Precariousness Of Assange’s Asylum Intensifies Solidarity Efforts
In the last few weeks, news reports have surfaced indicating the imminent danger that Ecuador may illegally rescind Julian Assange’s asylum. WikiLeaks supporters across the globe have responded by raising their voices even louder on behalf of the politically imprisoned journalist, with a diverse range of online and physical demonstrations of solidarity unfolding over the last week.
At the embassy, multiple supporters have been standing in a near-constant vigil in case of any sudden developments on the scene, with specific, self-imposed orders to remain non-violent in their approach. Disobedient Media previously reported on the heroic efforts of activists who have participated in physical vigils at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the entire span of Assange’s confinement there.
Over the weekend, an emergency Unity4J live-streamed event was held to address the latest developments, and to announce the launch of a public Discord server dedicated to mass public collaboration in support of Julian Assange. An overview of the event created by one such supportive member of the public is provided below.
Attendees and hosts of the emergency event included Kim Dotcom, Assange legal representative in Australia Greg Barns, veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern, filmmaker Vivian Kubrick, activist and current President of the Internet Party of New Zealand Suzie Dawson, journalist and veteran whistleblower Lisa Ling, former Australian Senator with the Greens Scott Ludlum, Sky News Australia’s Ross Cameron, Australian filmmaker Cathy Vogan, Popular Resistance’s Kevin Zeese, human rights activist and journalist Diani Barreto, WikiLeaks contributor Simon Floth, non-violent human rights activist Ciaron O’Reilly, and veteran, whistleblower, and activist Cian Westmoreland as well as this writer.
The round-table style discussion was only possible thanks to the support of the technical support and social media teams dedicated to supporting Unity4J.
During the conversational live-stream, Kim Dotcom said: “If the UK government arrests [Julian Assange], it will start a global movement that will begin here today… to ensure organizations like WikiLeaks can [continue to] provide the truth to us.” Meanwhile, Ray McGovern emphasized the importance of ‘building arks, not predicting rain,’ a sentiment that echoes the refrain of Christine Assange: “We need WikiLeaks warriors, not worriers.”
Scott Ludlum told the panel: “One of the reasons Julian is in the jam that he’s in, is that he is an uncompromising bastard. Compromising the integrity of the work [is not something he would do], because if he [was inclined to do so], he would have cut some kind of deal already.” Ludlum also reflected that since 2010, we have witnessed what he called: “One of the most effective campaigns of destroying an organization or any civil society organization that has ever been mounted.”
During the Unity4J event, activist Diani Barreto said: “It’s up to us to ensure that we have access to this public repository of knowledge.” Like other attendees, Barreto raised the importance of organizing on-the-ground protests and actions. Australian Filmmaker Cathy Vogan echoed this, saying: “People need to get down there [to the embassy] now.”
Ross Cameron addressed issues of data security and breaches of citizen privacy by large agencies who he said are: “Simply incapable of keeping secure the amount of data that is passing in and out of their hands.”
Suzie Dawson described the creation of the Unity4J Discord server as a method of promoting direct, nonviolent action on the part of the public to engage with and fight against the persecution of WikiLeaks’ Editor-In-Chief. Again, the Discord server is open to public participation. Since its launch, the Unity4J Discord server has seen the involvement of over 2,000 volunteers. With recent news footage depicting the removal of furniture from the Ecuadorian embassy, that help cannot come soon enough.
Volunteers within the server have been organized into teams covering everything from social media to lawyers who are actively engaged in research on the case, to graphic designers who are in the process of creating apparel. Proceeds from the sale of the items will go directly to the WikiLeaks shop. Dawson explained that events on the server constituted hundreds of constructive and ongoing actions taking place simultaneously.
The live-stream and discord server are not the only venues of solidarity that have blossomed in the wake of the heightened danger to Assange’s asylum. It should be noted that while the discord channel is an incredibly useful tool for supporters who have felt stuck in the inertia of wanting to help but not knowing how to do so, it is not a prerequisite in order to show support and solidarity with Assange. Absolutely everyone should take it upon themselves to support in whatever way they feel called to do so, whether that be to join efforts in groups or to operate independently, every act counts.
Whether you are tech savvy or not, every act, phone call, dollar raised or conversation you initiate to educate people is important. If you are not comfortable joining a group, that’s perfectly fine. No group has a monopoly on solidarity and your individual efforts are valued.
As the public have witnessed the transmutation of sanctuary into a form of repression and retribution, many journalists have stepped up their condemnation of the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. Ecuadorian citizens have also raised their voices in protest against Lenin Moreno’s policy towards Assange, speaking up in interviews and articles as well as standing in solidarity outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
In RutaKritica, Fidel Narváez, an Ecuadorian diplomat who, Bella Magnani reminds us, worked with Assange to save Edward Snowden, wrote an incredible article whose entirety is extremely significant and should be read in full. Narváez writes [As translated electronically into English]:
“Delivering to Julian Ecuador would also contravene the provisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights , in his recent and even more forceful advisory opinion OC-25/18 , prepared at the express request of Ecuador. In order to issue its opinion, the Inter-American Court received more than 50 specialized opinions, from governments, international organizations that include OAS and UNHCR, human rights organizations, international law academic centers and human rights experts from various parts of the world… If the memory does not fail me, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and its resolutions used to be sacrosanct and unobjectionable, when they ruled against the government of President Correa. Is it then that in the case of Julian Assange Ecuador would go against the very IACHR?”
“In other words, [as a result of this case] those who are not Americans, have no rights, and any journalist, whether Ecuadorian, Colombian, or Mexican, could end up in their prisons for the sole fact that their work is not the taste and color approved by Washington.”
“Asylum means protected freedom , never suppression of freedoms. Even prisoners are not confined to isolation with the suppression of visits. Julian Assange is not serving any sentence, because he has not been sentenced to anything by any judge, much less has any pending account with the Ecuadorian justice.”
The Real News Network also spoke to Alfred de Zayas, a Professor of Law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy, and retired senior lawyer with the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights who recently completed six years as U.N. Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order. His laudable experience in multiple areas closely tied to Assange’s situation provide additional weight of authority to his sentiments. He told RNN:
“…The right of someone to seek asylum is an absolutely fundamental right. You have it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But there is a principle of international law called the Principle of non-refoulement, which means you cannot deport, expel, or extradite an individual if there is a well-founded fear that that person will suffer persecution. If Assange is sent to the United States, it’s absolutely certain that he will suffer persecution… What I find most problematic here is the erosion of the rule of law.” [Emphasis added]
UN rapporteur @Alfreddezayas: “Julian #Assange deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace. He and Edward Snowden have done more for democracy, rule of law and peace than the many hypocritical politicians and journalists who attack and defame them” #Ecuador #FreeJulian #Unity4J #WikiLeaks pic.twitter.com/ncuyNNgSOR
— Bella Magnani (@BellaMagnani) June 13, 2018
In a separate blog post, Zayas wrote: “Assange, whom I visited at the Ecuador Embassy in London, deserves the Nobel Prize for Peace. He and fellow whistleblower Eduard Snowden have done more for democracy, rule of law and peace than the many hypocritical politicians and journalists who attack and defame them.” [Emphasis added]
Caitlin Johnstone also wrote recently: “We are about to find out if this is the part of the movie where the empire rips off the mask of freedom and democracy and reveals its true tyranny. Assange is a soft target, a controversial figure who has been on the receiving end of wildly successful smear campaigns marketed to every major political faction across the western world. He is the logical place to begin a crackdown on press freedoms and make a public example of what happens to those who shine the light of truth upon Big Brother.”
Jimmy Dore also covered the issue on the Jimmy Dore Show over the weekend, reminding his audience that WikiLeaks has never published false information, unlike other news organizations including the Guardian and The New York Times.
During the Jimmy Dore Show segment, Stef Zamorano, also known as Miserable Liberal, pointed out: “We already know [how terrible] the US Prison system is: if they want to lock him away… It’s awful, it’s nefarious, it’s scary… but I was also thinking about Petraeus, and he really did give out classified information… he plead to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling – mishandling! Classified material.”
Dore also cited the work of Glenn Greenwald, who recently wrote via The Intercept:
“The U.S. Justice Department has never wanted to indict and prosecute anyone for the crime of publishing such material, contenting themselves instead to prosecuting the government sources who leak it. Their reluctance has been due to two reasons: First, media outlets would argue that any attempts to criminalize the mere publication of classified or stolen documents is barred by the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment, a proposition the DOJ has never wanted to test; second, no DOJ has wanted as part of its legacy the creation of a precedent that allows the U.S. government to criminally prosecute journalists and media outlets for reporting classified documents.
…. During the Obama years, it was a mainstream view among media outlets that prosecuting Assange would be a serious danger to press freedoms. Even the Washington Post editorial page, which vehemently condemned WikiLeaks, warned in 2010 that any such prosecution would “criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk” all media outlets. When Pompeo and Sessions last year issued their threats to prosecute Assange, former Obama DOJ spokesperson Matthew Miller insisted that no such prosecution could ever succeed.”
Likewise, during the recent emergency Unity4J live-stream, Assange legal representative Greg Barns said: “The situation is relatively simple in legal terms. Julian does not face any charges. There was a comment from Jeremy Hunt, the new Foreign Secretary of the UK, who on a number of occasions said that Julian faced serious charges. There are no charges. There is a warrant, which relates to a failure to answer bail. That is not a charge. The way the law works in relation to bail – and it’s the same way in the UK as it is in Australia – if you fail to answer bail, there is a warrant for your arrest, you hand yourself in, and then generally speaking you will be charged with a breach of bail, which carries a relatively small maximum penalty, and most people do not go to jail… So Hunt was either misled, or he’s lying, but either way, it’s a disingenuous statement, and he’s simply wrong.”
Barns added that Assange’s legal team is having “fruitful” discussions with the Australian government regarding bringing Assange home, stating that there is a strong view among Australians that one of their own should be protected from undue harm. Like Zayas and Narváez, he also addressed the issue of refoulement raised by Ecuador’s attempt to possibly rescind asylum.
The official WikiLeaks Twitter account also amplified the work of an Australian PhD student recently. Her doctoral thesis centers on WikiLeaks, and she recently posted a Twitter thread listing the infinitely significant knowledge gained by the public as a result of the organization’s publications, including:
“The Minton Report detailed how Dutch multinational company Trafigura had dumped toxic waste in the Ivory Coast affecting 108,000 people. The report had been suppressed through a super injunction… El-Masri, a completely innocent German citizen, snatched off the streets, detained, tortured, and dumped on the street in Albania, took a case to the European Court of Human Rights, using six cables in evidence… People have been freed from Pakistani prisons based on the cables… The Syria Files provided extraordinary insight into the Assad regime through over two million emails from 680 Syrian political figures, ministries and associated companies and the regime’s international security contracts… We learned the US has a manual for unconventional warfare, active policy doctrine, that was created in 2008 for US Special Forces for when they are overthrowing a government.”
This quote includes just a few of the points listed by the student, who goes by the moniker Flick Ruby on social media. She provides source links for each individual statement in her exceptionally informative Twitter thread. Its contents alone are a virtual crate of ammunition for those who wish to explain the essential journalistic importance of WikiLeaks. Disobedient Media previously noted the essential quality of WikiLeaks’ primary source evidence, observing the multitude of stories that this outlet would not have been able to cover accurately without the information published in their releases.
During the previously discussed emergency Unity4J discussion, Cian Westmoreland cited his favorite quote from the novel Cloud Atlas, explaining that he first came across the book and quote while serving in Afghanistan. He said that the passage emphasized the importance of even the smallest actions in shaping our future. The statement is intensely apt in describing the current fight for Assange’s safety. Each of our individual small acts – and equally our small inactions, will shape our collective future in determining whether the integrity of free speech is protected, and whether Assange will one day go free.
Disobedient Media will continue to report on this important issue as it develops.