Monday’s statement from Britain’s Supreme Court – to refuse to hear an appeal from Julian Assange against his extradition to the US has passed with almost no mention in Australia’s political establishment, or for that matter in state-owned media.
As far as the press has reported on the case, detentions outside detention in the UK and threats of life imprisonment against Australian citizens and journalists in the US are treated as petty news. The relentless persecution of Assange has normalized, if not completely buried.
The state-funded broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and most corporate news channels only publish brief agency reports on court decisions. Where they barely concealed their solidarity with the US-led effort to destroy Assange, the report stated that US prosecutors charged him for “publishing a large number of classified US military histories and diplomatic cables, which they say have put lives at risk.”
It did not mention that the diplomatic wires revealed historical war crimes, including the killing of thousands of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that the United States’ claim that Assange is “a life threatening” has never been supported by a shred of evidence. The official media, such as the CIA and the US Department of Justice, present standard journalism, critical of the United States and its allies such as Australia, as illegitimate and criminal.
The weak response to the Supreme Court’s decision is all the more striking because of its far-reaching implications for the Assange case. Supreme Court judges refused to hear the appeal, despite the fact that the lower court’s High Court earlier this year accepted that Assange had a “debatable legal point”.
The Supreme Court decision excludes any defense of extradition on the grounds of Assange’s poor health, stemming from a decade of persecution. The district court – the Magistrates’ Court – blocked his extradition in January 2021, arguing that Assange might die in US custody. This ruling was overturned by the High Court, based on worthless US diplomatic guarantees. And now the UK Supreme Court is refusing to hear an appeal against the decision from the High Court.
Assange’s only remaining ways in the British justice system are to seek a pardon from Home Secretary Priti Patel, from a government that fully supports extradition, and to appeal the substantial political points in the case, which it ruled in favor of the United States in court. first trial in the District Court. These points include the political nature of the prosecution, its violation of the Anglo-American extradition treaty, and its character as a frontal attack on press freedom.
Given Assange’s entire treatment history, the prospects for such an appeal are dire. In other words, he was closer to being sent to the pages of hell that was America’s prison for the rest of his life, than he was before.
Nonetheless, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not said a word, nor has opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese. The two major parties have collaborated on the US campaign to destroy Assange and WikiLeaks, and have rejected demands that they use their diplomatic and political powers to ensure Assange’s freedom.
As the WSWS has noted, the accelerating steps toward Assange’s extradition are linked to a major driver of the US-NATO war against Russia, which intensified after the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine.
British and American authorities tried to set an example for Assange, intimidate widespread anti-war sentiment, and set a precedent for further political persecution of resistance to war and militarism. At the same time, the media’s relentless propaganda against Ukraine was used to stifle other important issues, including Assange’s situation.
The same process is underway in Australia. Morrison and Albanese have marched at a locked pace with NATO’s intervention in Ukraine. The Australian government has pledged more than $70 million in military aid to the US-backed right-wing Ukrainian regime.
In line with Australia’s role as assistant US sheriff in the Asia-Pacific region, Morrison and Albanese took advantage of the Ukraine crisis to exert maximum pressure on Beijing. Morrison condemned the “arc of autocracy” that stretched from Russia to China; both demanded that the Chinese Communist Party condemn the Russian invasion, and they have made duel announcements about further military build-up, aimed at the US-led conflict with China.
The Australian media, including the ABC, were gripped by war fever. Publications and experts, all of whom have voluntarily approved of every American and Australian military intervention in the last thirty years, and who have covered atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, have rediscovered the atrocities of “war crimes.” Their selective anger, however, focused solely on the reactionary actions of the Russian state.
In this climate, Assange’s history of exposing American and Australian imperialism is even more troublesome than before. The WikiLeaks disclosures, so far as stated, should be dismissed as “cruel publications” of “confidential information”.
The positions of the major parties are not surprising, given their longstanding hostility to Assange, their attacks on democratic rights at home and their full support for US-led militarism.
More striking is the way any reference to Assange has been dropped amid the Ukraine crisis, by those who have previously admitted to defending him.
The Greens have never campaigned for Assange’s freedom, as that would have crossed the pro-war positions of their wealthy upper-middle-class voters, and with their efforts to form a coalition government with the Labor Party. However, individual Green MPs have occasionally issued statements of concern about Assange’s situation.
Party leader Adam Bandt has not said anything about the Supreme Court’s decision. Instead, he has “demanded” that the far-right coalition government intensify Australia’s participation in the anti-Russian campaign, including through the introduction of expanded sanctions.
Bandt and other Green MPs are part of a cross-party parliamentary group, allegedly formed to advocate for Assange’s rights. In the more than two years of its existence, the group has not campaigned, confined its activities to the occasional symbolic statement, and has advocated the fatal illusion that a polite plea to the Biden administration would compel it to end. America’s vendetta against Assange.
Julian Hill, the only Labor lawmaker in the group to make frequent statements about Assange, appears to be unnamed in 2022. Hill is running a vociferous campaign to [partileder] Albanese is in federal elections in May, while Labor plays for the ruling elite as the party best suited to deepen Australia’s integration into the US confrontation with China, and to carry out extensive pro-business restructuring.
Hill had previously done business for Albanians in the Assange issue. Last year, he claimed that Albanians had privately claimed that “enough was enough” regarding efforts to sue the WikiLeaks founder. He then highlighted the Labor proposal in parliament, which is not party binding at all, as a major step forward in the fight for Assange’s freedom.
Most of the group members said nothing this year. These include right-wing populists, National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.
In practice, lawmakers have put aside their diluted expressions of concern, leaving the question of Assange in the midst of the Ukraine war crisis completely buried in the election campaign. This demonstrates the fraudulent nature of grouping from the start. The aim has always been to promote the illusion that there is a support base for defending Assange and democratic rights in a parliamentary system, when there is none.
Pseudo-left organizations, including the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Alternative, for their part toppled Assange many years ago. They did so on the basis of false accusations of sexual harassment in Sweden, in line with their support for identity politics, and because they were increasingly directly involved in the imperialist war.
The Socialist Alliance occasionally had several brief news reports about Assange’s persecution, but made no move to defend him. Socialist Alternative barely mentions the founder of WikiLeaks.
Both have registered in a war propaganda campaign, blaming Russia solely for the crisis in Ukraine and calling for uncritical support for the US-NATO-backed Ukrainian regime. The pseudo-left, which advocates for an affluent upper middle class, is utterly hostile to any independent movement of the working class, including against war.
The answers to the court’s decision, and the entire history of the persecution of Assange, show that his freedom can only be won in the struggle against the political establishment in the United States, Great Britain and Australia. The working class, which is the basis of support for the war against the war and in defense of democratic rights, must be mobilized to block extradition and to ensure Assange’s unconditional freedom.
Only the WSWS and the Socialist Equality Party have based the struggle to end the persecution of Assange on a shift to the working class. After the decision of the Supreme Court, this task became of new urgent importance.
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