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.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


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 A charge of rape was also issued by a duty prosecutor at the country's prosecution service, before being withdrawn 24 hours later.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).

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