For those unaware of who Julian Assange is, he was the creator of the international whistleblowing institution Wikileaks. First rising to fame on the US Governments most wanted list after leaking videos of their military’s careless acts in the Iraq War; including infamous evidence to the extent of its ‘collateral damage’ (murdering civilians). Having recklessly pissed off the US, he was detained: first, isolation in a prison, then under house arrest, before realising they had no law in which to punish him. Despite all the hassle, Wikileaks continued to allow the flow of classified information regarding institutional wrongdoings around the world, and before long Sweden were accusing Assange of rape charges. Fearing another detainment would lead to extradition to the US and he would become another victim of their war on whistleblowers, he was granted diplomatic immunity in an Ecuadorian embassy, in London. He has remained in asylum in that building for the past five years, with the constant threat of extradition by the UK Government the moment he leaves the building.
That situation had been in complete stalemate, costing the UK Government £10 million in surveillance, and also causing Assange both mental and physical harm. This was until the 5th of February in which the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) ruled in favour of Assange on counts of unlawful detainment and a demand of financial compensation for his ordeal. Originally, Assange had announced if the decision was made against him, he would turn himself in, but the financial compensation rises as the situation continues, forcing an incentive on the UK to release him. However, the UK have disregarded the judgement, with the foreign secretary Phillip Hammond branding the decision ‘ridiculous’, as they argue that claims of detainment are unfounded as he has always had the choice to leave the embassy if he wishes, and that they still have a rule of law in arresting him.
The problem here is that our government have been given a perfect excuse now to pull out of such an immoral situation, but instead have decided to cement their position to the world. The decision made by WGAD was not one made lightly, they took all situations into account – domestic and international laws, human rights and the overall impact of Assange’s leaks – to come to their expert and professional conclusions. This authority is being completely disregarded by the UK in favour of helping to expand the corruption of the US. It does not take a genius to realise Assange has likely been framed by the Swedish government. They have demanded he must fly over to them in order to be questioned by authorities about rape allegations, while at the same time have rejected every opportunity to question him in the Embassy. There is no legal reason why they cannot, they have questioned others abroad in the past and prosecutors have been criticised for not taking such ‘alternative avenues’. This stubbornness from both sides has outlived most charges made against Assange – unlawful coercion, molestation – yet the rape allegation will remain until 2020. This leaves Assange holed up for another four years, which is punishment in the sense that he will have missed a decade of his children’s lives. Remaining in asylum with no more than one room to pace around, waiting for his health to further deteriorate, or otherwise surrender his innocence and face the same fate as Bradley Manning.
Edward Snowden and Manning have both received similar media condemnation as Assange. They have been labelled a national security threat (with little evidence to back up statements), while the smear campaigns make sure to discredit their brave actions. I cannot see how the media extensively debate their extradition, yet there is little dialogue over the demonisation of whistleblowers, which is surely a bigger threat to our freedoms. The person behind the leaks is insignificant in comparison to what the leaks have told us. For example the public would probably still believe the forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were acting morally if it weren’t for Wikileaks pointing out these atrocities. Furthermore the public would be blissfully unaware that our government has been looking at our private social media messages, unwarranted, if not for Snowden. Yet, not only do the majority of individuals ignore such news, but accept the artificial narrative that these men and women, who sacrificed their freedoms for you to have this information, are dangerous. Rather than, if it were not for them, these activities would continue and increase in severity with the knowledge they will not be caught.
But why would the UK government try so hard just to hand over someone to the US? You would think the UK government would applaud an institution that works to expose injustice around the world, however Wikileaks is impartial and attacks Britain as much as anywhere else. You could view their reaction to the Assange situation as an attempt to cover up their ever more exposed hypocrisy of censoring the internet and threatening to end the Freedom of Information act. Furthermore they demand we forfeit our privacy because as the Conservative government states ‘if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear’, a quote previously attributed to infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
At the end of the day, the opinion of an international body has been rejected, obviously not because our own MPs know better, but because our foreign policy is still very much dictated by America. What this situation has shown us, is the extent to which the US will go to silence and condemn those who speak out, using Assange to make a point to all future whistleblowers. Their actions will have consequences and have ended up proving the corruption we have seen from the leaks. None of the countries involved have shown they run a fair, democratic society because they have not yet realised the best way to silence Wikileaks from pointing out corruption, is to not be corrupt at all.