What is the Assange case all about?
By Prof. Marcello Ferrada de Noli
It is about the situation of the publisher of an important news outlet, where the information “goal is justice, the method is transparency”.
A recently published story in Newsweek, headed “Prosecuting Assange is Essential for Restoring our National Security”, carries a noteworthy statement by its author, a former officer in the US Intelligence apparatus. He declares:
The above – although it refers to another person – reveals an utter misconception among people, perhaps the majority among main-stream media readers, about what the libellous information, ad-hominem attacks, or even legal prosecution pursued towards certain public figures is all about.
In the case of the long-protracted persecution of the WikiLeaks publisher, exercised by powerful Western powers with help of their client states, “the larger questions” –that their public or law enforcement officials are not supposed to think, are of essential societal value. I am talking about the First Amendment in the United States Constitution, the Freedom of the Press and Speech principles that are supposed to reign in Europe and the Transparency obligation of governments towards its citizens which should be universal.
Another societal value is the accountability of those elites responsible in promoting, perpetrating, collaborating, or defending war crimes. This includes MSM.
In a recently published interview [ii] regarding the new developments in the situation of Mr. Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy, I conveyed my opinions regarding heightened perils of an extradition to the U.S. :
Real background of the case
The background of the Assange case, now maintained for over eight years, may not be quite known to the public. A little publicized document from the Snowden revelations disclosed that in 2010 –after “Collateral Murder” and the “Afghan Logs” were published by WikiLeaks, U.S. military leaders in contact with their counterpart [allied] powers participating in the Afghanistan war under US-command, asked them to pursue a prosecution of Julian Assange. [iii] Of these countries, only Sweden complied.
The case has therefore never been a “legal case”, but a purely political one in relation to its administration, and obeying geopolitical interests. As it developed, the case has grown further to other spheres of global dimension: The attacks to WikiLeaks and the impeachment of its publisher Julian Assange, have now become determining factors in the survival of principles like Freedom of Speech, freedom of information, as well as the ethics of Western journalists with regards to the reporting or not of precisely those press-related issues.
What is behind Ecuador’s move to change its ambassador in the United Kingdom
The, now deposed, Ecuadorian Ambassador in London, Carlos Abad, has been a career diplomat since 1971 and served also as Ecuadorian ambassador or top diplomat in India, France, Austria, Peru, the Caribbean countries, etc. So, he is not a political “appointee” of the former government of Rafael Correa, and therefore his removal by President Moreno cannot be explained for reasons of domestic praxis of changing politically appointed ambassadors to enable policies of new elected administrations.
Furthermore, the same Constitutional Decree N° 147 called by Moreno to “terminate the services” of Abad in London, also allows the president to appoint Abad to another diplomatic mission –which did not occur.
The above, summed the known economic agreements between Moreno and the U.S. government –which deepened the dependence of Ecuador towards the U.S. and through it, to NATO countries– calls for other explanations.
In a meeting in London 2017 with Ambassador Abad, to which he kindly invited me, he told me in the presence of the embassy’s political adviser in London about his concerns of the risks to Assange due to his deteriorating health. I perceived the ambassador as a humane and engaged diplomat. And I believe that provided nothing really significant could have been done since then to ameliorate that risk, any directive on that regard must have come directly from Moreno’s desk, not from Ambassador Abad’s. Obviously, a deterioration of the health status of the publisher of WikiLeaks can only serve the interests of political-military establishments which fear and oppose further strong WikiLeaks revelations, as those that provided evidence for the allegations on U.S. war crimes in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. What about engagements of that kind that possibly may have occurred in Syria, or Yemen, one may wonder.
The U.K. is not interested in finding a non-extradition option as solution. Similarities with Sweden
Thirdly, we have that Ambassador Abad was known for his efforts to reach a settlement with the UK authorities about Julian Assange, aiming to prevent the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S.
The question is, would the U.K. really be interested in finding a solution which may result in avoiding that extradition? My answer is plainly, no. The U.K. is equally interested in silencing or making things more difficult for WikiLeaks as a publishing endeavour.
Furthermore, I see similarities between the British authorities’ behaviour on this issue, and the one adopted by its Swedish counterparts which I have studied thoroughly. In my book Sweden VS Assange – Human Rights Issues, [iv] I have described how the trumpeted accusations against Assange, leading to the artificial or unjustified protracting [v] of the prosecutor’s procedure, aimed to give the US administration the opportunity to complete their indictment. Instructions may have come, for instance, through the then U.S. Justice Minister, Eric Holder, who travelled to Stockholm to lecture his Swedish counterpart precisely at the time when the Assange case was due to be dropped in Sweden [vi].
Another similarity has been the use of “processual” [due process] arguments to delay the freedom of Assange (requested already by the UNWGAD, a UN body). In the case of Sweden it was alleged falsely that there law prohibited the interrogation of suspected persons abroad, and in the present U.K. case Assange’s detention is on the bases that he would not have followed a duty to report to a police station to enable the execution of the international arresting warrant [EAW] issued by Sweden, even though that order no longer exists (ultimately the Swedish authorities were forced to withdraw the accusations against Assange, when it was proven unfeasible that they would stand in any court).
And due to this artificial “legal” process, Assange is still in London waiting for the implementation of the same U.S. indictment that motivated the process in Sweden.
Will the above signify the imminent expulsion of Mr. Assange from the embassy?
In the worst of cases, the current Ecuadorian government may finally pursue the termination of the political asylum of Assange by Ecuador arguing that Mr Julian Assange would have not complied with the terms of their hospitality. For instance, Mr. Assange’s alleged continuation of a publication endeavour that the government of Moreno may consider it harms the relationship of Ecuador with a “friendly country”.
However, that would be a feeble argument, as it would go against the commitments undertaken by the Ecuadorian government itself, when it bestowed political asylum to Assange on humanitarian grounds. The context was that such an asylum would prevent Mr. Assange from being extradited to a country in which death penalty is an option as in cases where the U.S. authorities would relate prosecution, like the one against Mr. Assange, to issues of national security, for example prosecution under the Espionage Act. [vii]
On the ‘psychological-torture like’ descriptions which has increasingly been depicted amidst concerned commentators
Independently of those [Embassy] personnel changes, the conditions of such a protracted stay at the embassy, without the possibility of even taken some steps under the sun, without proper medical attention –even if the previous administration has done their best to provide that attention at the embassy’s compound– all that is enough to constellate a situation of “psychological torture”. Let us not forget that in the core of the experience of torture under captivity, we find the uncertainty on when the next episode would arise, or whether those torture episodes would ever stop, or it they would evolve to be terminal in terms of life of the individual suffering that torture. I know what I am talking about. [viii]
To the above should be added the constant threat of extradition first from Sweden to de U.S., then from the U.K. to the U.S., and now a possible extradition facilitated with assistance of the very government that granted asylum against that contingency. He had to even face the possibility of the embassy being stormed, as suggested for instance by a highly publicized report in Newsweek magazine. [ix]
With unpredictable fate regarding his life, all that would very well constitute a sum of severe stressors.
With all that considered, when I last met personally Julian Assange, at the Ecuadorian embassy in London August 2017 – in the period when that was still possibly – I found remarkable that in spite of visible health issues he was so strong in his spirits, and with his personal integrity intact, as always. His message was of optimism and solidarity.
Marcello Ferrada de Noli, Professor Emeritus
Founder and chairman of Swedish Doctors for Human Rights
Notes and References
[i] Newsweek, 24 November 2018.
[ii] “Scholar on Assange’s Case: It Has Been ‘Obeying to Geopolitical Interests’.” Sputnik International, Opinion, 28 November 2918.
[iii] M Ferrada de Noli, “Sweden doesn’t follow U.N., but U.S. – Prosecution of Assange requested by the US, Snowden document reveals”. The Indicter Mgazine, 6 February 2016.
[iv] M Ferrada de Noli, ”Sweden VS Assange – Human Rights Issues & Political Background”. Libertarian Books. Sweden, 2014, 2016.
[v] M Ferrada de Noli, “The ‘Affair Assange’ – Malicious handling of a political case”. The Indicter Magazine, 14 September 2016.
[vi] M Ferrada de Noli, “Amidst discussion in Sweden on dropping the “case” VS. Assange, US Justice Minister Eric Holder arriving to meet Swedish counterpart & lecture in Parliament”. The Professors’ blog, Stockholm, 2 February 2014.
[vii] M Ferrada de Noli, “While U.S. admits “pending future prosecution” of Julian Assange, Sweden refuses to abide by U.N. ruling on his arbitrary detention”. The Indicter Magazine, 11 March 2016.
[viii] I know what I am talking about. [viii] both professionally and by personal experience as former prisoner in Pinochet prisoner camps in the aftermath of the defeated resistance to the US-backed military coup of 1973 in Chile.
[ix] M Ferrada de Noli, “Pro-Clinton media calls UK to suspend diplomatic immunity of Ecuador Embassy over WikiLeaks publication of Hillary’s emails”, The Indicter Magazine, 1 November 2016.