Statement of Support: Canberra candlelight vigil for Julian Assange

Please accept my apologies for not being able to join you to mark this important occasion.  I have so much admiration and respect for your unwavering support for this issue. My thoughts go to Christine Assange, John Shipton and family.  Another Christmas looms without their son, brother, father and friend.  Words seem inadequate.  Thoughts and prayers seem irrelevant. Conversations seem trivial. Nonetheless we offer them in the hope that they go some way to ease the burden felt by Julian’s absence.

On a lighter note I was pleased to see that Senator Scott Ludlam was speaking at the vigil tonight.  He is one of the few politicians of our time with the moral courage to do what he thinks is right.  Long may he receive both our support and loyalty.

For well over 800 days Julian Assange has been deprived of his fundamental human rights.  I often wonder what he is thinking as he looks out of the windows of the Ecuadorian Embassy, watching the passing parade.

I know what I’d be thinking; how many people look up? Is that out of concern or empathy, or simple curiosity.  Do they look up at all? Can I believe that people like these will use their numbers to make demands of their governments to secure my freedom? Why should they help me? Why should I believe in them?

The answer is simple. To borrow a philosophy espoused by Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson: because his liberation is bound up with ours, so we must work together.

Whether it is the coal seam gas protesters facing the enemy at the gate; whether it’s the mandatory detention of refugees; whether it’s the inability of same sex couples to marry the person they love; or whether it’s the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of Bradley Manning, there’s a common thread that binds them to Julian Assange and he to them.

That thread is power structures that publicly profess to act on moral principles but privately are indifferent to public opinion, that use international law as a blunt instrument when it suits and at the same time discard or compromise human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, without exception, that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person; that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution; that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his/her privacy, family, home; that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his/her property; that everyone has the right to marry and to found a family; that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers; and so on.

How has it come to this?  This slow burn of our fundamental human rights. Is it because we were all looking down when we should have been looking up?

This is something we must all think about, discuss and rectify because the alternative is unthinkable. And what you’re all doing today, in showing your support for Julian Assange and calling for the protection of his rights from the powerful interests that threaten them, is the perfect place to start.

I applaud your strength of principle and thank you for your efforts.

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