Assange: World Press Freedom Day 2022

Firstly and importantly, I wish to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land, the Awabakal and Worimi peoples. I pay my respects to Aboriginal elders past and present and to leaders yet to emerge and acknowledge the land was never ceded. I also note that in 2012, Julian was granted an Aboriginal Nations passport after he sought political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.

I wish to thank Niko Leka for the invitation to speak at the screening of this important film, to welcome John Shipton back to Newcastle and to thank you all for coming.

Seven minutes does not permit me to say all that needs to be said about Julian’s case or my Freedom of Information work in relation to it, but I will say that I am most concerned about his state of health, his absence from the everyday lives of his wife and children and ultimately his fate.

I am buoyed by your presence here tonight and remind you that no campaign for change has failed after achieving only a small percentage of popular support by the voting population. None. [3.5%] Even in the face of Australia’s military and intelligence relationship with the United States.

So please raise questions about Julian’s case at local political forums which will occur over the coming weeks, ring your political candidates to find out where they stand on this issue, and make your views known: write letters to the editor, ring talk back radio, put up signs and anything else that might help to draw attention to the importance of this case and the need for our Government – whether Labor or Liberal) – to act.

In his book ‘The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution’, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, refers to Australia as the ‘absentee’. And although he found no reliable evidence for Australian complicity in Julian’s torture and persecution I would say this:

  • Julian’s lawyers and family first requested diplomatic assistance from the Australian Government over a decade ago;
  • the Australian Government did nothing in response to the 2016 UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention report. It found that Julian had been arbitrarily detained and that he had not been guaranteed the international norms of due process and the guarantees to a fair trial in Wandsworth prison, when under house arrest or in the Ecuadorian Embassy;
  • the Australian Government has not expressed concern or raised any factual inaccuracies with the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer’s report that Julian has suffered psychological torture;
  • the Australian Government is aware that Julian and his family have been spied on and that legally privileged material and conversations were given to the United States;
  • the Foreign Minister is aware of the reports that the CIA planned to kidnap and/or assassinate Julian, yet the matter has not been raised with her US counterpart;
  • the Government knows that America’s key witness in support of the indictment has admitted to lying;
  • the Government made no request or appeal for former US President, Donald Trump, to pardon Julian;
  • the Foreign Minister has read ‘parts of a judgment’ which confirms that Julian is a suicide risk if extradited to the United States; and;
  • the Foreign Minister, diplomats and DFAT officials have witnessed – and in some cases documented – Julian’s physical and mental deterioration. All have remained unmoved.

Can you think of a stronger case of complicity by silence and inaction?

I will end by saying that human rights matter, international law matters, press freedom matters and most of all your vote matters. Please use it in the best way you can to support those principles and to support Julian.

Thank you and enjoy the film.

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