FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Julian Assange’s Thousand Days

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Police states quaffing the blood of victims have an excuse: they wish to oppress in order to justify the status quo, keeping the fires burning, their subjects scared. They deceive because they know that truth is another country. States that possess some constitutional worth, those that front a democratic chamber, elected by an enfranchised electorate prefer more subtle techniques, resorting to indefinite detention, without charge.

The breakdown of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s confinement for 1000 days reads as a resume on how authorities can dilute legal obligations with corrosive effect. 10 days were spent in solitary confinement in Wandsworth prison; 550 days were spent under house arrest; and 440 days have been spent at the Ecuadorean embassy in London being denied or guaranteed safe passage by the United Kingdom.

In June 2012, Friends of WikiLeaks sent an open letter to the European Court of Human Rights detailing their concerns about the Swedish request that Assange be extradited for questioning over alleged sex offences. “For a man who has not been charged with any crime, we consider this arbitrary and unlawful detention and thus a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights which the ECHR claims to uphold.”

The thrust of the argument is simple and terrifying. Complying with the European Arrest Warrant in this instance would “make it possible for every citizen detained in the EU to be extradited to another country without charge or any evidence against them, which we consider a more than distressing development.”

This is one of the great obscenities of the age, fed by complacency, justified by indifference. And it is a continuing one. A thousand days without charge is a bilious stain. A thousand days hounded, encircled and monitored by a collective of state interests keen to see him vanquished by silence and incarceration. But Assange knows better. He keeps busy. He teases and can even charm. He conquers through correspondence and Skype, and emits the light of reform via assistance to other whistleblowers.

Naturally, the riposte here is that there is no detention as such – he has been granted sanctuary by Ecuador, albeit within the confines of the embassy. But Assange is much like some of the Palestinian territories, encircled and embargoed when state emergency warrants it. It is an intolerable deadlock made worse by the ineffectual paladins in Canberra who insist that the welfare of its citizens is up to other states.

What the Australian government has in fact done is show that individuals in Assange’s circumstances may well be faced with an extradition order even on returning to Australia. According to Assange himself, speaking to Headley Gritter on Melbourne’s 3RRR, “Australia changed its Extradition Act just over a year ago to make it easier to extradite Australians to the United States for so-called political crimes.”

Far from being fanciful, a reading of amendments made to the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth) shows that tinkering has been made to lower the threshold for which extradition might be sought. These had been in the pipeline for some time and demonstrate the delight officials in Canberra take in allowing foreign powers to have a bite of the Australian cherry. After all, the amending instrument’s purpose was aimed at “streamlining the extradition process and cutting delays.” Rights of citizens have evidently become matters of slimming, streaming and reduction, a weight loss program for aspiring police states.

The amending culprit was the Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. Long winded in title, it promises to be blunt in effect. Political consciousness in Australia has been so narcotised by the security establishment that any discussion about the implications of the bill passed without comment. A moribund fifth estate helped in this.

Yes, section 7 makes a bland reference that individuals will not be extradited for “political offences,” suggesting that Assange might have misread the scope of the provision. But everything hinges on a definition.

The devil lurks in the exclusions for what a “political offence” is. Excluded from it are offences “that involve an act of violence against a person’s life or liberty” or “any offence prescribed by regulations…” This gives government officials extensive room to manoeuvre over what matters “political” might or might not be. Take the issue of “terrorist” offences, which are often a confection of government to nab protesters deemed enemies of the state. One person’s revealing publisher is another’s nosy terrorist.

Persons may be extradited for minor offences, punishable by less than 12 months imprisonment. The Attorney-General is entitled to surrender the person if he or she considers there is no “real risk” of execution occurring. Previously, the threshold had been more onerous, making the AG take into account the likelihood of the person’s trial, conviction and sentence to death.

Assange’s confinement can also be seen in a broader sense, the disease rendered acceptable by authorities who have decided to throw away the law book in the name of law. The sheer fury against those who expose the rules of the game, be it the killing game (Collateral Murder), or the spying game (PRISM, Tempora) demands stern retribution. Those keen to breathe some life into the cadaverous body of democracy have become prominent targets.

In February, then Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s 1001 day detention was ruled as being “reasonable” by Judge Colonel Denise Lind. No constitutional rights had been violated. The case had been “uniquely complex”. Thus, extensive detention was given its legal gloss.

Assange’s confinement is the guide book authorities are now using in a global effort to stifle the business of publication and whistleblowing. The modern, pseudo-democratic state understands that the murderous gulag is less attractive than indefinite detention in circumstances that break the will for punitive purpose. It is that new political entity that requires speedy reform, if not wholesale abolition.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently running with Julian Assange for the WikiLeaks Party in Victoria. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail