On 26 November 2020, 152 first signatories of an open letter addressed Amnesty International Germany (AID). AID was asked to comment on the existing human rights violations in the Julian Assange case. The Open letter has since been signed by thousands of people. Now there is a reply letter from AID, which does not, however, dispel the accusations made in the Open letter, on the contrary.
Through the help of countless volunteers and supporters, Amnesty International (AI) has for decades developed the image of a moral authority on human rights issues. With professional campaigns, AI opens and influences debates about human rights violations, political arbitrariness and similar atrocities, and for many people, AI’s agenda is an important orientation point for opinion-making, to which even the most important opinion makers in the country refer:
In fact, on 4 January 2021, among others, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Deutsche Welle and Deutschlandfunk cited AI’s statement on this decision.
Apparently, the leading media consider the opinion expressed by AI to be significant. In this sense, what AI brings into the public discussion about human rights violations is important, and what AI is silent about is not really important either. This is at least the self-understanding of AI and the perception of AI within parts of civil society.
Inset: A Manipulative pattern in Public Debate
The outcome of a public debate depends greatly on which thoughts are discussed in the marketplace of opinions. Thus, the sometimes most important parameter of a debate is not (only) how detailed details are disputed, but which details are taken up at all. In this respect, limiting or aligning the debate can be achieved through public relations by:
essential facts intentionally concealed and
with deceptive vocabulary seemingly relevant, however, is incorrect reference points.
AI uses these manipulative methods in the nearly ten-year debate over the arbitrary detention with which Julian Assange is punished.
The position of AID in the case of Julian Assange
In February 2020, AID launched a petition calling on the United States Secretary of Justice to drop the charges against Assange. The collection of signatures justifies AID with the words:
“Assange faces conditions of detention in the US that are equivalent to torture and other ill-treatment, and it can be assumed that no fair trial in the US is guaranteed by the rule of law.”
The two formulations “Assange threatens in the US” and “it is to be assumed that […] in the US " are highly misleading. Implicitly, this means that there is currently no torture and that the procedure complies with the rule of law.
The open letter to AID therefore poses in particular the question:
“For what reason does AID give the impression that there is no existing violation of human rights in the case of Julian Assange, but merely projects it into the future in the event of his extradition?”
The actual human rights violations cited by the Open Letter in this regard are arbitrary deprivation of liberty, torture and denial of a fair trial.
The arbitrary deprivation of liberty consists of three periods:
Julian Assange’s forced stay in the Ecuadorian Embassy, which the UN Human Rights Council already denounced in 2016 as an “arbitrary and illegal deprivation of his freedom” ,
his detention after his conviction for breach of bail with an arbitrary sentence of 50 weeks; and
the follow-up, arbitrary detention during the delivery process.
During this period, Julian Assange was “deliberately subjected for years to increasingly serious forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the overall effect of which can only be described as psychological torture”, as the Open Letter notes, referring to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
The effectiveness of the action form
Is the collection of German signatures – in other words, in the US-a decisive expression of opinion for the Justice Minister of the most powerful country in the world? The German electorate cannot punish the party of the US Secretary of Justice in the next election with withdrawal of votes if it does not comply with the concerns of the signatories. It would therefore be much more effective if AID carried out a collection of signatures directly calling on the German Chancellor and the Foreign Minister to address the British authorities in clear language in order to stop the human rights violations against Julian Assange. Because these two persons or their parties want to be re-elected by the German electorate, not the US Justice Minister.
The signature collection for the US Secretary of Justice channels public outrage, away from Germany and our British neighbours, to distant America. The most urgent form of action known to AI is called “Urgent action”. AID explains: “Urgent Actions are the fastest and most effective way of intervening to protect the lives of acutely threatened people.”
The open letter therefore appeals to AID :
“We urge that you immediately – as AID usually does in such cases – engage with an Urgent Action for Julian Assange!”
What standards does AI use to create” urgent action “for” acutely threatened people"? Current examples are provided by journalist Zhang Zhan and the two opposition figures Yan Sidorov and Vladislav Mordasov, to whom AID writes:
“Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years in prison in Shanghai on December 28, 2020. The conviction was based on the charge of “starting a fight and provoking trouble” because she had reported from Wuhan about Covid-19. Zhang Zhan interrupted her hunger strike to avoid further punishment in prison. However, there is still concern that she could be subjected to further torture or abuse.”
“On October 22, Dimitrovgrad City Court in Western Russia rejected the parole application of human rights defender Yan Sidorov. He and his friend Vladislav Mordasov are nonviolent political prisoners serving sentences of four years for trying to organize a peaceful protest in November 2017. In doing so, they wanted to support dozens of Rostov citizens who had lost their homes in large fires. Yan Sidorov appealed against the court decision.”
Four years of imprisonment and the “existing concern” that a journalist imprisoned in China could be tortured (!), are therefore sufficient to cause" urgent action", as well as if a parole application is rejected in Russia. Without diminishing the apparent suffering of those affected, however, in view of these two cases, the question arises as to why AID does not see any reason for “urgent action” on the part of a journalist imprisoned in the United Kingdom, who has been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom for almost ten years and in whom torture has long been a reality.
Also noteworthy is the comparison with the Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, in which, after he was arrested in Moscow on 17 January 2021, it took a full four days for AID to launch a “Urgent Action”.
The present reply from AID to the open letter comments on the question asked and the appeal now as follows:
“[…] Nevertheless, Amnesty International has pointed out some irregularities in the proceedings, such as the technical difficulties of audio and video transmission to the courtroom or the extremely limited contact with its lawyers, which makes it very difficult to prepare the defence. Amnesty International continues to closely monitor this important procedure and to prevent the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA. Although we cannot go into all the points of your appeal, we can assure you that both Amnesty International and Amnesty in Germany have made clear their views on the persecution of Julian Assange and the attack against the right to freedom of expression. […]”
Even after explicit demand, AID’s position on the existing serious human rights violations – arbitrary detention and torture – is not taken, and only very mild criticism is made of the procedural arrangements of the British court. Can this be explained otherwise than by a deliberate concealment of these circumstances?
AI and the court rulings in January 2021
The press release issued by AID on 4 January 2021, to which the leading media listed above refer, also lacks a reference to the existing, very concrete human rights violations. Nevertheless, the political character of the persecution is named:
“We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States and that the court has acknowledged that he is at risk of mistreatment due to his state of health in U.S. prisons. But the charges against him should not have been brought in the first place. The allegations were politically motivated and the British government should not have so willingly supported the US government in the relentless persecution of Assange. Although the verdict is correct and protects Assange from extradition, Britain must nevertheless accept the accusation that, at the insistence of the USA, it carried out this politically motivated trial and put freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the dock.”
If even AID recognizes that in a" politically motivated “trial, not only the human Julian Assange, but the” freedom of the press and expression has been put on the dock", why does AID still see no reason for"urgent action"?
The Austrian section of AI commented on what happened on January 4 by calling for support for the signature campaign to the US Secretary of Justice. There it says in bold in the middle of the page:
“In the US, Assange could face torture”
Once again, the existing human rights violations are not named and contingencies are brought to the fore.
The verdict of 4 January justifies the extradition, which has been averted for the time being, on the grounds of Julian Assange’s poor health, the obvious cause of which is the conditions he has been subjected to for almost a decade. This includes in particular the current solitary confinement in the high security prison Belmarsh.
On 6 January 2021, it came as no surprise that the request of Julian Assange, an innocent and arbitrarily imprisoned man, to be finally released (on bail) was rejected by the British authorities with a view to continuing the extradition request in the next instance. The rejection of the bail application on 6 January therefore ensures that Julian Assange’s disastrous situation continues.
The arbitrary deprivation of liberty and psychological torture that has been taking place for almost ten years is thus entering its fourth period. This consistently perfidious game can not surprise anyone who has followed the case. In a related press release, however, on January 6, the English-language website of AI revolted over the rejected bail application with the words:
“Today’s decision to reject Julian Assange’s bail application proves his continued detention to be” arbitrary" […] After such a long time in custody, not granting his bail proves his detention to be arbitrary. […] First of all, it is clear that Julian Assange should not have been put in prison while the extradition proceedings were still pending. The charges against him were politically motivated, and the United Kingdom government should not have been so willing to help the United States in its relentless persecution of Assange."
The repeated reference to the verdict of January 6 gives the impression that Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention has only just begun on January 6, 2021. The pretended nuanced formulation that he “should not have been put in prison while the extradition proceedings were still pending” is an obscene euphemism for an almost ten-year cruel human rights violation. AI obviously does not want to bring this about.
The time form of the last sentence is also noteworthy: the statement that the accusations against him were “politically motivated” suggests that the political motivation of the accusations or the accusations themselves have now disappeared. Likewise conveys the moral condemnation that the UK would not “have […] so willingly help”, the implicit statement that this willingly help is now over. Both are obvious lies.
Thus, the public debate that AI conducts can be characterized as follows::
AI deliberately conceals the human rights violations committed against Julian Assange by the British authorities over the past ten years.
In a misleading way, AI makes a speculative future injustice in the United States the main subject of the Julian Assange debate.
The collection of signatures addressed to the American Secretary of Justice pretends to be relevant, but is in fact bogus actionism that remains ineffective.
AI denies the" most effective form of intervention", the"Urgent Action".
AI thus obscures reality and prevents the build-up of public pressure. The masters of hypocrisy, that are The green of the NGO’s.
Maintaining the status quo
The situation, as is currently evident, is still catastrophic. The investigative journalist Julian Assange is incarcerated in London without guilt and without judgment and is on the edge of his mental and physical existence.
For a real and geopolitical analysis of this situation, it should be borne in mind that from the point of view of the war criminals in the US, the status quo is an ideal state: public pressure within the US remains at a low level as long as Julian Assange is abroad in the US, is not convicted or is in their power. Nevertheless, the hunted is de facto punished and the example set in all cruelty and visible to everyone.
The status quo is also ideal for the United Kingdom, where you don’t have to be accused of having delivered Assange. At the same time, the political apparatus is able to demonstrate its power and ignorance towards Julian Assange and the population, and through the gruelling trial, together with the continuing detention, signals its benevolence to its closest ally, the United States.
As long as there is not sufficient pressure on the British authorities to stop the human rights violations against Julian Assange that have persisted for ten years, this will probably not change. The former German Minister of Justice Herta Däubler-Gmelin stated::
All this also tramples on our" Western values " of the rule of law and human dignity. When it comes to China, Iran, Russia, Turkey or the other states whose governments we do not trust in Western constitutional states and whose judiciary we deny with fundamental independence and the rule of law, we rightly complain, sometimes even loudly. Why not to the UK? Why the outright silence of the EU and its member States on the scandalous treatment of Julian Assange?
With its concealment and distraction, the non-governmental organization AI is doing its part to serve – consciously or unconsciously – the interests of the American war criminals, who are still at large today.