By COURTENAY BARNETT
One speaks in glowing and glorious terms in praise of liberty, the Rule of Law and in the most expansive way of enjoying freedom and rights and civil liberties for the fulfillment to live life itself.
Journalists speak and write of liberty, the Rule of Law and in the most expressive ways – of life itself.
We live in unprecedented times where the internet permits each of us access to the world. Quite literally anyone with internet access has a voice which if used, and all the more, if used effectively, can speak to and impact the world. Julian Assange is the subject of this speech for he did express himself through the instrument of his wikileaks journalistic publications. And so be it, for that is what one holds dear as a right and expects to be afforded by reliance on the concept of freedom of expression. Publication of the truth should be a virtuous deed – should be.
So, what did happen to Julian Assange?
He was virtuous and he was innovative in the way he went about expressing and exposing various truths to the world. He spoke truth to power and all the way to the most powerful. America is but one country amongst many in the world – but, America also happens to be the most powerful country in the world. Britain at one point in time, in the not so distant past, laid claim to possessing the world’s largest ever Empire and is now superseded by America. How do these two countries then enter Assange’s story?
Julian Assange exposed wrongdoings of both individuals and nation states and some of those exposures involved the wrongdoings of the United States of America, by factual and accurate exposures such as arrest and imprisonments without a right to trial; tortures conducted in the Guantanamo prison; drone strikes on civilians in Waziristan, Pakistan; effecting of extraordinary rendition ; war crimes committed in Afghanistan and Iraq of US troops knowingly and willfully slaughtering civilians; reneging on Article 9 of the UN Convention Against Torture:-
“states parties shall afford one another the greatest measure
of assistance in connection with criminal proceedings brought in
respect of any of the offences referred to in article 4, including the
supply of all evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings.”
– and more. All true – but America did not like that exposure of the truth. So, why not apply the Rule of Law to determine where Assange’s wrong resided, if indeed he was wrong, and then punish him according to law. Well, in point of law and stated simply, they can’t with any conscionable consistency do so. No less an authority than the US Supreme Court has so concurred. It is not mere guess work, but actual legal fact, that the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers had engaged in essentially illicit activities to obtain the Pentagon Papers and having so done published the said classified documents to educate and inform the American public about wrongdoings effected in their names during the period of the Vietnam War. Was that wrong? No! That is what journalists do as an essential and necessary and important part to their profession as journalists. They inform and provide the public with the truth. Did the laws of America permit that exposure? Indeed, by reference to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America that right is enshrined. Thus, the New York Times case was decided in favour of freedom of speech.
Therefore, in publishing harsh truths and having revealed facts about ‘American civilization’ as so practised – did Julian Assange break American law? Not if one considers clear precedent as regards what the highest court in the US has already confirmed to be the case that not only do journalists have the protection of the US Constitution – but the public has a right to know the truth. Therefore, what is the extradition application from the UK to the US of Assange for trial in essence all about?
It is about the US hegemonic monster baring raw fangs of power and also about telling a vassal state, the UK, that there is to be full conformity with the monster’s wishes – however, illogical, unreasonable, inconsistent with precedent or simply grossly and manifestly unjust and contrived the extradition application is. Yet, the country which gave birth to the Magna Carta has willingly become a supplicant to the demands, wishes and desires of the US. So much so that Assange, finds himself being placed in a prison, Belmarsh, (previously termed the “British version of Guantanamo Bay” ) which exists to imprison category A male prisoners who are the UK’s worst and most serious terrorist offenders. Beyond that, the British justice system has so compromised and literally rubbished its own justice system to satisfy and ensure via a ‘show trial’ that every wish of the US is being steadfastly and subserviently complied with – that the Assange case debases much that is otherwise good and desirable under British justice properly applied. Should I be doubted then consider the following, and pay special attention to the reports on the 6th and 7th days of the proceedings in the Old Bailey:-
COURTENAY BARNETT is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over thirty years, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. He has published several articles in the Effective Learning Report. He lives and works in the Caribbean