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2nd Lockdown -- Day 49 -- On the Importance of Freeing Journalist Julian Assange


Perhaps the most important work by any journalist in the past 30 years is that of Australian citizen, Julian Assange. He and the WikiLeaks team he led, together with The Guardian and Washington Post, published the cables to the US Secretary of State and other US confidential documents leaked by brave whistle-blower, Chelsea Manning. Their work as journalists exposed US war crimes. 

They published footage of wanton killing of civilians in Baghdad by the US army. Even those who came to pick up the dead, were shot at from the US helicopter. Two Reuters reporters were shot dead in the attack.

The documents also showed that the US and NATO forces had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported attacks in Afghanistan. 

And as concerns Mauritius directly, the cables showed that the UK reassured the US that it had set up the “Marine Protected Area” around Chagos in the interests of prolonging the BIOT’s illegal occupation of Chagos, including hoodwinking environmentalist groups. Assange’s brave journalism was what, in turn, allowed the political space for the Navin Ramgoolam government, with Arvin Boolell as Foreign Affairs Minister, to do what LALIT had called for i.e. build the courage to put the very first international case, under UNCLOS, against Britain – and win. The Tribunal, a binding one, declared the UK’s ruse of a “Marine Protected Area” illegal. And this opened the door, in turn, for the Jugnauth – father and son – cases at the ICJ, leading to further victory. 

So, we, like millions all over the world, owe Julian Assange a great deal – for exposing further crimes against humanity, like forcibly removing all the Chagossians.

So, who is in jail after all these war crimes are exposed? 

Julian Assange is. He has been held since 2012. 

That is nine years in all.

At first he was in refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. There were trumped up charges laid against him in what is now exposed by the UN Rapporteur on Torture in his Report as a threadbare plot by Swedish police to get two women, who now admit this, to accuse him of “rape” – since which even the Swedish rape law has been overhauled. When the Government changed in Ecuador, Assange had to leave the Embassy, and the UK imprisoned him at once under harsh conditions. Until today. The USA is attempting to get him extradited. A hideous trial process had since transpired in near-secret outside London. 

In the USA, he can get up to 175 years prison – for what? For telling the truth about war crimes. While the war crimes maintain impunity.

It is a serious precedent: When WikiLeaks, in 2010, published the cables, it was a breakthrough for journalism. It promised to be a new era in openness. It was, what’s more, not only uploaded on to the internet (where, for example, LALIT members shared out the voluminous cables exposing US trying to trick the Mauritian political and intellectual classes, and studied them and published a Report), but also published simultaneously in partnership with some of the most credible media outlets in the world, including the New York Timesthe GuardianDer SpiegelLe Monde and El Pais, that all published the same secret documents that form the basis of the criminal case against Assange. The USA and UK, unable to confront these newspapers, singled out, as well as Manning, Julian Assange, journalist. The USA and UK’s act is pure intimidation of all journalists in the world. 

We must save Julian Assange. There are petitions by Reporters Without Borders, by Amnesty International, as well as world-wide petitions in both Houses of Parliament in Australia prepared by the mainstream Opposition Labour Party. Please do study them, take your courage and sign. All journalists, academics and political activists should make it their duty to sign up publicly. And to take note that the UK-USA empire that is our “military occupier” (Yes, we are, like Palestine, under military occupation, the Chagossians displaced within Mauritius) is capable of this kind of torture of a journalist.

Has the Mauritian Government read the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, on Julian Assange? The Report was written for Governments to read. It was submitted over a year ago. We call on Mauritius to take a stand. Melzer accuses four States the USA, UK, Sweden and the new Government of Ecuador of participating in torturing this journalist. I would like to quote a few words from the UN Special Rapporteur, Nils Melzer, published on the site of the UN Human Rights Office of the Commissioner:

“... there has been a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador....

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 ... and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination. ... In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

Lindsey Collen