By Daniel Margrain
Two years ago this month, the UN ruled that the deprivation of Julian Assange’s liberty was unlawful. The ruling stated that Assange is being “unlawfully and arbitrarily detained by UK authorities—and must be released & compensated—under international law and treaties the UK has signed.”
The decision was a legally binding vindication of all the activists who have supported the quest of the Wikileaks founder to bring into the public domain the illegalities of Western power in the name of democracy and freedom.
What was shocking was the then UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond’s reaction to the decision. In the view of the former UK diplomat, Craig Murray, Hammond’s lies were “utterly astonishing”. The official statement by Hammond reads:
“I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.”
Hammond’s statement belies the fact that every single one of the UN panel is a distinguished lawyer and was clearly made in order to undermine the UN ruling.
Even Iran puts the UK to shame
Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. High profile cases where the UN has ruled in circumstances in which individuals have similarly been detained and subsequently released, include the Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian in Iran in December, 2014..
Given that countries like Egypt and Iran have released detainees based on the decisions of the UN, the latest court judgement (6 February 2018) in London that re-affirmed the arrest warrant against Assange, is therefore surprising to say the least. The decision of senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot would appear to fly in the face of international norms.
Speaking outside Westminster magistrates court, following the judges decision, Assange’s lawyer stated:
“Mr Assange remains willing to answer to British justice” – but “not at the risk of injustice in America. This case has, and will always be, about the risk of extradition to the United States and that risk remains real. Nobody can credibly deny that risk.”
The judgement effectively means that the UK authorities still have the right to seize Assange for jumping bail and taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London back in 2012, despite the fact that the statute of limitation ran out on the Swedish sex assault case against him.
Responding to judge Arbuthnot’s decision, Craig Murray tweeted:
“I have grown tired of the polite fictions of British society where we pretend Justice Arbuthnot is in any sense acting independently of government and particularly the security services. I saw the inside of the system.”
The UN findings confirmed that Assange’s detention has been unlawful since his very first arrest in the United Kingdom in 2010 and that there has never been any genuine attempt by the Swedish authorities to investigate the allegations of rape made against him which were merely the Casus Belli.
This was given credible weight early on by Naomi Wolf, a prominent American writer, feminist and social commentator. Wolf argued that the allegations against Assange bore all the hallmarks of a set-up. This was further elaborated on by Craig Murray who thoroughly demolished the case against Assange.
As John Pilger outlined, the reality is, there was no genuine judicial process in train against Assange in Sweden, a point that was advanced by Assange’s lawyers before the UK supreme court.
All Assange has ever requested from the outset, is a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he agrees to travel to Sweden to answer the rape allegations made against him, he won’t be extradited to the United States.
Assange’s request for this assurance from Sweden is supported by Amnesty International. However, the Swedish authorities have consistently failed to give Assange such an assurance despite the fact that he has not been charged with any offence.
Assange’s fears of being extradited to the U.S and subsequently imprisoned their are justified. Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for 35 years in 2013 for leaking information to WikiLeaks. Moreover, according to Edward Snowden, Assange is on a US “manhunt target list” . The Independent revealed that both the Swedish and American governments have already discussed Assange’s onward extradition.
The reality is that under the ‘liberal-progressive’ presidency of Barrack Obama, the United States had imprisoned more whistle blowers than all US presidents combined. What also needs to be emphasized is Sweden’s damning record of extraditing people to other countries and its cooperation with the US in extraordinary renditions.
Then there is Assange’s justified fear of a complicit corporate mainstream media. Recently on Twitter, for example, Assange revealed a series of fake news stories against him. Much of the vitriol stems, not from the traditional right-wing of the media terrain, but from the liberal-left. Owen Jones, for example, inferred that diplomatic immunity is a feature of the Assange case.
But this is a red-herring since neither Assange, his supporters, legal team or anybody else outside the media bubble, have ever suggested that his case is predicated on a claim of immunity. The lie was repeated by the Guardian’s legal expert, Joshua Rozenberg, presumably in an attempt to add a certain degree of gravitas to the claim.
Jonathan Cook sums up just how far down the perilous road towards fascism our governments’ and their accomplices in the media are prepared to go in order to augment the interests of the powerful:
“The degraded discourse about the UN group’s decision does not just threaten Assange, but endangers vulnerable political dissidents around the world. The very fact that…[liberal media commentators]… are so ready to sacrifice these people’s rights in their bid to tar and feather Assange should be warning enough that there is even more at stake here than meets the eye.”
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