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Sep 14, 2010

We should stand up for Assange: Geoffrey Robertson

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson tells Guy Rundle that the Australian government should stand up for WikiLeaks' spokesperson Julian Assange.


The treatment of WikiLeaks’ spokesperson Julian Assange, facing investigations of harassment and rape, has been disgraceful, leading international human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has said from London, and the Australian government should make a formal protest to the Swedish ambassador on behalf of Assange, an Australian citizen.

“Mr Assange has been the victim of utterly incompetent prosecutors who have severely damaged his rights — the rights that every person in Europe has granted to them under the European convention,” Robertson said, speaking exclusively to Crikey last week.

“The Australian government — now that we have a government — should carpet the Swedish ambassador and make a formal protest against the treatment of Assange.”

Assange, based in Sweden, faces charges of “harassment” arising from inquiries and complaints made by two women to the Swedish police in August, one a press officer for a faction of the Social Democratic Party. A charge of rape was also issued by a duty prosecutor at the country’s prosecution service, before being withdrawn 24 hours later.

The investigation of the rape charge was then reopened by Marianne Ny, head of Sweden’s prosecution service. The two complainants are on record as stating that they were not alleging r-pe charges against Assange, and the latter charges were only reopened after they hired prominent lawyer Claes Borgstrom, also a powerful figure in the ruling Social Democrat Party. Ny is a prominent advocate of extending the crime of rape and sexual assault in wider areas of sexual behaviour, and the rape investigation was reopened after Borgstrom approached her personally.

The charges against Assange came several weeks after WikiLeaks released a cache of nearly 80,000 US government documents covering ongoing Afghan war operations, revealing higher levels of civilian casualties at US-alliance hands, and a bleak picture of US progress in the war.

The timing of these events led many to speculate on the possibility that WikiLeaks’ highest profile figure may have been drawn into a sting based on Sweden’s comprehensive and wide-ranging s-x crime and harassment laws, as a way of splitting progressive support for the organisation. US counter-intelligence bureau documents have previously spoken of destroying WikiLeaks by attacking its existence as a “centre of trust” for diverse groups of activists and whistleblowers.

“Mr Assange may have been naïve but he is not a criminal,” Robertson remarked, and suggested that even if Swedish prosecutors proceeded with charges, higher authorities would come to his aid.

“In due course I predict that the European Court of Human Rights would uphold Assange’s position and order the Swedish government to compensate him. His lawyers should already be preparing for that eventuality.”

The Swedish prosecution service is due to make an announcement on its investigations this week. Meanwhile, WikiLeaks is preparing to release a new cache of documents on the Iraq war, and rumoured to number as high as 200,000. The release will be done in conjunction with the non-profit Bureau for Investigative Journalism, Newsweek, and other outlets.


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27 thoughts on “We should stand up for Assange: Geoffrey Robertson

  1. rossco

    Not much chance of our govt making a protest. Our govt, like most around the world, would be very happy to see Mr Assange silenced for ever, forget about justice.

  2. nicolino

    Yes Rossco. Not much likliehood of our craven representatives in Canberra taking a stand particularly if it offends our Washington bosses.

  3. Elizabeth

    The timely message from the international human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson in correcting the wrong done to Mr. Assange should be taken seriously by the Australians.
    The Ozs should never fear the United States policies. Have a backbone and faith of your own in deciding your own future destiny. If the U.S. said “Jump high,” are you going to say,”How high?” The Ozs need to have the gumption to stand against such atrocities in the ME region and now committed on one of your own. There is nothing folly about speaking the truth and holding the U.S. feet to the fire as they have committed plenty of atrocities. The recent one from 9/11 to financial disasters.

    All I hear in one of the Swedish blog is nothing but the discussion about feminism versus women (I mean the virtuous ones) and how to defend the feminist party. I thought for a moment, the Swedes are going backward to the savagery years or to the cave dwellings. Each one is competing how to write/articulate in English well.
    There is more discussion about sex than releasing Assange’s shackles from all these women including the prosecutors. They are raping Assange politically if I may say so boldly. I hope the Ozs will pack the bags of the Swedish Ambassador to his hometown if he does not follow through the inherent rights of Assange.

    Mr. Robertson, please put the pressure from London to all over transnations.

  4. kebab shop pizza

    Anyone else and Kev would be flying to Stockholm right now instead of Washington, just dying to ask himself questions in Swedish.

  5. shepherdmarilyn

    We are far too busy wasting hundreds of millions jailing innocent Afghans here to bother.

  6. BoxingCandle

    At least Assange’s got the luxury of a European Human Rights Court to appeal to. It’d be a completely different game if he’d been hit with trumped up charges in Australia. No such thing as formal recognition of human rights in our wide brown land. We only get the rights our paranoid administration class are prepared to sanction at any given moment..

    And generally you’d have to say protesting this’d be showing far too much international spine for our sycophantic leaders. But maybe it would appeal to Kevin Rudd as something high profile enough to cut his teeth on in the new role. After all, he’s got some good form with China.

  7. Elizabeth

    I always considered Australia to be in another planet and never took the time to know their political infrastructure. I am going to master about Australia soon. I just took time this morning and learned about your new female Prime Minister. I hope she will keep up her dutiful promises.

    I heard Australia is a beautiful country. I had a distant relative that visited the U.S. from Australia sometime ago and was depressed to have landed here. I asked her if Australia was much nicer than the U.S. and her reply was one thousand times. She was feeling sorry for me that I am cooped up here. However, she took a deep breath and was relieved when her time came to depart. I will never forget her attitude. Now, I am going to travel to Australia soooon!Thanks to Crikey!

    Enjoy the humour!

  8. Elizabeth

    The above post from BC is hilarious! I am going to nag on the Ozs to do the right thing. Watch out!

  9. Jenny Haines

    The way in which Julian Assange has been treated by the American military establishment is very interesting. They obviously can’t have him assassinated. That would be too public. So discredit him it is, in the most sleazy way they can think of, sexual crime. If this is what they do to Julian, what do they do to other critics? Geoffrey Robertson is right , we should stand up for Julian Assange. He has told us more about the Afghanistan war than any of the established media, especially Fox News and Fox Media. In an age when all our news of the Afghanistan war is so filtered to be almost meaningless in getting the overall picture, Julian Assange has broken through the restrictions and tried to tell us as much of the truth about this war as he can get his hands on. What’s wrong with that if you believe in democracy and the people’s right to know what their taxes are being spent on?

  10. Elan

    Absolutely delighted that Robertson has bought into the stench that is this situation.

    Assange is a fallible human being like the rest of us- but in an extraordinary vulnerable position. It’s a fair comment that Assange for all his security measures wass naive.

    As for his alleged rape/molestation victims;-I would have WAY more sympathy for them, if they did not have such questionable links.

    Our Government should take action?; let me practice my Ozisms..

    Buckley’s to none.
    Tell ‘im he’s dreamin’.
    Fat chance.

    ……………….we might offend the American Administration. (OK. That was a ring in).

  11. zut alors

    Gillard lend support to Julian Assange? As if! Assange is fortunate this didn’t happen three years ago during the Bush administration: a quick rendition, some limp charges and then a stint in Gitmo for his trouble.

    Incidentally, wasn’t Gitmo supposed to be closed down by now – or was that just a dream?

  12. davidk

    Interesting that you should mention that Zut. I was just contemplating the similarities with the Hicks case. Good on Geoffrey for speaking out. We should all be lobbying for Assange who was obviously set up.

  13. Socratease

    I want to know what Assange himself is doing about the charges. As I said in another thread, assuming that he’s innocent, I’m surprised that he hasn’t arranged for a pack of attack dogs in Sweden to be yelling constantly at every bureaucrat and politician involved to put up or shut up. If Assange can’t organize a counter offensive then I’d really like to know why.

  14. Venise Alstergren

    It’s all very well to be overseas, and to cry out to the Australian government for help, but Australia has a shocking track record of treating its ordinary travelling citizens as less than important. Let alone someone who has incurred the wrath of our American superiors, as Julian Assange has been accused of doing.

    Speaking of Americans, they are fabulous to their own citizens. Run afoul of a local law in Punta Arenas and the US will send an aircraft carrier to help you.

    Not long ago I was travelling largely by public transport, in a country which dislikes America, surprise surprise. There were student protests and a general undercurrent of strife seemed probable. As I was about to leave the capital for a remote town of historical interest. It occurred to me to let the Australian Embassy know of A) My existence. B) My whereabouts. C) Where I was planning to go. D) The date I would be back. (During my absence there had been some rioting.)

    When I rang the Embassy-two weeks overdue-to apologise for not getting back to them sooner, that I’d had a wonderful time. Blah, blah, blah. The person at the other end had never heard of me, seen no notification, blah, blah, blah! Made me feel like a shit. And finished by saying “Had we known you were going there, we would have advised you against it.”

    This casual disregard for her citizens by the Australian government is known to almost every backpacker. Let alone someone like Julian Assange. I find it almost impossible to believe he would not have been aware of this attitude.

    I wish him well.

  15. Meski

    Julian, publish and be damned. I suspect both ways of reading that will be true.

  16. moshe

    This is virtually the only proactive and questioning style articles I’ve read on the Assange rape affair so far. It correctly suggests we citizens have a role to play in protesting and in pressuring our governments to protest as well, to insure that this monkey business and throwing Assange in the lions den by lying and character assassination to achieve a political objective is put to an early end, otherwise given half a chance this crime will most certainly pay dividends.

    The flip flops of the different prosecutors between ‘rape’ and ‘certainly not-rape’, is an almost definite indication that the prosecutors are able to make up with impunity and without fear of punishment, their very own rape rules as they go along. Not to mention the establishment lawyers involved, who’re stoking the fires, and have the most to gain.

    The truth of the matter is, the further away you get from common people’s perception of what is fair, the actual facts of the crime itself dim in relevance, and in the hands of lying lawyers who make their money off the backs of other people’s misery and the savvy legal establishment who’ve made a lifelong career out of judging others, it’s all putty in their hands and a matter of who has the most leverage.

  17. jared.davis

    A small note for the eds: “Claes Borgstrom, also a powerful figure in the ruling Social Democrat Party” <– The Social Democrats are not the current ruling party.

  18. marko polo

    I bet if Assange had a boogie board bag full of Marijuana at Bali airport we would be over there in a flash.

    Assange is a taxi driver if you will, and if the cab company (Wikileaks) lose a driver, then i hope they have the resources and strength to keep the cab on the road.

    Assange is certainly a hero of free press, but lets not call the second coming just yet……

  19. The Deck

    *Assange is certainly a hero of free press, but lets not call the second coming just yet……*

    I have the heard the critism he is “naive” and if that is true and i don’t think he is, what has that to do with it all? He is still innocent. So what are you infering?

  20. Honest Abe

    USA is widely being accused of perpetrating dirty tricks against Julian Assange with the connivance of Swedish law enforcement authorities. Many patriotic Americans think what Julian Assange has pulled, is much more dirty, endangers many lives and makes war against terrorism, the biggest threat facing world today, much more challenging. If government is not able to keep secrets during wartime then when is it legitimate to classify documents. As far as the right of people to know is concerned, there are laws governing Freedom of Information that provide front door access through a legitimate process. FoIA requests are used to get access to information thousands of times everyday in America. If anyone who has access to classified information can just leak it willy nilly then we have chaos and we are all in trouble. I expect my government to do everything in its power to make it very expensive for the people involved in this leak and prevent such things from happening in future.

  21. Elan

    “I have the heard the critism he is “naive” and if that is true and i don’t think he is, what has that to do with it all? He is still innocent. So what are you infering?”

    Art thou referring to me or Robertson?

    No matter. Assange is a target. He knows he is a target. He/Wikileaks have gone to the most extraordinary lengths to protect themselves;-as they should.

    I think naive is fair. IF this is a so-called ‘honey trap’, then he should at the very least have been aware of the potential for trouble. Fallibility is in all of us,-but this man spends his life watching his back. Given that, he needed to pay a tad more attention on his front..

    …and, yes I too believe he is innocent, but as a lawyer I have to say that that is yet to be proven. Either by a court case..OR by having these allegations, and the way they have been handled,-held up to such scrutiny that they are dismissed for what they (very possibly) are.

  22. The Deck

    *Art thou referring to me or Robertson?*

    Art thou?..hahaha, very funny. Yes, I understand you. It does seem strange that nobody in his camp is shouting from the roof-tops to bring it on, but at the moment I put this down to the MSM and the filtered view coming out of Sweden or maybe Assanges timing of reply for whatever reason.

  23. Elan

    HA!! Now that warrants a response, H Abe.

    I’m fully aware of military security. Military/law runs through my family.

    Spare me the ‘patriotic Americans’ thing. Patriotism used to be an honourable state of being. It is that no longer. ‘Patriotism’ is nothing more than Western terrorism. The word-the deed has been shaped to justify the most heinous of acts by the so called allies-the good guys.

    THEY terrorise. WE liberate.

    I have every sympathy for those armed forces personnel who have been used as cannon fodder by ‘democratic’ Governments hungry for control and influence.

    I have no sympathy for military personnel who have become so swamped with lack of resource; so swamped with clear evidence of combat practice that is inhuman and cruel, that they are changed;-that they see themselves as having a green light to continue and add to such behaviour.

    YES! War IS hell. Some innocent people get killed. But we are not talking of war here; -no matter how hard those compliant Governments tried to convince their people that it was.

    This is invasion-INVASION for political gain. THOUSANDS of innocent people are killed. Families have their sons returned to them in body bags because they (parents-and soldier) believed they were ‘doing the right thing’. That is a bloody outrage for all concerned.

    Is it any wonder that such behaviour is now being scrutinised?
    Is it any wonder that they (Governments) are now being held to account?

    SO? you say: but this places the troops in danger.


    It is the leaders of their country who have put troops in danger. It is Governments- and Governments ALONE who have blood on their hands.

    Wikileaks and any other group that does the same is the spawn of such vile behaviour.

    Long may it reign.

  24. The Deck

    You summed it Elan!!! The Assanges of the world only put Governments in harm’s way, not the troops. The Assanges of the world through their leaking hold governments to account and alert the people to their treachery and deception.

    If Kevin Rudd ever had the chance to stamp himself as a genuine foreign minister the time is now. He must protest to the Swedish govt over it’s treatment of an Australian citizen. If he can do this he will go down in history as a “real”politician and not one who lip services and rubber stamps US foreign policy like all the rest of his colleagues on both sides of politics.

  25. marko polo

    Deck – what i was inferring was just because Assange is the voice of Wikileak’s shouldn’t hold him unaccountable to these charges…. even though like you I find them VERY hard to swallow.

    the same standards that Assange espouses, should be remembered when a “free” citizen levels allegations towards him, in truth or otherwise.

    my other point is that our so called “government” does not fight the good fight unless there are points in it – may they be votes, or diplomatic favours.

    and Honest Abe, please stay in your little glass house mate, because free speech is dead and buried in you great country – just look at the whole “Mosque near Ground Zero” saga.

  26. AR

    Odd how people who threaten power structures are alleged to have the sort of ‘clay feet’ the banality of the forelock tuggers fear are under their own desks.
    Bureaucratic whistleblowers are ‘disgruntled’ or ‘vindictive’, or have ‘psychological problems’ like the ONAnist slandered by Rusty etc ad nauseam.
    Wonder why the issue is not addressed? Shurley, hic!, not coz shooting the messenger is easier? The point is always that the Jobsworths & Forelock tuggers will do whatever they are told, which the Nuremburg Trials found was NOT a defence, despite constant claims by the Cadaver & the unlamented toady to PM&C, Shergold. (PS How did he land a sinecure in an apparently respectable institute?(…ohh…silly question).


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