House debates

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Assange, Mr Julian

10:35 am

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On 18 June I drew attention to the alleged persecution of and denial of natural justice to Julian Assange. Assange is in Belmarsh prison in England. He is being held because the US government has commenced court proceedings to have him extradited to the US to face espionage charges. The charges relate to his alleged role in disclosing classified US documents through WikiLeaks. The court hearing is expected to receive final submissions on 17 November and to hand down its final verdict on 4 January. Assange, who has now effectively been in detention for a decade, is reportedly in poor health, is kept separate from other prisoners, and is locked in his cell most of the time. Additionally, he was stripsearched when taken to and from court, had restricted access to his legal team, and had difficulty hearing and participating in the court proceedings. I also understand that journalists had their access to the court proceedings restricted and that Amnesty International's permission to attend was revoked.

The International Bar Association has issued a strongly worded statement, outlining several serious concerns with the extradition application. International Bar Association Human Rights Institute Director Baroness Helena Kennedy QC commented:

We are concerned that this case is politically charged. We can have little confidence in the extremely polarised situation in the US at present and are concerned that there is a risk to justice in the case of Julian Assange. We hope that the English Court hearing his case is true to its commitment to the rule of law, human rights and justice, and delivers a fair outcome in this extradition hearing.

Amnesty International has called on the USA to drop all charges against Assange, stating:

The US government's unrelenting pursuit of Julian Assange for having published disclosed documents that included possible war crimes committed by the US military is nothing short of a full-scale assault on the right to freedom of expression.

The UN rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, wrote that 'never in the two decades he had spent investigating war crimes had he ever seen such a ganging up of so many powerful nations against one individual.'

Julian Assange is an Australian citizen and should be returned to Australia. He is being punished for exposing war crimes. Regrettably, while global voices condemning his treatment grow daily, it appears that the Australian government is looking the other way.