Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

The Australian government”s intimidation of whistleblowers – the torture of Julian Assange

Torture of Julian Assange by Australian governments sends powerful message to whistleblowers, Michael West Media by Lissa Johnson | Nov 26, 2020

Australia has used a range of torture techniques against Julian Assange, writes Dr Lissa Johnson. Governments have isolated and demonised him; flatly rejected evidence of ill-treatment; refused to respond to specific allegations; and divested themselves  of any responsibility. Leaders can’t, or won’t, accept the difference between psychological torture and ‘a legal matter’.

Julian Assange has set a number of firsts for Australia, including:

  • The first Walkley award winner whose journalism has attracted a possible 175 years in US prison.
  • The first journalist to be prosecuted as a spy by the US government, under its 1917 Espionage Act.
  • The first citizen of an ostensibly democratic state (Australia) whom a UN official has found to be the target of a campaign of collective persecution and mobbing by other so-called democratic states.

As the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, observed:

In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.

As part of this mobbing and collective persecution, Assange is the first Australian journalist to be tortured for journalism in the UK.

On 9 May 2019, Professor Melzer visited Assange in Belmarsh prison, accompanied by two medical experts specialising in the assessment and documentation of torture. On 31 May, Melzer reported that they had found Assange to be suffering all symptoms typical of prolonged exposure to psychological torture.

On 1 November 2019, Melzer warned that, unless the UK government urgently changed course, it may soon end up costing his life.

What torture?

Julian Assange is being held in ‘Britain’s Guantanamo’, Belmarsh prison, a high-security facility designed for those charged with terrorism, murder and other violent offences. He has been held in solitary confinement for 22 to 23 hours a day.

He knows that US-aligned security contractors have written in emails that he will make a nice bride in prison, and needs his head dunked in a full toilet bowl at Gitmo. He knows he is headed for life in US supermax prisons, where prisoners are held in perpetual solitary and chains.

‘If this man gets extradited to the United States, he will be tortured until the day he dies’, Profesor Melzer has cautioned.

To heighten the torment, Assange has been prevented from preparing his defence against extradition in violation of his human rights as a defendant.

He has been granted negligible access to his lawyers and is prevented from researching his own defence. The only purpose is to render him helpless, intensifying his trauma.

A Message from the Australian Government

Assange’s experience sets an example to anyone thinking of airing the dirty secrets of those in power: the genuinely dirty secrets, such as wantonly slaughtering and torturing innocent people and covering it up.

Like all public torture, it sends a message to onlookers: this could happen to you.

And the message from the Australian government to any Australian journalists looking on? You’re on your own.

The US government is seeking to retrospectively apply its own Espionage Act to non-US citizens in foreign lands, while simultaneously withholding the free speech protections of its Constitution. The upshot would be that non-US citizens, and non-US journalists, would be vulnerable to prosecution wherever they may be, whenever the United States saw fit.

Should a host country oblige, that journalist’s only hope would be the protection of their own government. And the message from the Australian government? Not a chance.

A climate of consent

But can the government do anything to stop the torture of Assange in the UK? Or are its hands tied?

Australia ratified the Convention Against Torture in 1989. It therefore has a positive duty to take ‘effective legislative, administrative, judicial and other measures to prevent acts of torture’ of its citizens. According to the Federal Attorney-General’s website, however, that duty applies to ‘territories within Australia’s jurisdiction’.

So who is responsible for protecting Australian citizens from torture overseas?

Australian officials can raise concerns with their overseas counterparts when they are concerned about gross violations of citizens’ rights as happened in the cases of Melinda Taylor, James Ricketson, David Hicks and Peter Greste.

 

They could also make a submission to the Committee against Torture that a state is ‘not fulfilling its obligations under this Convention’.

n Assange’s case, however, the government has opted for ‘consent and acquiescence’ under Article 1 of the convention. Consent and acquiescence is listed alongside inflicting and instigating torture as part of the very definition of torture.

 ‘Standard’ fare

DFAT representatives say repeatedly that Assange’s treatment In the UK is perfectly normal. ‘Standard’. ‘No different’ from the treatment of other UK prisoners. Routine, in other words. Nothing to see here.

When reminded that Assange had been handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and moved between five holding cells after the first day of his extradition hearing, a DFAT representative described this as ‘standard prison to court and court to prison procedure’.

What the official failed to explain is that treatment is only ‘standard’ and normal for prisoners charged with terrorism or other violent offences.

It is not remotely normal for journalists with no criminal history, and no history or risk of violence, to be detained under the most punitive conditions that UK law enforcement has to offer.

As an exercise in “consent and acquiescence” DFAT representatives performed their duties well.

Sanitising, normalising language minimises and trivialises abuse………….

‘Not our responsibility’ has been the Australian government’s refrain. Australian government officials ‘don’t provide running commentaries on legal matters before the courts in other parts of the world’, asserted the Foreign Minister.

Australia is ‘not a party to the legal proceedings in the United Kingdom’, stressed a DFAT official when asked why Australia had not intervened in Assange’s case during Senate Estimates. ‘We have no standing in the legal matter that is currently before the courts.’

Perhaps the Australian government doesn’t understand the seriousness of the abuses taking place in the UK. Perhaps ministers and their advisors are unaware of the difference between psychological torture and a ‘legal matter’. Psychological torture is, after all, not commonly well understood.

It is possible that the Australian government merely fails to grasp the gravity of ignoring Professor Melzer’s warnings. However, when the group Doctors for Assange wrote to the Australian government in December 2019, they detailed the medical and psychological basis of their concerns for Assange’s life and health…………..

New normal in Australia?

Assange is not the first person in Australia to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Australia’s abuse of asylum seekers and refugees has been found to violate the Convention Against Torture. Aboriginal Australians, among the most incarcerated groups on earth, have been dying in custody, buried under acquiescent consent, for decades, and historically for hundreds of years.

The Human Rights Measurement Index 2019 has given Australia a 5.5 out of 10 rating for ‘freedom from torture’, noting, ‘Torture is a serious problem in Australia … a large range of people [are] at particular risk of torture or ill-treatment, with Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders at the top of the list’…….

Through sending a message to journalists worldwide by torturing Assange, the abusive licence deployed against other persecuted groups is being expanded to take in journalism. The targeting of journalists around the world matters because journalists cut across the acquiescence and consent, remove the deadbolt on the torture chamber door, turn down the music, and expose what is going on inside. Every persecuted and abused group or person needs them, to break the cycle of violence by breaking the silence.

We do torture here. It is our problem. In Julian Assange’s case, the biggest problem appears to be that torturing journalists is becoming the new normal in Australia.

This edited extract is reproduced from A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposés, edited by Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, December 2020. https://www.michaelwest.com.au/torture-of-julian-assange-by-australian-governments-sends-powerful-message-to-whistleblowers/

November 29, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

“Traceability” and Nuclear waste on agricultural land?

Kazzi Jai From Keith Pitt’s facebook page today – 28/11/2020...”With more consumers wanting to know where their produce comes from, a new Federal funding round is available to enhance traceability.

Traceability is an important aspect of the agricultural supply chain and increasing export opportunities, and with Hinkler being home to many premium agricultural producers, businesses and organisations, it is a great opportunity to apply.

Applications are open now for Round 2 of the Traceability Grants Program and close on January 21, 2021.”  more https://www.agriculture.gov.au/market-access-trade/traceability-grants-program?fbclid=IwAR2ngI3mkhJIpwfguNAM4rheSiggOmYPgn4BLE34TL76CNFgjCBuuBZErj0

Soooo……”traceability is an important aspect of the agricultural supply change and increasing export opportunities” – how EXACTLY does a proposed nuclear wasteland ON Agricultural land in Kimba South Australia factor into this?? An asset?

November 29, 2020 Posted by | Federal nuclear waste dump, South Australia | Leave a comment

Why we shouldn’t be talking about nuclear waste “disposal”

All casked up with nowhere to go  https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2020/11/29/all-casked-up-with-nowhere-to-go/ November 29, 2020 by beyondnuclearinternational

Why we shouldn’t be talking about nuclear waste “disposal” By Linda Pentz Gunter, 29 Nov 20 

Let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. You don’t “dispose” of nuclear waste.

The ill-suited, now canceled, but never quite dead radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain was not a “disposal” site.

The radioactive mud being dredged from the sea bed at the Hinkley C nuclear site in the UK, is not going to get “disposed of” in Cardiff Grounds (a mile off the Welsh coast).

When Germany dumped radioactive waste in drums into the salt mines of Asse, it wasn’t “disposed” of.

Taking nuclear waste to Texas and New Mexico border towns and parking it there indefinitely is not “disposal”.

To talk about radioactive waste “disposal” is simply dishonest. It’s disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst.

In Cardiff Bay, that radioactive waste will get “dispersed.” At Asse, the waste leaked out of the barrels and “dispersed” into water that has flooded the site.

At Yucca Mountain, were it to get a renewed green light, water will eventually carry off those radioactive particles, sending them into groundwater and drinking water downstream of the dump.

“Once you have made radioactive waste, then you are looking at long-term isolation, not disposal,” says Paul Gunter of Beyond Nuclear. “And its cost. And if you are looking to manage the liability of cost, then don’t make it.”

That’s the easiest kind of radioactive waste to “dispose” of. The kind you haven’t made. Because, as Gunter says, “there is no alchemy for radioactive detritus.” Once we’ve made it, it’s with us pretty much forever.

Federal agencies and nuclear corporations continue to wrestle over what to do with the already tens of thousands of tons of high-level radioactive waste (at least 90,000 at last count) generated by America’s commercial nuclear power plants — all casked up with nowhere to go (and a lot of it still in the fuel pools). Because, absent alchemy, that waste is always going to be somewhere, even if we can’t see it.

Once upon a time, the general public understood this. In 1986, when the US Department of Energy was looking for a geological burial site for commercial nuclear waste, it began giving serious consideration to the “granite state” of New Hampshire.

New Hampshire towns — some of which would have been seized and razed by eminent domain to make way for the repository — rose up in opposition. A stunning 100 of them signed a resolution that not only opposed the burial, storage, and transportation of high-level nuclear waste in New Hampshire, but also its production.

A law was eventually passed in New Hampshire that forbade siting a nuclear waste repository in the state, but not banning its generation. The construction of the Seabrook nuclear power plant on the New Hampshire coast progressed, and today the single unit of the two originally planned is duly generating radioactive waste for the state of New Hampshire, with still no place to go.

In fact, the law banning a repository in New Hampshire was quietly, almost covertly, overturned in the New Hampshire state legislature in 2011, a fact uncovered by State Rep. Renny Cushing while writing legislation in 2016. (Cushing is a founder of this country’s first anti-nuclear power group, the Clamshell Alliance, which vigorously opposed the construction of Seabrook.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLeYKkA2V7EA German four-part animation piece, humorously demonstrated the impossibility of disposing of radioactive waste. This is the second segment.

In a characteristically stealthy way, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ensured there will be no repeat of that New Hampshire defiance. Today, under what was once called the Nuclear Waste Confidence Decision, but is now termed the “Continued Storage of High-Level Waste”, (presumably because no one dare claim any “confidence” about finding a waste solution), an intervention against a reactor license renewal can be disallowed if it is based on contentions challenging the absence of a long-term radioactive waste solution.

This means that our aging fleet of nuclear reactors are free to generate yet more radioactive waste, some of them for another 20 or even 40 years, even though there is still no sign of land when it comes to finding a safe, long-term management plan for what to do with it.

That’s remarkable hubris this far into the nuclear game. Even if one could (very reluctantly) forgive the initial optimistic procrastination — when Fermi achieved the first chain reaction in 1942, but everyone decided the waste problem would be solved later — there is no forgiving it now, 78 years on. That’s more than ample time to have realized that continuing to make more of a lethal substance that you can never dispose of is scientifically and morally reprehensible.

We cannot dispose of radioactive waste. But we can dispose of nuclear power. We should hesitate no longer and do just that.

Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear and writes for and edits Beyond Nuclear International.

November 29, 2020 Posted by | General News | Leave a comment

November 29 Energy News — geoharvey

Opinion: ¶ “Republicans Remain Opposed To Any Policies That Would Reduce Fossil-Fuel Use” • For over a decade, the GOP was alone among the world’s major right-of-center parties in its refusal to endorse climate science. But during the Trump era, the major Republican point of agreement shifted to insist on fossil-fuel use as an inherent […]

November 29 Energy News — geoharvey

November 29, 2020 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment