Australian news, and some related international items

Law and Disorder: The case of Julian Assange

In the case of Julian Assange, what is on trial is nothing less than our right to know what is done by governments in our name, and our capacity to hold power to account.

Law and Disorder: The case of Julian Assange, DiEM25, By Pam Stavropoulos | 10/12/2020, 

What kind of law allows pursuit of charges under the 1917 United States Espionage Act — for which there is no public interest defence — against a journalist who is a foreign national?

The closing argument of the defence in the extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange has been filed. For this and other reasons it is apposite to consider the authority invested in the law before which, in democratic societies, we are ostensibly all equal.

In fact, notwithstanding the familiar claims of objectivity (and as `everybody knows’ in Leonard Cohen’s famous lyric) the reality is somewhat different. Jokes about the law attest to this:

‘One law for the rich…’

‘Everyone has the right to their day in court — if they can pay for it’

‘What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a great one? A good lawyer knows the law. A great lawyer knows the judge’

The term ‘legal fiction’ calls into question the relationship between law, objectivity, and truth. On the one hand, law is the essential pillar of a functioning society. On the other, it is replete with anomalies both in conception and execution. To what extent can these perspectives be reconciled? High stakes are attached to this question.

Questioning claims of objectivity in the context of law.

Despite its routinely invoked status of objectivity, there are many grounds on which the law cannot be objective in any overarching sense. Judicial findings can be overturned on appeal (i.e. including in the absence of new evidence). This immediately indicates that the law, in common with other domains and disciplines, is subject to interpretation. ………
Conflicts of interest also pose challenges to the notion of objectivity in the context of law. In the case of Julian Assange, as DiEM25 and others have highlighted, conflict of interest would clearly seem to be operative. This is because financial links to the British military — including institutions and individuals exposed by WikiLeaks — by the husband of the Westminster chief magistrate who initially presided over the extradition case have been revealed. This chief magistrate refused to recuse herself and retained a supervisory role of oversight even in the face of this manifest conflict of interest. ……..
In the case of Julian Assange, the refrain that the law and its processes are ‘objective’ ensures that mounting critique of both the fact of his prosecution and the way in which the proceedings are conducted is not engaged with. It also serves to deflect attention from the fact that there is no precedent — i.e. in a profession which claims to respect it — for prosecution of Assange in the first place. ……..
In addition to the myth of the objectivity of law, it is important to engage with another entrenched myth — i.e. that the law is necessarily ‘apolitical’. In the case of Julian Assange, the political stakes are enormous.

Just as objectivity and rationality falsely imply a realm outside human intervention, so does the myth of the law as ‘apolitical’.

Were the law and politics really separate realms, we would not see, as we currently do, the attempt of the outgoing Republican administration to populate the United States Supreme Court with as many hand-picked judicial nominations as possible. This is a particularly flagrant illustration of attempts to politicise the law (which might alternatively be seen as an abuse of legal process rather than a feature of it). The prosecution of whistleblowers shows that neither the law nor its practice are immune to the workings of power. Political factors and considerations cannot be neatly compartmentalised.

Laws within western liberal societies have been and continue to be discriminatory………       In the case of Julian Assange, what is on trial is nothing less than our right to know what is done by governments in our name, and our capacity to hold power to account.

In exposing the avalanche of truly chilling activities and practices of governments which purport to be democratic, WikiLeaks has been the conduit by which we learn what we otherwise would not. This ranges from the heinous assassinations by the US military in the Collateral Murder tapes to the quiet economic disenfranchisement of millions of the world’s population by oligarchical corporations. The conviction of Julian Assange would signify a new dystopian landscape in which all investigative journalism risks prosecution, impunity for governments to commit violations in our name, and our inability to contest these because access to information about them is unavailable to us.

It would surprise few people that particular laws can be (and manifestly have been and remain) unjust.

But the consistent and underlying injunction that laws should be respected works against the ongoing need for vigilance as to which laws are indeed worthy of our respect and which need to be criticised and potentially actively resisted…………….

The founding of the Belmarsh Tribunal.

The ongoing travesty of the case of Julian Assange has many ripple effects. It is tragedy, comedy, and farce simultaneously. But its implications are seismic and can in no way be minimised or trivialised.The ongoing mistreatment of Julian Assange reveals truly staggering violations of law — as well as of justice. These are well documented, such as in Julian Assange: Three myths destroyed by defence witness statements.

What kind of law allows pursuit of charges under the 1917 United States Espionage Act — for which there is no public interest defence — against a journalist who is a foreign national? The right of the public to know of travesties committed by governments in our name while the perpetrators of such travesties go unpunished counts for naught in this spurious and seismic prosecution.

But it has spawned the founding of a new tribunal, building on the prior forum of a people’s tribunal by which to contest the legitimacy of the laws waged against Assange and the public’s right to know. As the Belmarsh Tribunal now represents and asserts, the law itself is on trial.


December 15, 2020 - Posted by | civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies

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