IRISH ANTI WAR MOVEMENT PRESS RELEASE 07 SEPTEMBER 2020
• STOP THE EXTRADITION OF JULIAN ASSANGE TO THE USA
• STOP THE PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTURE OF JULIAN ASSANGE
• DEFEND THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND WHISTLE-BLOWERS
• IRISH GOVERNMENT MUST SUPPORT THE ‘FREE ASSANGE CAMPAIGN’
• RELEASE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW!
Today, 7th September 2020 is a grim day for press freedom, the rights of whistle-blowers and human rights generally.
Award winning journalist and founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange is facing a 175-year prison sentence simply for publishing US government documents revealing evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses. If extradited to the USA he will be tried on a century old Espionage Act that has never previously been applied to journalists. The documents released by Wikileaks were published widely by such media outlets as the Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and many others.
Many prominent US politicians have sought to excoriate Julian Assange’s good character. Current Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden called him a terrorist. Other US politicians, including former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Sarah Palin, called for his assassination. These comments alone should question how he can possibly receive a free and fair trial in the USA?
Numerous Human Rights organizations including Amnesty international, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists (British National Union of Journalists & Australian Union of Journalists, MEAA) have called for the extradition to be halted.
In February 2020, 118 Doctors and Psychologists, from 18 different countries – Doctors for Assange – penned an open letter in the Lancet Magazine noting his dire state of health and calling for an end to the psychological torture he has suffered while being incarcerated at the Ecuadorian Embassy and at Belmarsh Prison.
Following a visit to Assange in May 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, reported that “Mr Assange showed all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.” She further warned that the continued psychological torture could end with the loss of his life.
His physical and mental health has greatly suffered. This is not surprising as, prior to his incarceration in Belmarsh Prison, he spent almost 7 years restricted to a few rooms in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, deprived of fresh air, sunlight, the ability to move and exercise freely, and access to adequate medical care. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has noted that his confinement there amounted to “arbitrary deprivation of liberty”. His incarceration took a sinister turn in late 2018 due to pressure by the US Government on the government of Ecuador to take away his last liberties. He was prevented from having visitors, receiving telephone calls, or other electronic communications, thereby removing his basic human rights. Any visitors who managed to get to see him had their mobile phones confiscated and hacked.
Since March 2020 his condition at Belmarsh Prison has worsened and is overshadowed also with the threat of Covid-19. His legal team have been denied access to him and so have been denied the right to properly prepare his legal case.
The trial which resumes today is so important in the history of press freedom. Sadly, the mainstream media are sleepwalking into a kind of self-imposed media lockdown while missing the crucial importance of this injustice against one individual and this show trial against press freedom generally. They fail to focus on the crucial issue – that of freedom of the press – while offering exaggerated opinions on distracting and irrelevant aspects of Julian’s character.
Gladly there are some who challenge this perception. Dr Harry Browne, journalist and senior lecturer in the School of Media, at TU Dublin, and a former member of the IAWM Steering Committee, notes:
“Like thousands of journalists around the world, I wrote stories based on what Wikileaks brought to light – important facts and analysis from inside the machinery of American war and diplomacy. I believe Julian Assange was 'doing journalism' himself – making contacts with whistle-blowers, accessing and assessing information, publishing. Like most journalists, he can be criticised for aspects of his work.
However, whether you think of him as a journalist or as a source or even as a creepy zealot is not relevant to the principle that is at stake as he faces extradition. The United States wishes to prosecute and jail him for exposing secrets in the public interest. If that happens, it will have a terrible chilling effect on journalism and on whistle-blowers more broadly. He has already been subjected to several years of cruel and degrading treatment through his effective incarceration in London's Ecuadorian embassy and, since last year, in English jails. It is long past the time for justice to be done and for Assange to be freed.
And it's also long past the time for journalists to get past their hostility to Wikileaks and admit that if it can't operate freely, then neither can we.”
The IAWM calls for the immediate release of Julian Assange since he has greatly served the cause of anti-war activism, the struggle for world peace and the public interest by releasing footage and documents showing the atrocities of war and the connections between big corporations, the arms industry, the acquisition of resources and the spoils of war.
Jim Roche, PRO of the IAWM said:
“Julian Assange is an award-winning journalist who, along with his colleagues in Wikileaks, has exposed the war crimes and clandestine operations of multiple Governments and organisations. Wikileaks has re-defined how journalism should be done. He should be celebrated, not held in a maximum-security prison threatened with extradition to a hostile jurisdiction and multiple life sentences. This case should be seen solely as one of the protection of the freedom of the press and journalist’s sources and the human rights of whistle-blowers. It is that clear cut. The Irish Government should make a statement defending these rights and call for Julian’s release.”
STOP THE EXTRADITION TO THE USA - RELEASE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW!
Jim Roche, PRO Steering Committee
Glenda Cimino, Steering Committee
John Molyneux, Secretary, Steering Committee
Michael Youlton, Chair Steering Committee