he would have been complicit in the breaking of Assange as a man had he remained silent.
Dissent Not Allowed
Melzer believes our governmental establishments cannot allow any form of dissent, because the justification of their actions is built on sand. He believes that, if the media joined forces, this case would be over within a week. Our media, the Fourth Estate, should empower us, yet it was through media reporting that Melzer initially believed the narrative of the rapist and the hacker in relation to Assange. When he eventually took on the case, he did not expect to hear of torture because Assange was in the UK. He uncovered massive due process violations in Sweden and the UK. The governments provided no consolidated evidence but distorted the facts.
The name of the game is a concerted effort to deter other journalists from following Assange’s example. Therefore, this case puts press freedom in grave danger. Assange is being accused of doing what every good journalist should do, receive and publish secret information. Should he be extradited what would this mean for what we still like to call our ’free press’? How free is it when we see how the West has shut down all Russian news outlets and any other outlet daring to question the establishment’s narrative? Because of this we are left with only the propaganda pumped out by our mainstream media to make sense of what is really happening.
Question everything and fight for the freedom of one of the most important journalists of our era.
Julian Assange’s lawyers have submitted papers to Priti Patel to block the extradition of Assange. If they prevent his extradition, the case should return to the High Court. If they do not succeed, Assange could experience rendition any day from today onwards. However, the longer the case goes on, the further his health deteriorates. If Patel does not reject his extradition, what next for Assange? What next for any other courageous journalist?
Further background information on the Assange case,
- The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution Hardcover by Nils Melzer
Publisher : Verso (8 Feb. 2022)
Hardcover : 368 pages ISBN-10 : 1839766220 ISBN-13 : 978-1839766220
- WATCH: Assange Defended at PEN International – Consortium News
- (31) Nils Melzer: The Trial of Julian Assange – YouTube
- (31) Foreign Press Association: Nils Melzer The Trial of Assange – YouTube