United Kingdom: Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States

The British authorities must not extradite WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange to the United States, where he is at risk of serious human rights violations, including detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment, PEN International and Swedish PEN said today. The organisations are further concerned by the broader implications his prosecution would have on global press freedom.

Julian Assange was arrested on 11 April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for breaching his bail conditions in 2012, and further arrested on behalf of the US authorities under an extradition warrant after the Ecuadorian authorities withdrew asylum. An indictment dated 6 March 2018 and unveiled that day charges Julian Assange with one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, including accessing classified information, in relation to leaks of US government materials by former military analyst and whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Assange faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Although Julian Assange was not directly charged with publishing classified information, the indictment includes a list of actions that fall under journalistic activities, namely encouraging sources to provide information, protecting their anonymity and using secure means of communication. Prosecuting Assange for these actions could have a chilling effect on press freedom because it creates precedent and raises risks of similar prosecution of journalists for legitimate practices, such as those outlined in the indictment, which journalists use as part of their professional work.

According to reports, US prosecutors may seek to bring additional charges against Julian Assange, who is currently in custody and due to testify via video-link on 2 May. US prosecutors have until 12 June to outline their case to the British authorities.

The broad nature of the US indictment against Assange is a real threat to journalists and press freedom worldwide because it potentially criminalises legitimate journalistic practices. The treatment meted out to his accused co-conspirator Chelsea Manning shows that these concerns are real, and Assange would be at risk of serious human rights violations, were he to be extradited to the US,’ said Salil Tripathi, chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

On 11 April 2019, the British authorities found Julian Assange guilty of breaching bail in 2012, an offense that carries up to 12 months in prison. Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over one allegation of rape and one allegation of sexual molestation and coercion, which he denies. Swedish prosecutors have announced they are reviewing a request to reopen the rape investigation, which they had to close in 2017 because they were unable to formally notify Assange. The Swedish authorities have until August 2020 to investigate the rape allegation.

‘Allegations of unlawful, non-consensual sexual activity in Sweden should be investigated and resolved on their own merits. Due process must be followed and the rights of the victim and defendant protected. The Swedish authorities should be made aware that the case against Assange in Sweden is no ground for extradition to the US and ought to be handled as a separate issue. His extradition to the US could have severe implications for journalistic work and practice far beyond Assange’s case,’ said Ola Larsmo, PEN International Board Member.

Additional information

Between 2009 and 2010, whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, then a military analyst in the US army, leaked classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks, which revealed that the US army, the CIA and Iraqi and Afghan forces had committed human rights violations. She was held in pre-trial detention for over three years, including 11 months in conditions that the UN Special Rapporteur on torture said amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Responding to reports that Julian Assange was to be imminently expelled from the Ecuadorian embassy, the Special Rapporteur argued that his likely extradition to the United States would expose him to ‘a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ Several UN experts also warned that he would be at risk of serious human rights violations.

PEN adamantly supports the right of all media to publish leaked documents and materials they have received from third parties. While publishing such materials entails a high level of editorial judgment and discretion, principles of press freedom and freedom of information require that these decisions remain in the hands of the publishers themselves, operating independently and free from governmental interference or pressure. WikiLeaks has been criticized for releasing unredacted materials, putting the identity of sources at risk. PEN calls on WikiLeaks to adhere to international standards and norms of journalistic practice and protect its sources with far greater scrutiny and duty of care than what it has shown, to ensure that individuals identified in the materials it publishes are protected from reprisals, because their safety is contingent on their anonymity.

Chelsea Manning’s 35-year prison sentence was commuted in 2017. She was jailed again in March 2019 for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks and recently held in solidarity confinement for 28 days. She is to remain behind bars until she testifies or until the grand jury concludes its work. PEN urges all governments to strengthen the legal protection of whistle-blowers in order to bring national laws in line with international legal standards, including Article 12 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 email: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

Refugees denied international protection and shown cruelty and inhumanity

The continued detention of Kurdish-Iranian writer and activist, Behrouz Boochani, is an egregious violation of international standards of protection for refugees and exposes Australia’s cruel disregard for the welfare of asylum seekers. On Human Rights Day, PEN International calls on Australia’s authorities to end its unacceptable treatment of asylum seekers and immediately find safe and meaningful resettlement options for Behrouz Bouchani and all other refugees currently stranded on Manus Island and Nauru in line with international law.

 

Read the full article on PEN International’s website.

An evening of inspiration, music, food supporting Hrant Dink

Music by  Meyhané

Meyhané is an ensemble of Melbourne-based musicians passionate about performing traditional music from Anatolia, The Balkans and Eastern Mediterranean.

The Melbourne event coincides with the International Hrant Dink Awards in Istanbul. http://www.hrantdinkodulu.org/

The awards are presented to people who work for a world free of discrimination, racism and violence.

Two awards are presented annually.

One of the 2018 Award winners in 2018, MURAT ÇELIKKAN said:

“It is the struggle for human rights that will light the torch of hope against hopelessness, not only in Turkey but in the entire world.”

Delicious home-made Turkish vegetarian finger food and sweets

BYO

$50 per person, bookings only

 At the Mark Street Hall, 1 Mark St, Fitzroy North

Sunday 15th September, 2019           6.00 to 9.00 pm

Contact Con or Jo

Bookings by September 10: admin@penmelbourne.org

No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani

Kurdish writer and filmmaker Behrouz Boochani has been detained and marooned on Manus Island for five years by the Australian government.

Seeking refuge from persecution in his own country, Behrouz has committed no crime, he has been held without charge. The refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru have suffered the most inhumane conditions and to date twelve have died while in immigration detention. Throughout this time Behrouz has kept writing, under impossible conditions. And now, we have his book – No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, translated from the Farsi by Omid Tofighian.

Seeking refuge from persecution in his own country, Behrouz has committed no crime, he has been held without charge. The refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru have suffered the most inhumane conditions and to date twelve have died while in immigration detention. Throughout this time Behrouz has kept writing, under impossible conditions. And now, we have his book – No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, translated from the Farsi by Omid Tofighian.

Liu Xiaobo: An exceptional life, always remembered

The PEN community is deeply saddened by the death of dissident writer, Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC) member and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Liu Xiaobo, soon after his release from prison following his diagnosis of late-stage liver cancer. Xiaobo passed away on Thursday, July 13. Xiaobo had led an exceptional live and will always be remembered. More about it on PEN International News page.

PEN Melbourne remembers Rosie Scott

The fact that Rosie Scott’s friends have known the desperate state of her health for many months doesn’t lighten the blow of losing her. A fine writer, a beautiful and generous friend has gone from among us. Over the last decade and a half we have grown to admire the Rosie Scott who will continue to be admired even by those who didn’t have the good fortune to know her. Rosie was a hero in the fight to give voices to the despised and rejected, and to make Australia a more generous and right-thinking place than venal politicians have, it seems, have made it.

Rosie Scott, with her co-editor Thomas Keneally, edited and saw through to publication two collections that reached out to one another like those who did the writing: the asylum-seekers for whom Rosie fought so unremittingly, and the Australian writers who, in the words of reviewer Di Cousens, “give us back our imagination” to understand suffering and to reject the policies that cause it. Another Country and A Country Too Far together record the huge disjunction of humanity, the monstrous injustice involved in delaying acceptance of refugees, in placing them in detention, and in desperately planning alternative destinations for them while reneging on our national undertakings under the U.N.

I remember Rosie, earlier in this century when we still tolerated detention centres on our own soil, standing to speak on the dusty South Australian country road in front of the gates of Baxter Detention Centre. She had gathered together activists for child detainees, supporters from the writing community including PEN—many come from other states—and people from Whyalla who were endeavouring to help the detainees, and launched Another Country in sight of that prison. Rosie went on to recruit the Australian writers for the second book, and continued working for publicity in many cities and venues.

When eventually the policies of rejection and detention are abandoned and condemned, it will be found that many were reached and many were humanised by Rosie’s work. She gave a public voice to the dozens of asylum-seekers she published and to the writers who cared.

Vale Rosie. You showed, to quote your Introduction to A Country Too Far, that “workable and compassionate ideas about this human tragedy are not only possible but essential for us as a nation”.

Urgent Statement by PEN Melbourne regarding Behrouz Boochani’s safety

We are very concerned for the safety of detained Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, who has been reporting from within Australia’s immigration detention centre on Manus Island for more than three years.

Over the past week he has reported on the death of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, an inmate in the detention centre, and more recently on the beating of two refugees by immigration officers and police on Manus Island.

On the 1/1/2016 local MP Ronny Knight tweeted a message that reads ‘Behrouz Boochani is a liar and has an agenda and should apologise to police… Boochani will be arrested for lying and insulting police’.

We call on the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments to honour their commitment to democracy including the right to free speech and to ensure Mr Boochani’s safety.