What we should not see

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What we should not see

Hvorfor utløser Julian Assange den vestlige verdens vrede? Dr. Deepa Driver var en av to observatører i rettssaken som ble ført mot Julian Assange i London. Hun gir oss innblikk i det hun hevder var en bløff av en rettsprosess, og forteller om Wikileaks avsløringer av sprekkene i Vestens selvbilde som ytringsfrihetens og rettsstatens forkjemper. Torggata Blad er så heldige å kunne publisere en transkripsjon av Dr. Drivers appell med hennes velvillige godkjenning.

On 17 March, Kulturkirken Jakob in Oslo hosted a packed event in defence of publisher and editor Julian Assange, who is now serving his 12th year of arbitrary detention in the UK. The importance of Assange’s case to the rule of law, democracy and press freedom was made by a range of prominent experts including Dr Deepa Driver, one of two legal observers to the extradition trial in London. This is a transcript of the speech made extempore by Dr Driver, with some small corrections for completeness.

Text Dr Deepa Driver Illustration the editors (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

It is a privilege to be here today. I am an academic and a trade unionist in my day job, so to be a legal observer in Julian’s case has been an incredible eye opener to me. I have attended most of the hearings through the process on behalf of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and although my comments today are made in a personal capacity, I wanted to acknowledge that undertaking the legal observations in the case and doing the accompanying reading, has really changed me and made me understand what’s going on in the world around me and I hope I’m able to share some of those learnings with you.

Wikileaks, when it burst on to the scene around 2007 revolutionised a media world where print journalism was controlled by a small number of powerful people – the likes of the Murdochs and the Maxwells of this world – who were constraining the range of acceptable debate. This is a time when internet technology had entered into the world of journalism, and yet all the information was still largely consumed in print form, and therefore limited in terms of how it was distributed and in terms of the kinds of people who had access to it. And if you think of what Daniel Ellsberg did with the Pentagon papers, photo copying all the papers over night with the help of his young son, Wikileaks with its pioneering Secure Drop allowed whistle blowers to provide vast volumes of evidence securely and easily (unlike Ellsberg’s mountain of photocopies).

I want to remind you that like the Vietnam war had this iconic image that is seared in our minds (you know, in the media, we have this image from the Vietnam war of a child running naked burning), well, the iconic image of the Iraq war is the Collateral Murder video that Wikileaks released, and it is this image that is seared into our memory that reminds us that what was being done in Iraq and Afghanistan wasn’t the righteous war to free women or to help the Iraqis get free from dictatorial Saddam; it was Britain and America and their allies destroying other civilisations.

It was Wikileaks that provided evidence of the killing of children like Hanan Saleh Matrud, an eight-year-old child who was murdered in the streets by soldiers, from whom she used to pick up little sweets. Wikileaks gave names and restored identities to the 789 Muslim men who suffered at Guantanamo in the most horrendous ways.

Wikileaks also gave us information through CableGate of people like Khaled El-Masri and the shame of Europe, where a German citizen was picked up by CIA operatives on the Macedonian border, tortured, stripped naked, beaten, sodomised, rendited to detention in Afghanistan, and that even when they found it was a case of mistaken identity, they did not let him go. They continued to torture him further, because “he must be a bad guy” while they argued between themselves as to who would take responsibility. They then dumped him on the Albanian border. He was picked up by two Albanian policemen and sent back to Germany where nobody believed his story. He suffered so much, and it was only through Wikileaks’ releases that Mr. El-Masri got some modicum of his dignity back at the European Court of Human Rights. Wikileaks’ releases also showed how the US put pressure on the German government not to acknowledge what had happened and not to take action against the CIA operatives who had been involved in the renditions and the torture.

So, we know what really happened behind closed doors because of Wikileaks.

And just like George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement, Julian and Wikileaks really allowed us to say Black Lives really matter. Not by taking the knee while staying silent on the brutalisation of non-white people, but by recognizing the murders and torture, rape, that took place in Iraq and Afghanistan when we destroyed those nations.

It is likely that there are many people in this audience who are not necessarily interested in foreign policy issues but who may be more motivated by environmental crimes and by corruption. Let me remind you that Wikileaks revealed the trafficking of toxic waste dumping by Trafigura off the Ivory Coast, corruption in Arap-Moi’s Kenya, and a host of other things.

And it did this through what we all take for granted. Before Wikileaks the main stream news web sites didn’t have secure drop, now we use such shared drop boxes in our everyday lives. Wikileaks pioneered the secure drop to ensure the security of the whistle blowers, so they don’t have to be brave and risk their lives like Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning. They don’t have to reveal their identity and be persecuted.

On the other side to ensure security of the documentation itself, Wikileaks enabled through its network of experts like John Sloboda at Iraq Body Count, or Andy Worthington who is an expert on the Guantanamo detainees, or Stefania Maurizi in Italy, or John Goetz in Germany, and so many others to allow for the security of not just the whistle blower, but of the documents, which is why Wikileaks have a hundred percent track record of accuracy. They allowed us to have a shared memory of our history, not through the abbreviated lenses of journalists with their own biases and their own pressures and their own time commitments or publishers with their own commercial motives, but the unfiltered, unvarnished truth. Of course, Julian did redact and kept back several thousand documents in order to ensure a certain quality, but in the main he allowed us to have an archive that allowed a quality of research, that allows us to this day to understand what is happening in the Ukraine war through the cables which tell us what commitments NATO had made in relation to expansion towards Russia. So Wikileaks remains relevant to this day.

But returning to Julian and the observations in court, nothing about the process that I have seen so far appears reasonable or in any way allied to justice.

It is very rare that we have situations where the requesting state in an extradition (US) has been confirmed by thirty US government insiders to have plotted to kill the defendant. In a sovereign embassy. On British soil. And that it has agreed to engage in a shoot-out on British soil on the streets of Knightsbridge.

It is very rare that we find that the prosecuting state effectively bribes an Icelandic national, a convicted serial paedophile and fraudster. He has admitted that in exchange for immunity for his own crimes, he fabricated evidence against the defendant.

It is very rare where the justice system, judges and lawyers are undisturbed and continue as if there is this elephant not in the room, that the US spied on the privileged legal conversations between Julian and his lawyers, and, not for a day, not for a few hours, but for months on end. These recordings are even on the internet now.

The prosecuting state is also ignoring international law, and so is the host state. They are ignoring findings of torture by the UN, ignoring repeated findings of arbitrary detention by the specialists at the UN.

And yet, unlike in Daniel Ellsberg’s case, where the breaking into the study of his psychiatrist threw the case out of court, in Julian’s case the justice system continues to turn a blind eye to the clear breach of legal privilege. So, it is like the pretence we have at Guantanamo Bay, of the military commissions, which have no jury and which provide a fig leaf for the nakedness of the emperor and the clear failures in both morality and the law in allowing the brutality of Guantanamo and its disgrace to continue. This is an abusive misuse of the extradition act and the US Espionage Act, against a journalist, without even a jury of his peers.

This is also about the US and the UK, both states having committed grotesque war crimes, and both having participated in the torture of Assange, a journalist, and how they are now manipulating the law to pretend there is a legal process associated with this blatant and malicious denial of every fundamental principle of justice. This sham of a legal process is being used to manufacture consent for this injustice within the legal community and amongst mainstream journalists who occasionally report some details, but who are not looking at the big picture.

Julian has been made to suffer for revealing the truth about war crimes. In this sham court, the judge says she can do nothing about the fact that he was deprived of his dignity, strip searched multiple times, handcuffed, moved from cell to cell and then had his privileged legal documents confiscated on the first day of the extradition hearing. The judge looks on as the US serves its second superseding indictment where already some part of the process has taken place. Julian is a peaceful person, who is severely depressed as a result of torture. He is demeaned by being placed in a Perspex box, having to go down on his hands and knees despite his osteoporosis to speak through a small gap in the box, trying to reach out over the heads of the FBI agents in order to get the attention of his lawyers. Julian is given a laptop to prepare for his trial (after months of pleading for one), but the keys are glued down. This is not equality of arms. This is not a legal process that delivers justice. Be very clear, this is a sham.

And I urge you to stand up and say something, because it is amazing to me how many people know that this is wrong, but are in positions of comfort where they are unwilling to say anything, and who are willing to turn a blind eye to what is going on, who are willing to let this happen in a supposedly democratic state, while we point fingers at Putin or anybody else.

What right do we have to talk about war crimes? If this is happening at our door step, in so-called democracies and rule of law states.

And at this time, I also want to say that Julian is not the only one being tortured – and Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, always says all torture is always psychological torture and Julian has suffered both physical and psychological torture – as you know, he had a stroke, a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), during his hearing, while the prosecutor was forcing him to listen to himself that is, the prosecutor saying that: Julian is malingering. And this is the horror that we are witnessing.

But I also want to alert you to the horror that Stella, the two children, his elderly parents, his family here and friends and loved ones are witnessing, to see this decade long destruction of somebody for telling the truth, for allowing us to see the crimes that our governments commit in our name. And to this day this torture continues, you know, last week, we hear that Julian has been told, that he cannot have his wedding in the prison’s chapel where he regularly worships, he can only have it in the box room next door. The indignities and banal cruelties are taking place every day in that hell hole of a prison.

And we wish that – or we are grateful that Stella is by his side – and we should wish them both a long and happy and peaceful married life with peace and good health. And also, I would like to just end by saying that I have… I would say love and respect for people that I don’t know, including people like Michael Ratner, and the late Gavin MacFadyen (founder of the CIJ, Center for Investigative Journalism in London), who knew what was right, and who stood by Julian and the victims of war and torture, and let us be on the side of good with them, rather than on the side of evil with the war criminals who are engaging in this atrocious behaviour. Thank you!

The speech is published with the kind permission of Dr Deepa Driver. Transcription by Trine Haaland.

The other prominent experts at the event included Norwegian/French lawyer, anti-corruption expert and European politician Eva Joly, retired politician and journalist Ögmundur Jónasson, retired editor at Dagens Nyheter Arne Ruth, academic professor Gisle Selness, journalist and editor Kristinn Hraffnson, and Assange’s father John Shipton. Artists at the event included actor and deputy-chair of Norwegian Pen, Agnete Haaland, Jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen and saxophonist Trygve Seim. The event was organized by John Jones www.SetJulianFree.org and the Don’t Extradite Assange (DEA) campaign in cooperation with Norwegian PEN and Jakob Culture Church.

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