Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Transnational Memory and the Fukushima Disaster: Memories of Japan in Australian Anti-nuclear Activism

Transnational Memory and the Fukushima Disaster: Memories of Japan in Australian Anti-nuclear Activism  https://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/index.php/portal/article/view/7094

Alexander Brown https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3582-9658, Jan 28, 2021

Abstract

This paper argues for the importance of transnational memories in framing Australian anti-nuclear activism after the Fukushima disaster. Japan looms large in the transnational nuclear imaginary.

Commemorating Hiroshima as the site of the first wartime use of nuclear weapons has been a long-standing practice in the Australian anti-nuclear movement and the day has been linked to a variety of issues including weapons and uranium mining.

As Australia began exporting uranium to Japan in the 1970s, Australia-Japan relations took on a new meaning for the Indigenous Traditional Owners from whose land uranium was extracted.

After Fukushima, these complex transnational memories formed the basis for an orientation towards Japan by Indigenous land rights activists and for the anti-nuclear movement as a whole.

This paper argues that despite tenuous organizational links between the two countries, transnational memories drove Australian anti-nuclear activists to seek connections with Japan after the Fukushima disaster. The mobilisation of these collective memories helps us to understand how transnational social movements evolve and how they construct globalisation from below in the Asia-Pacific region.fic region.

March 4, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian government’s brazen duplicity concerning Julian Assange

What Assange and WikiLeaks said about Australia, https://www.smh.com.au/culture/books/what-assange-and-wikileaks-said-about-australia-20210129-p56xyo.html

By Jessie Tu  February 4, 2021 He has been called “truth-telling hero”, “evil and perverted traitor”, “heroic, trickster, mythical – reviled”. Robert Manne called him the “most consequential Australian of the present time”. The new US President has called him a “high-tech terrorist”.

The protean narratives of Julian Assange, who will be 50 in July, have been brewing since 2010, when his website published “The Afghan War Diaries”, “Iraq War Logs” and “Collateral Murder”, a video showing the US military killing two Reuters employees in Iraq.

December marked 10 years since Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in Britain, according to Felicity Ruby and Peter Cronau in their introduction to A Secret Australia – a collection of 18 essays that survey the impact WikiLeaks has had on Australia’s media landscape and the consequences of our government’s attraction towards America’s intelligence and military empire.

The potpourri of authors and thinkers includes Julian Burnside, Antony Loewenstein, Scott Ludlam and Helen Razer, who critique “the powers opposed to openness and transparency” and examine the evidence, “not the likelihoods, the probabilities, the suspicions, and assumptions” around the “subversive, technology-based publishing house”.

WikiLeaks invented a “pioneering model of journalism” – one that embodied the “contemporary spirit of resistance to imperial power”, says Richard Tanter, from the school of political and social sciences at the University of Melbourne. It brought renewed debates on free speech, digital encryption and questions around the management and protection of whistleblowers who risk their lives to expose covert, deceitful actions by governments.

The documents exposed the “brazen duplicity” of the Australian government towards its citizens and presented “off-stage alliance management conversations”, Tanter writes. They invited the layperson into the green room of the performance that is politics and international diplomacy.
WikiLeaks unmasked reports that showed governments recommending media strategies to deceive the public, demonstrating their unethically utilitarian approach to international diplomacy and governance and “enlightened the public on the dark corners of wars”, writes journalist and author Antony Loewenstein.

Assange is still in a cell at London’s Belmarsh Prison, facing an appeal by the United States in its bid to extradite him to face charges for the 2010 publications. He is continuing to be “denied adequate medical care” and “denied emergency bail in light of the COVID-19″, says Lissa Johnson, a clinical psychologist and writer for New Matilda – one of the few Australian publications that have paid genuine attention to the WikiLeaks saga.

In Australia, there’s been a “striking absence of a solid debate on WikiLeaks in the mainstream public discourse”, according to Benedetta Brevini, a journalist and media activist who insists that our concerning “lack of a thorough and sustained debate” is incomprehensible. Loewenstein calls Australia’s lack of journalistic solidarity with Assange “deeply shameful”. He says we have an “anodyne media environment” – perhaps not unsurprising, considering our highly concentrated media market, one of the most severe in the world.

Most of the essays expostulate on the same things: Assange is a journalist, not a hacker. He’s won a Walkley Award (at least six mentions of this). We have an undeniable legal obligation to him. His persecution is a “gruesome legal experiment in criminalising journalism” – a long and tortured legal process that Ludlam declares “has degenerated into an unworkable shit-show”.

The standout essays come from Guy Rundle and Helen Razer – whose amusing voice cuts through the somewhat parched tenor of cold academic-speak that lightly threads through the other essays. Her addition is a breath of fresh air in the middle of a chain of same-same arguments.

The most useful essay is Rundle’s take on the historical basis for WikiLeaks. He surveys the swirling currents of Australian history that led to its founding, identifying WikiLeaks as a continuation of political activist Albert Langer’s resistance to capital.

“We need a whole new organisation of how recent Australian history is told,” Rundle concludes, seconding Lissa Johnson’s opinion that we demand citizens who “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”. This collection of polemics, though at times repetitive, takes us closer to a future where these demands no longer seem beyond reality.

A Secret Australia: Revealed by the WikiLeaks Exposes,  Eds., Felicity Ruby & Peter Cronau, Monash University Publishing, $29.95

February 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, media, politics international, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Biden administration presses for Julian Assange to be extradited to USA

Biden administration files appeal pressing for Assange extradition, Yahoo News, Sat, 13 February 2021  The administration of US President Joe Biden has appealed a British judge’s ruling against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a Justice Department official said Friday.

A brief filed late Thursday declared Washington’s desire to have Assange stand trial on espionage and hacking-related charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of US military and diplomatic documents beginning in 2009.

The Justice Department had until Friday to register its stance on Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January 4 ruling that Assange suffered mental health problems that would raise the risk of suicide if he were sent to the United States for trial.

“Yes, we filed an appeal and we are continuing to pursue extradition,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told AFP.

After Baraitser’s decision, which did not question the legal grounds for the US extradition request, Donald Trump’s administration moved to appeal.

But Biden’s stance was not clear, and he was pressured by rights groups to drop the case, which raises sensitive transparency and media freedom issues.

After WikiLeaks began publishing US secrets in 2009, then-president Barack Obama, whose vice president was Biden, declined to pursue the case.

Assange said WikiLeaks was no different than other media constitutionally protected to publish such materials.

Prosecuting him, too, could mean also prosecuting powerful US news organizations for publishing similar material — legal fights the government would likely lose.

But under Trump, whose 2016 election was helped by WikiLeaks publishing Russian-stolen materials damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton — the Justice Department built a national security case against Assange.

In 2019 the native Australian was charged under the US Espionage Act and computer crimes laws with multiple counts of conspiring with and directing others, from 2009 to 2019, to illegally obtain and release US secrets……….

Assange has remained under detention by British authorities pending the appeal.

Earlier this week 24 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA and Reporters Without Borders, urged Biden to drop the case.

“Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret,” they said in an open letter.

“In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalize these common journalistic practices.”

Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris said in a statement that Baraitser’s January decision that Assange was a high risk for suicide and that US prison facilities were not safe remained a strong reason to deny extradition.

Baraitser “was given clear advice by medical experts that ordering him to stand trial in the US would put his life at risk,” she said.

“Any assurances given by the Department of Justice about trial procedures or the prison regime that Julian might face in the US are not only irrelevant but meaningless because the US has a long history of breaking commitments to extraditing countries,” she said  https://au.news.yahoo.com/biden-administration-files-appeal-assange-171637702.html

February 14, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

French nuclear attack submarine visted Australia, then on to patrol the South China Sea

February 11, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international | Leave a comment

Julian Assange nominated by French parliamentarians for Nobel Peace Prize

February 1, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics international | Leave a comment

Red Cross celebrates Nuclear Ban Treaty- an incremental process towards elimination of nuclear weapons

January 23, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, religion and ethics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australia could sign the Nuclear Ban Treaty and still keep its military co=operation with America

The nuclear weapons ban treaty is groundbreaking, even if the nuclear powers haven’t signed The Conversation 22, 2021  Tilman RuffHonorary Principal Fellow, School of Population anobal Health, University of Melbourne, 

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted at the United Nations in 2017 and finally reached the milestone of 50 ratifications in October. The countries that have signed and ratified include Austria, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria and Thailand.

The treaty completes the suite of international bans on all major weapons considered unacceptable because of their indiscriminate and inhumane effects, including anti-personnel landminescluster munitionsbiological and chemical weapons………

The TPNW strengthens the current nuclear safeguards found in the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons by requiring all states that join to have comprehensive provisions in place and not allowing states to weaken their existing safeguards.

The treaty provides the first legally binding multilateral framework for a process by which all nations can work toward eliminating nuclear weapons………

Further, the TPNW is the first treaty to commit member nations to provide long-neglected assistance for the victims of atomic bombs and weapon testing. It also calls for nations to clean up environments contaminated by nuclear weapons use and testing, where feasible.

Nuclear-armed states have been put on notice

Currently, 86 nations have signed the TPNW, and 51 have ratified it (meaning they are bound by its provisions). The treaty now becomes part of international law, and the number of signatories and ratifications will continue to grow……..

While any treaty is technically only binding on the states that join it, the TPNW establishes a new international legal standard against which all nuclear policies will now be judged.

The treaty, in short, is a game-changer, and the nuclear-armed and dependent countries have been put on notice. They know the treaty jeopardises their claimed right to continue to threaten the planet with their weapons, as well as their plans to modernise and maintain their nuclear arsenals indefinitely…………

The strength of the opposition is a measure of the treaty’s importance. It will have implications for everything from defence policies and military plans to weapons manufacturing to financial investments in the companies that profit from making now illegal nuclear weapons………….

January 22, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Morrison government gets in early to disparage nuclear ban treaty, but Labor supports it

New nuclear treaty will be ‘ineffective’: DFAT, SMH,  Anthony Galloway, January 21, 2021, Australia says a new United Nations nuclear treaty signed by more than 80 countries will be ineffective in eliminating nuclear weapons from the world.The Morrison government has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which comes into effect on Friday.

The treaty, signed by 86 countries, bans signatories from testing, developing, producing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.

The Australian government decided not to sign the treaty on the basis that it failed to recognise the realities of the current international security environment.

Government sources confirmed there was concern about how the treaty would affect Australia’s dealings with the United States, including intelligence sharing through the Pine Gap satellite surveillance base near Alice Springs, because it banned signatories from doing anything to assist a nuclear weapon state in its nuclear plans.

New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement with the US, Australia, Canada and Britain, has signed the treaty…….

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said Labor welcomed the treaty.

“After taking into account the need to ensure an effective verification and enforcement architecture, the interaction of the treaty with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and achieve universal support, a Labor government would sign and ratify the treaty,” she said.

“Australia can and should lead international efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons. A Labor government would work with our allies and partners to this end and would always act consistently with the US alliance.”

Helen Durham, director for international law and policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said all countries should sign the treaty as it was the “most explicit and clearest expression that the horrific weapons need to be banned”.

“It deals not only with their use but also with their threat of use, with their stockpiling, with their production, with their development and their testing,” she said.

“This treaty is a great opportunity to move a very stagnated, to date, agenda forward and we would encourage every state to take up this opportunity.”

Dave Sweeney, co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said the treaty was a “sign of hope for our planet”.

“The changed status of nuclear weapons means Australia faces a clear choice,” he said. “We either choose to be a responsible and lawful member of the global community or we remain silent and complicit in plans to fight illegal wars https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/new-nuclear-treaty-will-be-ineffective-dfat-20210121-p56vst.html

January 21, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Australian government complicit in nuclear weapons, silent on Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty

January 21, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

How will Entry Into Force of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty impact non weapons states parties, including Australia?

January 16, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Judge’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange is still part of cowardly process to deny freedom of information

The personal conveniently distracts from the political in the Assange story,  https://www.theage.com.au/national/the-personal-conveniently-distracts-from-the-political-in-the-assange-story-20210107-p56siu.html

Elizabeth Farrelly   Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange for “mental health” reasons may look humanitarian but is in fact a deft political move. In reducing what should be an argument of law and principle to a test of personality, Baraitser managed at a blow to impugn Assange’s stability, repudiate any suggestion of innocence and open the door for America to prove the comforts of its solitary confinement and thereby win his extradition.

It’s a story of many twists and turns but underlying it throughout is a profound and widespread moral cowardice.

Baraitser’s 132-page ruling found that although the UK-US Extradition Treaty of 2003 specifically prohibits extradition for “political offence”, this provision never became law in the UK and therefore has no effect. In essence, the treaty is worthless.

The court also supported all 18 of the espionage charges against Assange, arguing that WikiLeaks’ hacking and publication “would amount to” offences in English law. Baraitser identified eight charges under the UK Official Secrets Act that would be, she said, equivalent.

Interestingly, this “would have” construction does not apply to the treaty question. Had Assange engaged in the same conduct in America, targeting British government information, he could not have been extradited because America’s “monist” system regards any treaty as law once signed. So it’s ironic that undermining this particular protection is a key US argument.

Anyone who saw the 2019 docudrama Official Secrets, chronicling the leakage by GCHQ analyst-turned-whistleblower Katharine Gun of information on US-UK dirty dealing in drumming up UN support for the Iraq war, will understand just how murky and terrifying such prosecutions can become.

This fear, and the persistent cowardice of yielding to it, is the theme of Assange’s story. I’ve written about Assange several times. I visited him in Ecuador’s embassy. Yet each time, I’ve found myself reluctant.

Seven years ago, when I met him, Assange was ebullient and hopeful, even funny. Now, as Baraitser says, he is “a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely fearful about his future”. Assange, she said, was at “high risk of serious depression leading to suicide if he were to be extradited and placed in solitary confinement for a long period”.

Baraitser noted the “bleak” conditions of Assange’s likely US confinement would include “severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum”, with family limited to one supervised 15-minute phone call a month. Detailing Assange’s mental state, she opined that his risk of suicide, in such conditions, was “very high”. This is the loophole she offers the appellant US prosecutor.

Those fears – his of 175 years in solitary (honestly, who wouldn’t top themselves?) and hers of his suicide – underpin her judgment. But there are other, more insidious fears at play here.

Such fears, I see now, feed my reluctance to revisit the Assange story: fear, in particular, of confronting the terrifying truth about our imperial system. Regardless of Assange’s innocence or guilt, the simple facts of what our controlling powers can do to you if you step out of line are terrifying.

But this small, individual fear also operates, very effectively, at nation level.

From the start, the case against Assange has contrived to turn issues of principle into questions of personality. The initial Swedish rape charges, since dropped for lack of evidence as the witness’s recollections after so long were clouded, were extremely personal, spinning off the cancellation of his credit cards upon his arrival in Stockholm, forcing him to accept hospitality; the seductions, the sex – which everyone agrees was consensual – his failure to wear a condom although asked and reluctance to take an STD test. Then the left turned against him because of the Clinton leaks – which one suspects would have been fine, had they been directed at the other side – and perceptions about Assange’s ego. He was vain, it was said, and narcissistic. As if that itself were a crime, reason enough to let him rot in solitary.

The personal and emotive nature of all this – the Swedish prosecutor’s refusal to interview him in London, Britain’s willingness to imprison him for a year on bail charges, America’s determination to prosecute him for exposing their war crimes (in the Iraq War Logs of October 2010 and the film Collateral Murder showing air crew shooting unarmed civilians from a helicopter) and the description of WikiLeaks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as “a hostile non-state intelligence service” – all suggest a bigger picture, and smaller values, than mere truth or justice.

It’s often said that Assange endangered the lives of US informers but, as Baraitser notes, no causality has been shown. Even the Senate Committee on Armed Service said, “the review to date has not revealed any sensitive sources and methods compromised by disclosure”. It is said that Assange, by dumping hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign, gave us Trump. But if she was engaged in skulduggery as alleged, wasn’t it better for the world to make its own judgment?

When you look coldly at the facts it’s hard not to suspect that Sweden was coerced into the original charges and that Britain and Ecuador have been similarly pressured. Certainly Australia’s persistent refusal to intervene for Assange, an Australian citizen who has broken no Australian law, suggests a similar abject timidity in the face of US might.

This is cowardice. It’s yielding to a fear we feel but rarely confront: the existential fear that at some lofty level, morality doesn’t apply. Up there in the imperial military-industrial complex, justice, freedom, truth are only words. Up there it’s a whatever-it-takes kinda world. The bad guys are in charge.

That’s the fear that guys like Assange and Edward Snowden make us confront. And it’s why they deserve, at the very least, a fair and open trial.

January 9, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, politics international, religion and ethics | Leave a comment

Assange denied bail after extradition blocked, will appeal to UK High Court

January 8, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Australian govt has quiet nuclear deal with China, but condemns Victoria-China medical research

Double standards on research cooperation with China, Independent Australia 4 January 2021,   The Government is hypocritical in its approval of Australia’s nuclear research body to work with China on the development of nuclear reactors, writes Noel Wauchope.

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison’s Liberal Coalition Government seems to remain in silent approval of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s (ANSTOpartnership with a Chinese company to develop Generation IV nuclear technologies such as small nuclear reactors.

But it’s a different story when it comes to the Morrison Government’s concern to put a stop to the Victorian Labor Government’s cooperation with China in developing agricultural, communications and medical research.

We hear very little about the Australian Government’s research connections with China, managed under the Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF), which has the aim of ‘supporting strategic science, technology and innovation collaboration of mutual benefit to Australia and China’.

One remarkable collaboration between Australia and China is in the strategic partnership between ANSTO and the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) to develop the Thorium Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor (TMSR) and other Generation IV nuclear reactor designs.

In March 2019, Dr Adi Paterson, then CEO of ANSTO, welcomed renewal of this agreement and was reported as stating that it was “consistent with ANSTO and Australia’s interest in and support of Generation IV reactor systems”. This statement was made at a time when Australia’s federal and state laws clearly prohibited the development of nuclear reactors.

The Age quoted anonymous senior Federal Government sources who reveal that the Australian Government may use its powers to tear up a research agreement between the Victorian Government and China’s Jiangsu province. This agreement was signed in 2012 and renewed in 2019……….

The USA partly funds the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which strongly advises against cooperative research with China. And, of course, Victorian Liberal Opposition leader Michael O’Brien was quick to join in the chorus, condemning the Labor Government for having the deal with China.

All this makes it all the more inexplicable as to why the Australian Government should have an agreement with China to develop nuclear reactors. Under federal law, Australia prohibits establishing nuclear installations.  ……..

There has been virtually no media coverage of Dr Adi Paterson’s deal with China, which goes back to 2015. I have previously written about this and the secrecy under which it was conducted.

Indeed, ANSTO’s operations and its funding have been conducted in secrecy, under the comfortable shroud of national security.

Right now, there is a move to corporatise the nuclear medicine facility at Lucas Heights as a separate entity to ANSTO. At the same time, the Government is in an unseemly rush to set up a nuclear waste dump near Kimba in South Australia. In the midst of all this came the sudden unexplained resignation of the CEO, Dr Adi Paterson.

The silence on all this is disturbing. It must be especially so for the small rural community of Kimba and for the Indigenous Title Holders as they wait in limbo for the vexed question of the nuclear waste dump to be solved. For the rest of South Australia, that is a concern, too. Victorians may well wonder why their medical research cooperation with China is seen as so dangerous. Meanwhile, is it okay for Australia’s nuclear research body, ANSTO, to work with China on the development of small nuclear reactors?  https://independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/double-standards-on-research-cooperation-with-china,14664

January 7, 2021 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, secrets and lies, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Australia joins with USA to get hypersonic missiles

December 3, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics international, weapons and war | Leave a comment

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