Commentary on Julian Assange.

Some extracts from the UN OHCHR Report.

In the film from which this article derives its name, Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer, imprisoned in a maximum-security cell for life to apprehend another serial killer known only as “Buffalo Bill” who skins his female victim’s cadavers.  Dr Lecter, played with chilling effect by Sir Anthony Hopkins defines the scene where he and Clarice Starling engage, played by a suitably naïve Jody Foster as one of the most risibly thrilling, perhaps rivalling even the visceral scenes in The Shining? What adds ominous weight to the engagement is that Lecter was convicted to life imprisonment for only some of the gruesome murders he had committed and opportunistically sees this interaction with Starling as his last possible way out of the confines of his prison cell.

On the 11th April 2019, one Julian Paul Assange, the most famous newspaper publisher in history, had his asylum withdrawn following a series of disputes with the Ecuadorian authorities in London, and he was promptly arrested by the British authorities.  He was found guilty of breaching the Bail Act and on 1 May 2019, he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison in the United Kingdom. Having spent almost 5-years in the Ecuadorean Embassy for fear that he may be extradited to the United States after the Swedish government indicted him on trumped-up charges of sexual assault, which they later withdrew for lack of evidence. Meanwhile, the US government unsealed an indictment against Assange for alleged computer intrusion, related to the leaks provided by Chelsea Manning. On 23 May 2019, the United States government further charged Assange with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. If found guilty, the maximum sentence is a reported 175-years in prison, yes, you read that correctly. 

So what exactly is Julian Assange’s crimes he’s being accused of and why do so many people seemingly hate him, to the point where his solitary confined incarceration in HM Prison Belmarsh, has elicited very little outrage or fanfare in England, Europe or for that matter, America. There’s been no mass marches, no reams of articles in influential newspapers around the globe, very little mention of him on the major international networks and perhaps only some discussions on social media, with one or two Facebook pages that I’m aware of. Even the newspapers that “Wikileaks” the internet site he started, and that supplied information to some of the global dailies, including “The Guardian” has not only been uncharacteristically subdued, but they’ve almost outright abandoned him. Well, his sins are twofold, he received “stolen” intelligence from Chelsea Manning, now known as “the Afghanistan War Logs” and “the Iraqi War Logs,” including a video called, “Collateral Murder.” Secondly, he dared publish it on Wikileaks and offered it for mass circulation to rags like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian in London.

Dr Hannibal Lecter, a fictional character in an otherwise extraordinary psychological thriller deserves his life sentence, even though the nuanced pathos forces one to feel some tinge of humanity for him, a sadistic killer. Julian Assange, a newspaper publisher and freedom of the press activist, a real-life figure is in rapidly deteriorating health in Britain’s Guantanamo Bay, in solitary confinement with no outside contact with people, including his legal counsel, faces the prospect of 175-years in some “blacksite” or maximum-security prison, once he’s successfully extradited to the United States. 

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nil Melzer was allowed to visit Assange in Belmarsh and was by all accounts horrified. In his own words, “my most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr Assange would be exposed 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 torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Nils Melzer. “I am particularly alarmed at the recent announcement by the US Department of Justice of 17 new charges against Mr Assange under the Espionage Act, which currently carries up to 175 years in prison. This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty if further charges were to be added in the future.” Mr Melzer is also followed up on earlier concerns for Assange’s health. 

“It was obvious that Mr Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” the expert said. “Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma. “The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” the expert said. “Mr Assange has been deliberately exposed, for several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture. “I condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate, concerted and sustained nature of the abuse inflicted on Mr Assange and seriously deplore the consistent failure of all involved governments to take measures for the protection of his most fundamental human rights and dignity,” the expert said. “By displaying an attitude of complacency at best, and of complicity at worst, these governments have created an atmosphere of impunity encouraging Mr Assange’s uninhibited vilification and abuse.”

“Well Clarice has the lambs stopped screaming” a deviant Dr Lecter asks Agent Starling in reference to her recurring nightmares, and so we must see this as a metaphor for a silenced mass-media, non- existent throngs of supporters or crowds outside of Belmarsh, no ‘Free Assange” concerts at Wembley stadium and almost deathly halls of nothingness from the global radio and television networks. He sacrificed much of his life for transparency, but got opacity, he boldly fought for freedom of the press but was rewarded with imprisonment, he fought for a better life, but faces possible death? I wonder who will remember him when he’s body is finally committed to the earth or his ashes scattered to the winds? No doubt like Dr Lecter, the establishment will say, “I ate his liver with some fava beans” whilst cracking a moderately expensive bubbly and whistling “Oh Danny Boy”…………..