By Michael West: Michael West Media
There will be no better opportunity than now for Anthony Albanese to ask US President Joe Biden for the release of Julian Assange.
This week Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese met with US President Joe Biden. He is in San Diego with AUKUS partners Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to strike a deal to spend billions of dollars of Australia’s public money with the US and UK on nuclear submarines.
This truly vast expenditure of Australian public funds is a story for another day.
A succession of Australian Prime Ministers have ignored Julian Assange’s situation, including Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister of Australia since May of 2022, Albanese has previously said that “it is time for this matter to be brought to a conclusion” and pledged to raise the release of Assange with US authorities, but there is no evidence that that has occurred, as per Freedom of Information discoveries by former Senator Rex Patrick.
Eminent Australians and members of the Belmarsh Tribunal are calling on Albanese to demand the release of Assange, who has now spent 13 years incarcerated without charges for the act of blowing the whistle on US war crimes.
“As of 60 Minutes wedding broadcast, 90+% of the Australian population wants Julian Assange to be set free,” Assange campaigner Ian Rose told Michael West Media.
“As the PM is visiting the US President this week to sign off on the AUKUS tribute, and the British Prime Minister may be there as well, now is the time to use the arguments raised at the Belmarsh Tribunal in Sydney to ensure Julian Assange’s immediate release.
At the fifth Belmarsh Tribunal in Sydney recently (broadcast here), politicians, lawyers, journalists, whistleblowers and human rights defenders met to offer multiple legal and ethical arguments for the release of the whistleblower.
Some quotes from the Tribunal:
Julian Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson: “Leaving aside the free speech concerns, the due process violations should stop the case in its tracks … In Julian’s case, he has been spied on, his medical appointments have been spied on and his meetings with us as his lawyers have been spied on, and legally privileged material has been seized.”
“How will history reflect on the fact Julian has now spent almost 13 years under restrictions on his liberty? The answer is not well.”
Journalist Mary Kostakidis, co-chair of the Belmarsh Tribunal in Sydney: (The Sydney Peace Prize Foundation) “in 2013 awarded Julian the Sydney Peace medal for his exceptional courage and his conviction that truth matters and that justice depends on it. However, for revealing how power works, what governments get up to in our names and the tools used to deceive citizens, his punishment has been brutal. Thirteen years of arbitrary detention . . . and the prospect of life in solitary confinement“.
Australian criminal lawyer and former journalist Mark Davis (also co-chair): “I am sick of the lie that Julian did not redact (the war logs). I was with him for the month before the release … and I can say emphatically Julian Assange removed 10,000 names”. [This lie] “has been used by the prosecution, the Americans used it as the distinguishing feature“.
Former Australian Diplomat Alison Broinowski and President of Australians for War Powers Reform: “Prime Minister. I’ve been impressed since the election in May with the way you and your colleagues have done what you promised to do … That is impressive compared to your predecessors. It’s refreshing. But there’s one particular issue on which we can’t find a tick on the list … that relates to the fate of Julian. Now, you yourself in opposition have said enough is enough, and you’ve repeated since then it’s your intention that Julian Assange should be brought home, which is what many Australians and people around the world would like to see happen“
“Perhaps your legal advisers put to you the possibility of what’s called Diplomatic Protection under Customary International Law. Now, our colleague in support of Julian, Greg Barnes SC in Hobart has written very knowledgeably about this and has explained how in this very refined area of law, it is possible for a government to bring a particular citizen’s case for diplomatic protection to another government.
“And you have to wonder; if it’s available to the Australian Government, why we are not using it? I suspect Mr. Albanese, that in fact you haven’t been even told about Diplomatic Protection under Customary International Law, because that’s something that those advisors who’ve been there a long time simply don’t want.”
Not a single victim of the leaks
“The Australian people are getting tired of waiting for some action on this case and would like, quite apart from the enduring suffering of Julian, would like to see the case brought to a speedy end.”
The Tribunal heard that Retired Brigadier General Robert Carr had been tasked with forensically identifying people potentially at risk because of Manning’s leaks in the 70,000-plus leaked files.
Carr testified at the trial of Chelsea Manning that there hadn’t been a “single case of Afghans needing protection or to be moved because of the leaks”. And none since. Nor have any soldiers or undercover operatives been reported as endangered in the intervening years.
Further, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told US Congress that the reactions to the leaks were “significantly overwrought.” He went on to say: “Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.’’
On Cablegate (diplomatic leaks):
“However, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by the disclosure.” (Afghan War Logs).
Australian Journalist Kerry O’Brien: “who has done more to undermine American Democracy, Julian Assange for revealing inconvenient truths hidden within an unhealthy secret world or Donald Trump by simply being Donald Trump?” “Journalists should never be charged for just doing their jobs …
The longer Julian Assange remains caught in the web of US legal procedure without demonstrable and effective intervention by the Australian government to bring him home, the more the Australian government’s credibility will suffer.”
Human Rights Lawyer, Kellie Tranter: “We have reached a critical point in history for press freedom and for all human rights intertwined with it.
“Dealing with Julian’s case, his very life through the prism of international policy considerations and strategic alliances, rather than objective considerations of truth, justice and actual circumstances is what the FOI documents suggest, and it’s a continuing institutionalised mistake.”
“A primary precept of good government is justice for its citizens.” [Julian] “did what lay in his power to make people less cruel to others and was rewarded with nothing but personal pain. Posterity will pay Julian the highest honour for putting into the world the things that we most value: truth, transparency and justice.”
Former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr: “I think it’s a very powerful argument … is Chelsea Manning, who released the material that Assange merely published, has had charges against her suspended, and walks free. But the Aussie, who was part of the exposure of American war crimes is still being pursued.”
“And an Australian Prime Minister can say simply to his American partner, his American interlocutor, let’s drop this now. If there were any point to be made or any punishment to be meted out, any message to be sent, the years this man has done, the time this Australian has done in prison have paid the price.”
After a lifetime working for mainstream newspapers Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a senior editor at Fairfax newspapers News Corp, West has been appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. He is widely regarded as one of the best journalists in Australia.