Council of Europe sides with Julian Assange
By Sara Chessa - 0
The moment that press freedom advocates have been waiting for so long has finally arrived. The European institutions are starting to officially state that they don’t want Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has become the first one to step in and call for Assange’s immediate release, joining the call of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, who some months ago clearly stated that Assange should walk free.
The call was made on the 28th of January, 2020, when the PACE was debating on a resolution for the Member States included in a report on Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe.
Julian Assange’s detention “sets a dangerous precedent for journalists”, according to politicians from the Council of Europe’s parliamentary arm, who voted on Tuesday to oppose the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the UShttps://www.theguardian.com/media/2020/jan/28/julian-assange-detention-sets-dangerous-precedent-for-journalists …theguardian.com
Drafted by the Labour member of the British House of Lords, George Foulkes, the document opens stating that the Council of Europe and its Assembly are firmly committed to strengthening media freedom in all its aspects, including the right to access to information, the safeguard of editorial independence and of 'the ability to investigate, criticise and contribute to public debate without fear of pressure or interference'.
Several amendments to the report were proposed inside the PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, and Lord Foulkes, who is part of it, was happy to accept the one on Assange.
Lord Foulkes said:
“UK colleagues supported it because we don’t want to see him extradited by the UK Government to the United States and facing centuries in prison.”
The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading institution on human rights and includes 47 member states, 28 of which are also part of the European Union. What this Parliamentary Assembly, made up of members of national legislatures says about freedom of the press is something civil society should take notice of.
In this light, you would hope that the work of Wikileaks and his founder can hardly be forgotten. Or maybe it could — it seemed to be surprisingly off the agenda until some weeks ago, but January 2020 seems to have marked a change of course.
Great News for Julian Assange
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is demanding the immediate release of Julian Assange!
PACE speaks on behalf of 820 million Europeans and is responsible for the election of the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.
At the beginning of the new year, an urgent alert on the Assange case was submitted by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) to the new online platform that the Council of Europe implemented in order to ensure the protection of reporters by drawing attention to particularly pressing current issues.
The urgent alert on the Assange case quoted the statements made by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer after visiting Assange in Belmarsh prison in May 2019.
“In addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture."
Following that urgent alert, on the 27th of January, an event sponsored by German Member of Parliament Andrej Hunko, was held at the Council of Europe on the risks represented by possible extradition of Assange for the freedom of the press.
After an intervention by Nils Melzer via videolink, the audience had the chance to listen to the General Secretary of the IFJ Anthony Bellanger.
This is shocking! UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer reports on very severe wrongdoings in the case of Julian Assange.republik.ch
According to Mr Bellanger:
“The detention regime currently imposed on Assange appears to be unnecessary, disproportionate and discriminatory, and to perpetuate his exposure to psychological torture.”
Following Regis Brillat of the CPT (Executive Secretary of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture), the discussion proceeded with Senator Gianni Marilotti, coordinator of the Italian Parliamentarian Intergroup for the Monitoring of Julian Assange case.
Given the unprecedented tough talk pronounced by some speakers against the guilty silence of some states on the persecution of an individual who can “only be accused of having disclosed real facts”, it is likely that this conference on Assange’s extradition risks has deeply influenced the development of the debate in the Assembly.
And, actually, there are some steps that happened behind the scenes.
SYDNEY joins Global Day of Protests
12PM: Martin Place Sydney
Marking the 1st day of Julian Assange's Extradition Hearing.
Save the Date! Let's get a huge crowd together to show our government we care!#IStandWithJulianAssange#DontExtraditeAssange#SaveJulian2020
One of these is the drafting by Hunko of an amendment (different from the one finally approved, which was written later) signed also by his Italian colleague Marilotti and aiming to modify the Assembly’s Media Report in order for it to mention Wikileaks publisher.
It suggested to add the following words:
“...and defend the freedom media and security of journalists, namely in the case of Julian Assange as his possible extradition to the U.S. would set a precedent and threaten journalists in all member states”.
Moreover, Hunko spoke with his British colleague author of the PACE Media Freedom Report, Lord Faulkes, highlighting the importance to add a clear reference to the case. The reply was positive and the discussion grew inside the Committee.
Then Hunko handed the ball to the Italian Senator Gianni Marilotti, whose words as a speaker of the conference on Assange’s extradition seemed to wake up many parliamentarians by highlighting the clash between the extradition and European democratic values.
We believe it is important to highlight the fact that the unfair treatment and human rights violations that he is apparently facing are not compatible with the foundations of the European democracies, which gave themselves laws and principles related to the respect of the human being that are not negotiable.
John Shipton in Brussels for #AssangeDay which honours his son. UK, USA turn a blind eye to Assange's ill-treatment, but the rest of the world is waking up.
Artist @davide_dormino displays Assange-inspired work there, as Council Of Europe @coe stands up for Assange's rights https://twitter.com/Estelle_Farge/status/1222506140812087296 …
He went on by expressing a tough condemnation of the complicity shown by many states:
We should be surprised and in a certain way outraged in front of the cautious silence kept by some states not only on Julian Assange’s situation but also on the facts revealed by him through Wikileaks work. These silence seemed to authorise or support the US and the United Kingdom’s behaviour in relation to an individual who is apparently deprived of the right to prepare his defence and deprived as well of his right to dignified psychophysical conditions.
Enhanced by Hunko’s event speakers, the debate continued in the Media Committee of the PACE, where a new amendment on Assange emerged, tabled by Mr Stefan Schennach and other members.
In this respect, consider that the detention and criminal prosecution of Mr Julian Assange sets a dangerous precedent for journalists, and join the recommendation of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment who declared, on 1 November 2019, that Mr Assange's extradition to the United States must be barred and that he must be promptly released.
Noticing that the second amendment was even stronger, Mr Hunko withdrew the one he had proposed.
Another member of the Italian Intergroup, Alvise Maniero, during the final vote expressed satisfaction for this choice. “I hope my colleagues will show their courage by approving these amendments and its spirit, in that moment I will be able to joyfully approve the whole report on media freedom”, he stated.
Amendment to report on Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe prepared by Labour peer Lord Foulkes adopted unanimously earlier this evening #Assange Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)
And, since the Assembly finally approved a unanimous call for the release of Wikileaks publisher, the patient work of Hunko and Marilotti has been rewarded.
Marilotti had stated during Hunko’s event:
“We have to stop being silent and to stop the one that seems to be a global warning according to which we don’t have the right to know the truth about the facts and not even the right to disclose it to the public.”
This time, we can say the Council of Europe joined them.
Surely, others will follow.
Federal MPs fail to demonstrate support for Julian Assange https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/federal-mps-fail-to-demonstrate-support-for-julian-assange,13539#.XjD0JRXxwv8.twitter … @IndependentAusindependentaustralia.net
The slow-motion crucifixion of Julian Assange https://disq.us/t/3gjgh4i So much for Western democracy.independentaustralia.net
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Prominent Germans appeal for Julian Assange's release
The WikiLeaks founder is being held in deteriorating conditions despite his poor health, his supporters said. The signatories include a former German vice-chancellor and a Nobel Prize winner.
More than 130 prominent figures in Germany from the world of art, politics, and the media signed an appeal on Thursday calling for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be released from prison in the UK. He is currently serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail.
The letter's signatories include famous German investigative journalist Günther Wallraff, former Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, and Austrian winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, Elfriede Jelinek.
It says that Assange, 48, is being held in "isolation and monitored under unnecessarily stressful conditions" in a British prison despite being in "critical health."
UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, told DW that after meeting with Assange he believed that the activisted exhibited "typical signs of psychological torture."
They also argue that Assange risks being deprived of his basic human rights if he is extradited to the United States when his sentence is over.
Assange and the UK
Assange famously sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 when Swedish authorities were seeking to bring him to Stockholm to face rape allegations. Authorities in Sweden have since dropped the case due to the difficulties in prosecuting it.
After increasingly frustrating the Ecuadorian government with his actions, his asylum was withdrawn and he was forced to leave the embassy in April 2019.
He is wanted in the US for violating the Espionage Act, where he faces a life sentence for leaking classified US military documents. The British government has not yet said if it will extradite Assange, although it had previously vowed not to do so if he faced the death penalty.
es/rt (AFP, dpa)
MUST SEE: USA-FBI Behind Framing Julian Assange
Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange (11 JULY 2019)
In 1948 the United Nations adopted the universal declaration of human rights.
Article 5: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. The United Nations had promise back then as it succeeded the failed League of Nations in 1945,and the world just came out of World War II. In 1984 the United Nations Convention against Torture was adopted and ratified. Also in the UK, the US, Ecuador and Sweden.
Published earlier on Café Weltschmerz:
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, in 2019 reports that Julian Assange is being tortured in a concerted and prolonged defamation campaign by the UK, US, Sweden and Ecuador. In café Weltschmerz Rico Brouwer interviews Nils Melzer who's visited Assange in Belmarsh prison. He asks him how Assange is doing and what's up with the rule of law in our nations? Melzer: 'to me this is a real test for these countries, for the West. As to whether they take the legacy of the second world war and the human rights treaties that they have established and that guarantee fair trial, that guarantee freedom of the press, that guarantee the prohibition of torturable treatment. They established the United Nations and mandated people like me to observe these rights. If they don’t take these United Nations reports seriously, then it really puts into question the validity of the commitment of these states to human rights’. He continues: ‘If the US acted in good faith, they would have investigated the crimes that were exposed by WikiLeaks and prosecuted the torture and the murder and so on that was exposed, and the corruption. Nothing of that happened. But the Whistle-blower that leaked the information and the journalist that published, these were the people that were prosecuted’.
‘Clearly it seems that they want to make an example of him, and to make sure that what he has been doing is not going to be imitated by others. Because somehow you can manage one WikiLeaks and one Julian Assange, but if you have ten thousand of these organisations and journalists popping up that use the internet so effectively to expose secret information, that obviously would no longer be manageable for these states and it could really change the way that world affairs are being conducted very fundamentally. And that’s what these states are afraid of’.
‘If we allow this precedent to be set, that states can do that, that they can prosecute journalists for exposing true information about crimes committed by Government officials, if that becomes a crime, and these officials are not prosecuted, then we really no longer have the rule of law’.
Press release United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner: https://ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24665&LangID=E
Melzer personal blogpost (1) https://medium.com/@njmelzer/demasking-the-torture-of-julian-assange-b252ffdcb768
Melzer personal blogpost (2) https://medium.com/@njmelzer/response-to-open-letter-of-1-july-2019-7222083dafc8
Melzer in Newsweek: https://www.newsweek.com/assange-freedom-dissent-torture-1447756
analyses of law in Sweden, illustrated by Assange case https://voelkerrechtsblog.org/setting-the-record-straight-how-detention-and-indictment-works-in-sweden-as-illustrated-by-the-assange-case/
Interview with Naomi Colvin, on the arrest of Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy https://potkaars.nl/blog/2019/4/17/naomi-colvin-whistleblower-advocate-on-julian-assange-and-whistleblower-protection
Naomi Wolf; problems with the case in Sweden https://markcrispinmiller.com/2011/02/eight-big-problems-with-the-case-against-assange-must-read-by-naomi-wolf/
Mandate for the rapporteur for torture https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/086/68/PDF/G1708668.pdf