By Stuart Rees
The British judge’s ruling preventing Julian Assange from extradition to the United States is welcome. But it comes alongside a charade called justice in which British authorities held an unconvicted person in a top security prison and made his defence as difficult as possible.
On the grounds that any rationale to refuse extradition is a relief, a public interested in justice by whatever means will be grateful for the judge’s ruling that Julian might take his life if placed in an American jail, hence the refusal to extradite.
The rest of the judge’s rationale is an exercise in legal chicanery. One highly privileged person sitting alone may know rules of law and how to mount legal arguments but appears blind and deaf to notions of justice. Judge Baraitser’s finding that the US government was not politically motivated against Julian Assange flies in the face of US anger at WikiLeaks revelations and denial of the significant achievements of Julian Assange in informing the public about US forces’ murder and mayhem in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A brief digression might enable this British judge to learn what is involved in politics. She is a political operator, albeit within the boundaries of her interpretation of laws. Listen to the astute Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska in Children of Our Age. “All day long, all through the night, all affairs, yours, ours, theirs are political affairs. It’s in your genes, your political past and cast so whatever you say reverberates and you are talking politics.”
Denial that the prosecution of Julian Assange was politically motivated is the convenient British fig leaf picked to conceal US fascination with revenge. For years, a grand jury sat in secret in Virginia trying to concoct charges against Julian. Then the US and British governments colluded with a right-wing regime in Ecuador to drag Julian from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and transfer him to a top security prison.
Even the concoction of eighteen charges – more legal chicanery – from the seldom-used 1917 US Espionage Act, was a political construction, preceded by prominent US politicians saying that Julian Assange should be assassinated.
Revenge was the motivation, British justice the convenient cover. Australian governments’ cowardice – too scared to offend the US by defending an Australian citizen – another element in the political drama called ‘stifle and punish Julian Assange.’
If the judge was blind to the politics of this case, she must surely have noticed the US Department of Justice’s (what an unfortunate title) immediate decision to appeal. They want revenge. They cannot tolerate truths about states’ abusive power, and they love punishment. How on earth did they ever come up with the idea of anyone spending 175 years in prison.
Rather than appealing the decision not to extradite Julian Assange, perhaps the bully boys in international politics – and the US are not the only ones – ate a little piece of humble pie instead. Collectively they could decide “enough is enough, we have been pursuing injustice for too long, it is time we gave up and resolved to abide by international law and to respect the ideals and language of non-violence”.
Julian Assange has shown stamina and courage in revealing truths about abusive power. Sadly, other journalists have spent time messing around with their narrow interpretations of who or what is a journalist when they could have been defending Julian plus principles of freedom of speech and of the press.
We don’t need mainstream journalistic chicanery added to the performance witnessed in that British court.
Thank you, Julian Assange. May you and all the members of your family walk free.
Stuart Rees OAM is Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney, recipient of the Jerusalem (Akl Quds) Peace Prize and author of the new book “Cruelty or Humanity”, Bristol: Policy Press. A human rights activist, poet, novelist, and Founder Director of the Sydney Peace Foundation.
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