Julian Assange’s situation, what UN experts said from 2012 to the present

UN headquarters

It was the year 2012. While closing the UN General Assembly meeting, its President was commending the efforts carried out by different entities in order to “stabilise World’s increasing geo-strategic volatility and unpredictability”. Among these, the choice of Ecuador to give asylum to Julian Assange, was mentioned. This was described in the meeting’s official document as an action based on the Country’s  tradition of sheltering victims of political persecution. Moreover, it was highlighted that “the incident presented a unique opportunity for the global community to debate the political, legal and humanitarian aspects of exile”.

Ecuador was definitely aligning with principles which were very different from those when it allowed the British Police to arrest Assange or when it authorised the collection of and handing over to the US documents and personal effects that he  had to leave behind in his room at the Ecuadorian Embassy.

As the former Ecuadorian consul Fidel Narvàez recently highlighted, this action does not represent something acceptable from the point of view of the asylum International regulation. “Julian Assange was under Ecuadorian protection, which means Ecuador had legal obligations to protect him and by handing over his personal belongings to the US it has basically committed a crime,” Narvàez stated.

Former Ecuadorian consul Fidel Narvàez, Westminster Magistrates Court 30.05.2019

According to him, by acting like this Ecuador qualified itself as an accomplice in the persecution of a man it was supposed to protect.

In the 2012 General Assembly document that we quoted, the Wikileaks publisher was mentioned indirectly, but since then, the UN nations referred to Julian Assange’s case several times, always with authoritative analysis of the situation from a human rights point of view.

First and foremost, four years ago, we have the qualified opinion expressed by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). As explained in the news section of the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in an article appeared on 5 February 2016, the WAGD adopted Opinion No. 54/2015, in which it stated that since his arrest in 2010 “Mr. Julian Assange was arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

“The Working Group considered that Mr. Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian Embassy”, the document affirms. It was a “really significant victory that brought a smile to my face”, Assange commented on that occasion, despite the British Foreign Office stating that the WGAD’s opinion was ridiculous and it wouldn’t change anything.

The panel of UN experts had clear ideas regarding the actions to take: ” The Working Group therefore requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of Mr. Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention. The Working Group also considered that the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation.”

United Nations flag

This didn’t happen and in December 2018 UN human rights experts repeated a demand that the UK abides by its international obligations and immediately allows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been obliged to stay for over 6 years to protect himself from potential US extradition.

On the 11th of April this year, his fears materialised as he was arrested inside the Ecuadorian Embassy by UK undercover police, his political asylum rescinded by the Ecuadorian Administration of Lenin Moreno. Immediately after that, more than one independent UN expert spoke up regarding how serious the situation was.

A tweet by Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions Agnes Callamard appeared highlighting that “by expelling Assange from the Embassy, Ecuador allowed GB to arrest him, taking him one step closer to extradition to the US, thus exposing him to risks of serious human rights violations.”

According to Callamard, GB has arbitrary detained Mr Assange for years, possibly endangering his life.

Furthermore, the UN independent expert on the right to privacy, Joe Cannataci, said that the arrest wouldn’t stop him from investigating the violations of Mr Assange’s right to privacy  subjected to during his stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy. It turned out in fact that the Wikileaks publisher had been video and audio spied upon and recorded in at least the  last year he spent in the place that should have been a safe refuge for him.

The last crucial statement came from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, an extract of which is still pinned in his Twitter account as a reminder of the grave attack carried out by four democratic states (US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador) against Julian Assange. He “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,” the tweet says.

This journey through time shows how UN repeatedly called for Julian Assange to be freed. They defined the international legal standard, which states should adhere to.  However, the US Government seems not to want a fair fight on this matter. As UN expert opinions explained to the world so many times, US and its allies are aware that if they play by the rules of international law, they will lose  since, as highlighted by attorney Bill Simpich they know very well that “revealing war crimes is not a crime”.

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Assange is an international symbol of the struggle for political transparency, 37 MEPs say

A letter has been sent by a cross-group of parlamentarians to the European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans to urge him uphold Assange’s human rights under international and EU laws

Signs of life arrived from the European institutions, regarding Assange’s case. A letter signed by thirty-seven Members of the European Parliament has been sent the Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, in order to express serious concern for the Wikileaks publisher after the British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has validated the extradition request presented by the US.

“We deplore this decision”, the MEPs wrote, defining Julian Assange as “an international symbol of the struggle for political transparency” and pointing out that his detention is “only an attack to the right of information, which is a fundamental pillar of democracy.”

It is actually a key moment for the members of the House to highlight this, since just last April a new directive on whistleblowers was approved by the EU. As explained at the time by the spokesperson from the European Commission Christian Wigand, the new law is a broad agreement setting minimum standards in order to “ensure whistleblowers are better protected and protect them from retaliation.”

European Parliament

Actually, the 37 signatories mentioned the fact that the US extradition of Julian Assange would contravene both the European and the International Law. They not only reminded the Vice President that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations have requested to respect the Wikileaks founder’s right to mantain asylum status, but also pointed out that Ecuador, by allowing British autorities to arrest him, has exposed Assange to a real risk of human rights violations.

Embracing the qualified point of view of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, MEPS showed grave preoccupation that the extradition would put Assange at risk of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, they stated that “extradition is particularly problematic when the State of destination applies death penalty”. This is one of the cases where the right of non-refoulement is absolute. In other words, when in the extraditing Country capital punishment applies, the right not to be returned to conditions in which human rights are not being maintained to an acceptably minimal level must be always ensured, regardless of considerations of national security, political expediency and similars.

The parlimentarians who signed the letter also highlighted that Assange’s case falls unquestionably within those ones that are protected by the new European law on whistleblowers and recalled the fact that Wikileaks publisher in the past has been awarded by the European Parliament with the award for Journalists, Whistleblowers and Defenders of the Right of Information.

They closed the letters asking the Vice President to take action, and in particular to ensure that Assange gets the protection foreseen by the European Directive on whistleblowers itself, since the disclosure of State secrets operated by him was indeed carried out for the public interest.

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Lobbying Labour Party Front Benchers in support of Julian #Assange 14.06.2019

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After defending Julian Assange’s Freedom during his extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, on Friday 14.06.2019 we visited The House of Commons to hand deliver more than 30 letters to Labour Party front benchers. Each and everyone of us can … Continue reading

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Calling on the Labour Party both to defend Julian Assange, oppose his extradition to the USA

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Maxine Walker reports on the latest JADC action: On 19 June, JADC supporters lobbied Jeremy Corbyn’s  Islington North Constituency Labour Party. The JADC is calling on the Labour Party both at national and local level to speak out for Julian … Continue reading

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Assange, why the Chief Magistrate should admit the conflict of interest and step down from the case

In the past few days, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges compared Julian Assange’s ordeal to the final act of a Greek tragedy where the hero, cursed by the fate, faces dark forces in front of which there is apparently no escape. This is certainly a metaphor which gives an idea of the dramatic moment the Wikileaks publisher is going through, with consequences affecting the whole national security journalism sector.

However, very few obstacles in Assange’s story can be related to misfortune. On the contrary, all actors involved in the smear campaign carried out against him seem to be very well organised and determined to stay in their battle station. This applies also to Lady Emma Arbuthnot, Chief Magistrate – otherwise defined Senior District Judge presiding over the initial extradition proceedings.

Lord James Norwich Arbuthnot

Assange’s lawyers asked her to step down from the case for a conflict of interest that is hard to deny. The judge is actually married to Lord James Norwich Arbuthnot, a Conservative member better known as Baron Arbuthnot of Edrom. Not really a Tory like any other, considering that he has been Member of Parliament for 28 years, Minister of State for Defence Procurement from 1995 to 1997, Conservative Chief Whip from 1997 to 2001 and Chairman of the Defence Select Committee from 2005 to 2014.

And there’s more. Baron Arbuthnot became a Life Peer in 2015, joining in the same year Lord Carlile CBE, QC and Sir John Scarlett KCMG, OBE (former head of SIS/MI6) at SC Strategy Ltd, initially as an advisor and later as a Director. While he doesn’t hold anymore this position in the company, Lord Carlile and Sir John Scarlett are still listed as active Directors. In order to understand the conflict of interest that Julian Assange’s lawyers detected, it is crucial to learn more about these two characters, very close to the Chief Magistrate’s husband.

In a 2015 report, Lord Carlile was described by the Guardian as someone “who  often defends work of intelligence services“. As reported by the Canary he voted in favour of the Snooper Charter, which gave the police greater powers to hack private phones and computers. He oversaw the UK anti-terrorism laws after 9/11 since he was appointed as the Independent Reviewer for this matter. He carried out this task until 2011 and formed SC Strategy Ltd in 2012 together with Sir Scarlett.

Little is known about their joint business. The Companies House only shows a correspondence address at an accountancy firm, while apparently SG Strategy has not a website and not even a phone number available among the contact details.

Having a look to Sir Scarlett bio, his role in the preparation of Iraqi war sticks out. The way for this conflict was actually paved by his compilation of the dossier on Saddam Hussein’s WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction).

Sir John Scarlett, former Head of M16

In 2015, the report “A Democratic Licence To Operate” was commissioned by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to British Security Agencies and Sir Scarlett was part of the panel of experts who worked on the document. The idea of producing such pamphlet followed the concerns about the erosion of the exercise of individual freedom raisen after some revelations by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Despite this, the report overall is more favourable to the police and intelligence services than to the defenders of privacy. It also supported the vision according to which the security services should retain the power to collect bulk communications data. This could be considered ironic, since the absence of proper limits for this power was one of the key concerns expressed by Snowden, whose words apparently led Nick Clegg to commission the report itself.

Coming back to the TruthDig columnist Chris Hedges, who is also a New York Times best-selling author, he highlights that the Chief Magistrate “has refused to recuse herself”, despite Assange’s legal team has requested this. The conflict of interest, according to Hedges, was pointed out also by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer.

The hope to end the unfair situation is connected to the past cases where the judge was forced to recluse herself. The Canary mentioned some of them this week. As the news outlet explains, the Observer carried out an investigation on the her husband’s business dealings with Uber. As the Canary itself reports, “the judge ruled in favour of Uber but stepped down from the case when it was shown that SC Strategy’s client the QIA had taken a stake in Uber”.

A possible decision of Lady Arbuthnot to recuse herself could be also the consequence of an increasing awareness regarding the existence of a conflict of interest. This could finally lead the public opinion to step up and ask for a fair trial for Julian Assange.

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Open Letter to Journalists in support of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange

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Download PDF FreePressFreeAssangeOpenLettertoJournalists Open Letter to Journalists in the UK   On the 11thof April and relation to the arrest of Julian Assange Seamus Dooley, NUJ assistant general secretary said: “The NUJ is shocked and concerned by the actions of … Continue reading

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Julian Assange, what we can expect now that Sajid Javid certified the extradition request

As the official blog of the Home Office confirmed yesterday, the US extradition request for Julian Assange has been certified by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid. However, focusing only on what reported by the main media outlets is not enough in order to clarify the next steps of the process. A clearer vision is only achievable by considering the updated factsheet published by the Ministry and the Extradition Act 2003.

“Mr Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America. He is accused of offences including computer misuse and the unauthorized disclosure of national defence information. We have received the full extradition request, which has been certified by the Home Secretary,” Sajid Javid’s spokeman said. He didn’t spent many other words on the question, justifying this by referring to the fact that the case is now in front of the courts and would be inappropriated to comment further.

The signature of Sajid Javid is actually the first formal step after a full extradition request is received. However, the announcement created confusion and anxiety among Assange’s supporters, since from the moment he was arrested it has been repeatedly mentioned the fact that the Home Secretary should have the last word on the extradition. Therefore, the signature to certify the US request has been mistaken for a sort of “final say”.

The news was reported by a number of media, in some cases with relevant errors. The Guardian initially wrote the US charge against Julian Assange would carry a maximum five-year prison sentence. The mistake was corrected a couple of hours later, when the same article specified that “Assange faces an 18-count indictment, issued by the US Justice Department, that includes charges under the Espionage Act.”

A tweet where the journalist Stefania Maurizi acknowledges the amendment of the error initially made by the Guardian

The US will list in details all charges against Wikileaks publisher this morning, when the third extradition hearing will take place at Westminster Magistrates Court.

The extradition requests to the UK from outside the EU are governed by the second part of the Extradition Act 2003 and one of the crucial steps is for the judge to check the existence of possible Statutory bars to extradition. These ones also include health and human rights.

An activist protesting for Julian Assange’s health and human rights when the Wikileaks founder was at Ecuadorian Embassy

On the Home Office side, according to the Extradition Act 2003, there are four issues that the State Secretary may consider.

The first one is the possibility that the person could face the death penalty in the requesting Country. Secondly, the Home secretary should consider if special arrangements are in place (and ensure in this way that the person is prosecuted only for the specific conduct for whom the extradition is requested). Then he may consider if the person has previously been extradited from another country to the UK (verifying if the consent of that country to his onward extradition is required) or transferred to the UK by the International Criminal Court.

The Home Secretary Sajid Javid

The extradition factsheet also clarifies that the Home secretary may not consider human rights issues and health problems which could make the extradition unjust or oppressive. Actually, the Extradiction Act clarifies that the courts are better placed to make decisions on human rights grounds.

The hope for all the activists defending Julian Assange is that the Court could actually consider the human rights questions in the upcoming hearings, embracing the clear opinion expressed by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, according to whom the Wikileaks founder should be immediately freed, putting to an end also the abusive demonisation campaign carried out by US and UK.

A moment of the popular interview to John Pilger shared by activists after the Home Secretary signed the extradition order

After the news concerning the certification of the extradition request, reactions from individuals and groups protecting Julian Assange appeared on the most popular social media and especially on Twitter and Instagram.

Journalist and BAFTA award-winning documentary film maker John Pilger, staunch advocate of Wikileaks, appeared in a video interview after Sajid Javid signed the extradition order. “Julian Assange has become enemy number one, but he should be hero number one. If we lose Assange and Wikileaks then we lose a whole strata of freedom,” he said. The video was shared and re-tweeted during the day by a huge number of activists.

This morning at 10AM the hearing will confirm which charges have been actually listed in the extradition request. Another extradition hearing will take place at the beginning of July.

Despite the fact that no reassurances have been given by the US regarding the possibility for Assange to face torture in the US prisons and maybe death penalty, the Home Secretary decided to support the US request, as he showed during a BBC Radio interview in the last few days.

Should he order the extradition after the next hearings, Julian Assange would have in any case the right to apply to the High Court for leave to appeal against the decisions of both the District Judge and the Secretary of State. At the moment, this is likely to be the next battle.

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US formalise extradition request for Julian Assange

A formal request of extradition for Julian Assange has been filed to officials in the UK by the US Justice Department.

According to the United States’ treaty with Britain on this matter, the application has to be submitted within 60 days from the date of the arrest. US officials, who after Assange’s arrest immediately stated they were going to submit the necessary documents for his extradition, waited until the last available day, probably to ensure enough time to elaborate possible further charges to the Wikileaks founder, since all the charges must be indicated in the formal request and it is not possible to add further ones after it is filed.

A sign by activists asking for Julian Assange to be freed as UN repeatedly advised

Julian Assange’s supporters are now waiting for the 14 June extradition hearing, where he will probably appear via videolink. The worst disappointment for the activists is the fact that big media have been almost silent in the last two months.

Unlike what happened in the case of Ivan Golunov, the journalist recently imprisoned in Russia and later freed thanks to the massive outcry of other reporters, in the UK just a few journalists spoke up in defence of Julian Assange and free press. The hope is for the press to finally realise that solidarity should be expressed for all the cases of investigative journalists threatened just for carrying out their job.

This is indeed valid in the case of the Wikileaks founder, object of a “demonisation campaign” pursued against him “by four democratic states” (US, UK, Ecuador and Sweaden), as recently highlighted by the United Nations Rapporteur on torture.

oznor

Assange was charged last month with violating the Espionage Act and conspiring in order to hack a US Government computer. It is the first time that a law passed to prosecute spies just before WW1 is being brought against a journalist.

However, the difference between a spy and Mr Assange should be clear to everyone provided with intellectual honesty. A spy sells information to another State. A journalist who reveals war crimes like those ones that Assange discovered is making available facts that help the public understand the foundations of reality. Often at a very high price, like the Wikileaks publisher story shows.

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The WiseUp Action Facebook page to change name

A request has been submitted to Facebook in order for the Julian Assange Defence Commitee to obtain the possibility to change the name of its official page in the popular social media into a new one, able to be easily found by the users who search for our organisation online.

The current Facebook page, WL Solidarity Action London (where WL stands for Wikileaks) was created years ago as a platform where we could share the contents produced by our news website http://www.wiseupaction.info. However, through the years our community has publicly defined itself as “Julian Assange Defence Commitee”, and this is the name people look for when they search for our official pages on Facebook and other social media.

Consequently, as soon as Facebook will approve the request, the name of our official page will be “Julian Assange Defence Commitee” and finding us will be much more easier for our readers and supporters. In particular, they won’t risk to end up in other pages that use similar key words in their names.

What won’t change is the name of the Julian Assange Defence Commitee’s website, which has always been http://www.wiseupaction.info.

Therefore, our “re-branding” will concern only the social media pages, because that’s the sector where we need to make it easier for our supporters to find us and associate to the Facebook and Twitter pages the official name of our Commitee.

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Voices from the Free Assange protest at Trafalgar Square 1/6/19

On a beautiful Saturday 1st of June we answered the call of WL supporter Truman human and gathered at Trafalgar Square to protest Julian Assange’s incarceration at Belmarsh prison and raise our voices against US Extradition. Here are some videos … Continue reading

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