Assange deserves an apology

Assange case: Germany between appeasement and complicity

UN special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, on the WikiLeaks founder, unsuspecting human rights bureaucrats in the Federal Foreign Office and the systemic failure of the world of states

Governments that have no direct connection to the persecution or person of Julian Assange usually do not comment at all or only very cautiously about his case. Remarkably, this applies even beyond the otherwise applicable political blocs, so that Assange receives hardly any public support from countries such as Russia, China, Iran or Venezuela - which otherwise never miss an opportunity to criticize the West. Of course, this has nothing to do with himself, but with the fact that his organization, WikiLeaks, is perceived by all governments as a threat to the system.

Only the example of Germany will be discussed here as a representative example - a country that would be sufficiently influential in terms of economic and security policy to directly influence the states involved. A country that has already had relevant experience with the slide of a highly developed society into dictatorship, surveillance state and self-destruction and which has legally, morally and politically dealt with the consequences of this system failure in a globally unique way.

But tragically it is also a country that is nevertheless unable to effectively counter similar developments in allied partner states or even to express a clear opinion on them in public.

Berlin, October 7th, 2020: In a government survey in the Bundestag, the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas threatens targeted sanctions against Russia for poisoning the opposition politician Alexej Navalny with a nerve agent from the Novitschok group. The minister believes that the development, manufacture and possession of chemical weapons is a "blatant violation" of international law. "Russia itself should have a great interest in solving the crime."

So far, however, Moscow has not complied with the Federal Government's "demands and questions" in a single case. Without an explanation by Russia, "targeted and proportionate sanctions against those responsible are inevitable". Welcoming clear tones from Berlin that make you sit up and take notice, because a government rarely finds the courage to take such an uncompromising stance.

During the same questioning, however, the minister was also asked about the Julian Assange case and, in particular, about my reporting that the treatment of Assange violated the universal prohibition of torture - also a "blatant violation" of international law. But here the minister is much less combative. The federal government had "no information" from which it emerged that "there are violations of international law in both the placement and the treatment of Julian Assange," says Maas.

He was of the opinion "that Assange deserved a legally sound process", but had no reason to "accuse our British partners of failure or whatever in this case". Unlike Russia, the German government does not confront Great Britain with "questions and demands" or with sanctions in the event of a lack of clarification.

The Foreign Office was informed about legal violations by the British

The fact is that I personally explained the most important "violations of international law" to the Foreign Office a year earlier, namely on November 26, 2019, on the occasion of a visit to Berlin. The Human Rights Department asked me to speak about the Assange case. As I quickly realized, it was not the concern of my interlocutors to discuss the human rights violations I had alleged and to discuss possible measures for the German government to influence the British or US authorities. In any case, no one in the room had read my extensive coverage of it, and it was obvious that no one intended to delve deeper into it.

Rather, with a view to my involvement in the Assange case, there were allegedly concerns about the credibility of my mandate and the continued existence of the UN human rights mechanisms.

The fact that Assange had been held in solitary confinement for months without a legal basis and deprived of his human dignity and rights of defense apparently left the German human rights bureaucrats in no doubt about the rule of law of the British process. Instead, they gave my objections the same blank stare as the government spokesmen, who at the weekly federal press conference cast stone faces and tortured phrases off every request on the Assange case - a veritable reality show on the subject of the suppression of reality.

One of the many witnesses who testified in favor of Assange in the (US) American extradition process in September 2020 was the German-Lebanese citizen Khaled El-Masri. On December 31, 2003, he was arrested by the police in Macedonia and handed over to the CIA.

In Skopje and in one black site In Afghanistan he was humiliated and tortured by the (US) Americans for four months until the CIA had convinced himself of his innocence and abandoned him somewhere on a deserted street in Albania - without any apology, compensation or even enough funds for them Home trip.

After several unsuccessful proceedings against the Macedonian authorities, the European Court of Human Rights found in 2012 that El-Masri had been tortured by Macedonian and (US) American agents and ordered Macedonia to pay 60,000 euros in compensation.

The German public prosecutor's office for its part issued thirteen arrest warrants against the CIA employees involved, but the federal government refused to submit an extradition request to the USA - an "unjusticiable" discretionary decision by the executive, as the administrative court found.

Torture must be prosecuted in any case

But also a clear violation of the Anti-Torture Convention, which deliberately leaves the states no discretion in the prosecution of torture, but compels them to do so. Further clarification of the case by a parliamentary committee of inquiry was apparently made impossible by the federal government through the prohibition of testimony and the refusal to provide evidence. As cables from the US Embassy in Berlin published by WikiLeaks (Depesche 07BERLIN242) show, Germany was put under massive pressure by the USA to prevent the extradition request.

Here, too, the federal government did not raise any "questions and demands". Here, too, she did not threaten the USA with sanctions. Despite a "blatant violation" of international law. A violation, mind you, that is not just an unfortunate slip-up, but also represents hundreds of other cases.

For a now firmly established policy of serious violations of international law by the transatlantic partner, from unlawful kidnappings and systematic torture in secret prisons scattered around the world to drone attacks coordinated from the German air force base in Ramstein on mere suspicion - an average of two targeted killings per month under President Bush, already five a week under Obama, and now three a day under Trump. There is a point at which political appeasement becomes complicity under international law.

How closely German security policy is entangled behind the scenes with that of its Western partners can be seen not only in such individual cases, but also particularly clearly in the history of the NSA scandal. After the Snowden Leaks in 2013 revealed the targeted surveillance of top German politicians by the NSA, protests were of course publicly effective, a German- (US) American "no-spy" agreement was called for, a committee of inquiry was set up and even criminal proceedings were initiated the telephone surveillance initiated by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After the public storm subsided somewhat and Realpolitik took over again, the criminal proceedings were soon abandoned for "lack of evidence", the "no-spy" agreement was silently buried and the committee of inquiry was prevented from investigating the most important Witnesses, Edward Snowden, to be heard in Berlin. To do this, he would have had to be given a "non-refoulement" guarantee against extradition to the USA, which would obviously have put too much strain on the German government's sensitive transatlantic relations.

The WikiLeaks revelations in summer 2015 did nothing to change this, as they provided new evidence of the decades-long systematic surveillance of numerous top German politicians by the NSA, including verbatim transcripts of tapped conversations by the Chancellor.

NSA scandal swept under the carpet

It would be better to sweep the biggest espionage scandal in world history and the right of one's own people to truth, transparency and privacy under the carpet and emphasize the indispensability of the transatlantic partnership. A partnership that, at the latest since the "Crypto Leaks" revelations in February 2020, has also been better described as complicity in the secret service sector.

Behind the scenes, the CIA and the German Federal Intelligence Service had sold encrypted encryption devices to over 100 countries through the jointly controlled Swiss company "Crypto AG" for decades and subsequently systematically wiretapped the governments concerned - well over half of all governments in the world.

When the Swiss intelligence service finally tracked down the German (US) American espionage conspiracy after more than twenty years, it did not put an end to the game, but instead, with the consent of the (US) Americans, gained access to the game itself Devices and eagerly spied on - with enormous damage to the credibility of Switzerland as a neutral, safe and trustworthy country.

It was not until December 30, 2020, i.e. on the last working day before the first-instance extradition decision of the British judiciary scheduled for January 4, 2021, that the Federal Government's human rights commissioner, Bärbel Kofler, was persuaded to issue a press release according to which she was personally - not the The Federal Government or the Foreign Office - follow the extradition proceedings "with concern" and reminded Great Britain of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, "also with a view to the possible sentence and the conditions of detention".

Clearly too late to want to influence the decision, and too cryptic to be understood by Great Britain as a serious warning whistle - miles away from the resolute plaintext in the Navalny case.

My dialogue with the states directly involved in Assange's persecution - Great Britain, Sweden, Ecuador and the USA - did not end with the receipt of their replies. I wanted to make it absolutely clear that I would not be satisfied with their excuses, and wrote an individual follow-up letter to each of the four states.

In it, I carefully responded to the arguments put forward by governments, insisted on the regulatory investigation into the case, and explained my conclusions based on detailed legal and factual research.

Four letters to the states involved on the Assange case

The four letters were sent to the US and Sweden on September 12, Ecuador on October 2, and the UK on October 29. While Quito responded with another round of verbal blows, Stockholm found the government had "no further comments" on the case and London and Washington made no further responses. Obviously nothing could be achieved at the level of direct diplomatic dialogue. The states regarded the case as closed. Not me.

But one thing must be made unmistakably clear at this point: The direct involvement of Great Britain, Sweden, Ecuador and the USA in the political persecution and mistreatment of Julian Assange as well as the embarrassing excuses by Australia and the German government's lack of human rights policy are neither unique nor one Proof of a criminal conspiracy by the officials involved.

The politics of small compromises, in which every moral dilemma that arises is always decided in favor of supposed realpolitical constraints and where human dignity, transparency and responsibility always come second (or third), is universal. It is the predominant "operating system" worldwide of all forms of human organization, be it states, organizations or companies.

And it is also the undramatic material from which the great tragedies of mankind are made, starting with the political appeasement of the powerful and suppressing passive co-responsibility to bureaucratic complicity with the worst crimes - the "banality of evil" in the sense of Hannah Arendt.

No matter how tempted we are to raise the moral index finger: The cause of the systemic failure of the world of states - whether in the Julian Assange case or in other cases - is not of a moral nature, but rather anchored neurobiologically and socio-psychologically.

As I explained in my report to the UN General Assembly in October 2020, even complex political decision-making processes are predominantly controlled by unconscious emotions, which are primarily aimed at securing one's livelihood and avoiding potentially threatening conflicts. Inconvenient truths and moral dilemmas are hidden, suppressed or glossed over with various forms of self-deception. The result of this (self) deception process is always a morally free space in which inhumanity and dishonesty can be practiced without being perceived as such.

In the Julian Assange case, of course, the inconvenient truths are the WikiLeaks publications. They put the public spotlight on the shameful reality of international relations, on the war crimes and human rights abuses, the corruption, the lazy compromises and deception.

Revelers are targeted, not perpetrators

The credibility of the leaks cannot be denied, as the documents were produced by the authorities themselves. Instead of facing this reality and making the necessary corrections, the exposed states would rather change the subject.

So they team up to turn the spotlight on and demonize the bearer of the uncomfortable news: a rapist, a hacker, a spy, and a narcissist he is! Not a real journalist at all! A traitor who risked lives!

The public and the media world are grateful because it is much easier to make fun of an individual than to question the integrity of one's own authorities, indeed of the entire government and economic system, and to assume political responsibility and the necessary Initiate reforms.

For example, an official narrative was created about Julian Assange and distributed for years through the mass media, to which I myself was ultimately a victim. After the world of states had shown itself to be unable to recognize and correct the failure of the rule of law in the Assange case, I now had to try to turn the spotlight back on Assange and focus on the states where it belonged.

But to do so, I had to show the general public their own delusion, the same delusion that I myself had initially succumbed to.

That would not be easy, because on the one hand the narrative had been deeply anchored in public perception for a decade. On the other hand, it was based on emotionally charged arguments and taboos. But one particular event would be of crucial help to me: the collapse of the Swedish procedure in November 2019.

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