A Visit with Julian Assange—And Some Proposals
NOBEL LAUREATES, 18 Nov 2013
Once again on 6 Nov, 2013 I had the privilege of having a private visit with Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, who is currently seeking asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy lest he be arrested by UK authorities, taken to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual allegations, and then illegally extradited to USA to face a grand jury on alleged espionage charges. (I last visited him on Dec, 2012)
I joined the Hon. Gianni Pittella, First Vice President of the European Parliament, and Enzo Curzio, Vice President of the Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. We listened to Julian, who enlightened us on how our whole personal privacy has been eroded and how EU security and sovereignty has been jeopardized by the USA/UK unethical surveillance. The conversation has taken my thinking to another level as to where we are going and what we are giving up to try and obtain personal and state security.
After listening to Julian I realized that every use we make of our credit cards, our mobile phones or internet, we are being monitored. All this information when gathered in bulk can make a country unstable as outside influences acquire the power to control its economic growth. This makes me feel that people have to mobilize for world peace instead of world power. All this information is not to benefit humanity in some way; it is being gathered and used to control us. I left the meeting intending to advocate for Europe to protect itself from external surveillance, which can be used in a negative way to control its citizens and other countries. The European Union must move to protect its political and economic sovereignty. And one positive action should be the settling up of a ‘no spying treaty between EU and USA.’
How sad I felt to see Julian Assange, an asylum seeker inside the embassy (surrounded by British police at a cost of millions to British taxpayers), his crime being a journalist who told the truth, and WikiLeaks a media outlet that carried stories of governments’ war crimes, upholding the public right to know what their governments are doing in their names. Julian should not be there. His human rights are being abused as his freedom is taken away from him. I realize how difficult it is for him and so many other journalists who speak truth to power. They have to seek exile in other countries, like Edward Snowden in Russia and some others in Germany, because they are no longer able to practice their profession in countries such as the UK or the US due to repressive legislation now targeting journalists and their sources.
This situation is intolerable because we, the citizens of the world, have a right to our freedoms; and the press to freedom of information. Without a free press we are indeed in a very dark and dangerous world. We free citizens need to protect Julian Assange and all whistleblowers. The British and Swedish governments should move to unblock the present impasse on humanitarian grounds so that Julian can be questioned in reference to the Swedish case. And both governments should, regarding the US administration, protect Julian by blocking any retaliation against him thus guaranteeing his human rights.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Nov 2013.
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