Pirate Party Australia is amazed and disappointed at recent events concerning publisher Julian Assange

“Since his arrest and imprisonment by UK authorities, we have seen the US Government take the draconian action of compiling charges which would result in the imprisonment of Assange for 175 years [1], an assessment by a UN body seeing Assange as the victim of concerted abuse involving 4 democratic nation states over numerous years [2], and a misleading statement being issued by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) over accusations of its failure to protect a citizen [3]”, said John August, Deputy President of Pirate Party Australia.

Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Professor of International Law, University of Glasgow, speaks to the effect that Julian Assange’s situation has had on his mental health, with his comments that “in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.” He further comments that: “In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.” [2]

Along with two medical specialists, Professor Melzer visited Mr. Assange in Belmarsh high security prison in early May, concluding: “The evidence is overwhelming and clear. Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.” Further, he comments: “I fear if that pressure is not alleviated soon it might escalate in terms of the psychological consequences – and I think that’s what we’re now seeing.” Commenting on Australian assistance for Assange, Mr. Melzer said: “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with that.” [4]

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) has made other assessments of Assange’s position and his treatment. [5]

“We see the dissembling foreign policy put forward by DFAT as an attempt to stick its fingers in its ears and say ‘da-da-dah’, pretending that the realities of international affairs and the dominating position of our US ally has no significance, at the time hoping nobody notices”, John August said.

The Pirate Party notes a recent statement by DFAT, [3] along with a brief statement by Foreign Minister Marise Payne. [6] DFAT claimed Assange has been treated fairly, and Senator Payne claimed she was confident Assange would receive ‘due process’, but not wanting to be drawn into further comment given it was in the courts. The Pirate Party finds these positions evasive and misleading, and will be writing to Senator Payne outlining these concerns.

“In contrast to the idea that Assange might be treated humanely,” John August continued, “the fact remains that he might be given a ‘fair’ trial which ‘fairly’ imposes unjust laws – quite separately to how he has been treated. The problem is as much the laws in play as the legal system itself, for all the dissembling claims about ‘fair trials’ and ‘due process’.”

That US courts are trying to marshal charges amounting to more than one hundred years shows that their legal system has gone off the rails with a plethora of unjust laws, and an administration seeking to flex its muscles [7]. There has been much abusive rhetoric out of the US and other countries, described by Professor Melzer as “an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and on social media, but also by senior political figures, and even by judicial magistrates involved in proceedings against Assange” [2], something that makes a mockery of claims of a fair trial and a desire to respect Assange’s human rights.

While initially supportive, the Ecuadorian Government ultimately acted to limit Assange’s freedom, acting in concert with the ongoing abuse described by Professor Melzer. Additionally, the UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy has observed recent invasions of Assange’s privacy facilitated by the Ecuadorian Government who, “at the request of the US Department of Justice, agreed to seize his documents, telephones, electronic devices, memory drives, etc., to hand them over to the US Government”. [8]

That UK courts have not given any consideration to Assange’s suffering, worsening mental health issues and difficult position at the time they made their assessment speaks to the callousness of the UK legal system, choosing to have blinkers on in blindly applying the law while ignoring binding international law.

Over the years, the UK has consistently dismissed UN demands to follow human rights convention and restore Assange’s freedom. [9]

That Australia has dismissed the considered opinion of a UN body – merely because it can – shows us a great deal about the workings of foreign policy and international relations. The underlying issues about the Assange case are conveniently ignored in order that an unjust approach to international relations can be pursued with impunity.

In addition to all these concerns, the Pirate Party sees the US indictment of Assange as part of a global trend where countries around the globe are diminishing the freedom of the press and its ability to reveal crimes by Governments around the world. We see this threat to media freedoms as a far greater concern than the petty claims about leaks of secure US Government information, where – apart from anything else – they are planning to apply penalties which would not normally apply to foreigners acting abroad. The case of Lauri Love is comparable, with the US seeking to extradite from the UK a non-US citizen for alleged crimes taking place outside the US for prosecution in the US. [10]

The Pirate Party urges the US Government and their Department of Justice to:

  1. drop the indictment against Mr. Julian Assange relating to Wikileaks’ publication of the Manning leaks: 17 charges under the Espionage Act and 1 charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, adding up to 175 years,
  2. lay no further charges relating to Mr. Assange’s publishing work and dismantle the secret Grand Jury investigation into Mr. Assange and Wikileaks,
  3. stop seeking Mr. Assange’s extradition to the USA for his publishing work,
  4. allow Mr. Assange to travel freely and
  5. release Ms. Chelsea Manning from jail immediately and drop all punitive measures aimed at coercing her to testify against Mr. Assange and Wikileaks.

The Pirate Party urges the UK government to comply with the UNWGAD decision:

  1. by restoring Mr. Assange’s personal liberty by releasing him from Belmarsh high security prison where he is arbitrarily detained.

Failing that, the Pirate Party urges the UK government to:

  1. provide a guarantee not to extradite Mr. Assange to the USA,
  2. guarantee only to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden on condition of no onward extradition to the USA,
  3. heed the UN WG’s advice to give Assange adequate time with his lawyers, as well as access to appropriate materials (computer, case files, etc) he needs to prepare for the multiple legal proceedings he is imminently facing, as is his legal right,
  4. heed the UN WG’s advice to give Mr. Assange adequate time for his health to recover before proceeding with court hearings, as is his legal right, and to
  5. give Mr. Assange access to a psychiatrist that is not part of the prison service, someone that he can fully trust.

The Pirate Party urges the Swedish government to:

  1. comply with the UN decisions by providing a guarantee not to extradite Mr. Assange to the USA.
  2. heed the UN WG’s demand to give Mr. Assange adequate time with his lawyers, as well as the appropriate materials he needs (e.g. translations of court documents), before proceeding with court hearings, as is his legal right under Swedish law,
  3. heed the UN WG’s demand to give Mr. Assange adequate time for his health to recover before proceeding with court hearings, as is his legal right,
  4. and for prosecutors to refrain from holding press conferences relating to the reopened preliminary investigation into an allegation against Mr. Assange of rape (lesser offence).

The Pirate Party demands that the Australian Government provide meaningful support to Mr. Assange as they have in numerous other cases, by:

  1. providing sound consular assistance to Mr. Assange by petitioning the involved governments to ensure that his legal rights and human rights such as health needs are met.

We also demand the Australian Government cease its dissembling position, and acknowledge the realities of the situation, by:

  1. acknowledging the excesses resulting from the UK court’s refusal to acknowledge Mr. Assange’s current and past circumstances and legitimate concerns,
  2. acknowledging the over-reach by the US Government in compiling charges that would result in Mr. Assange being in prison for more than 100 years using laws that would not normally apply to activities outside of US borders,
  3. acknowledging that a ‘fair trial’ is not the only issue, where unjust laws would be applied in the context of a so-called ‘fair trial’, avoiding the presumption that any laws implemented by the US must automatically be just laws.

The Pirate Party implores everyone to consider the critical situation Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Julian Assange is in, and the vital need to give him public support.

The Pirate Party has commented previously when material relating to Assange’s prosecution was accidentally released, noting comparisons to Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and challenging the overall claims of credibility by the US Government. [11]

[1] https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1165556/download
[2] https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24665&LangID=E
[3] https://dfat.gov.au/news/media/Pages/statement-on-julian-assange.aspx
[4] https://www.smh.com.au/world/europe/assange-a-victim-of-torture-and-australia-shares-blame-says-un-expert-20190531-p51t1v.html
[5] https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24552&LangID=E
[6] https://foreignminister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2019/mp_mr_190411.aspx
[7] https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-comment-julian-assange-indictment
[8] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24646&LangID=E
[9] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24042&LangID=E
[10] https://freelauri.com/
[11] https://pirateparty.org.au/2018/11/21/pirate-party-australia-is-disappointed-but-not-surprised-by-the-latest-assange-revelations/