As the pressure mounts on the Australian government to intervene with the U.S. government, the Assange Belmarsh Tribunal in Sydney on Saturday heard some of Australia’s most prominent politicians, lawyers, journalists and whistleblowers testify in defense of imprisoned publisher Julian Assange. Guests include former Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr; Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson; former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis; Assange’s wife Stella Assange; C.I.A. whistleblower John Kiriakou; whistleblower David McBride, as well as journalist Kerry O’Brien, lawyer Bernard Collaery, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian freed from Iranian captivity by the Australian government; Karen Percy, director of the Australian journalists’ union MEAA and more.
On Friday, January 20, progressive groups in the United States will be hosting the third Belmarsh Tribunal in the capital, Washington DC. The 17-member Belmarsh Tribunal is hosted by Progressive International along with the Wau Holland Foundation. The DC Tribunal will be held at the National Press Club, close to the US Capitol building, which houses the US Congress. The Club was where Assange first screened Collateral Murder over a decade ago. Collateral Murder is 39 minutes of unedited, leaked footage from a gun cam that showed a US military drone attacking Al-Amin al-Thaniyah, a suburb of Baghdad, and killing 12 civilians. The Tribunal was formed in October 2021 and named after the high-security prison near London where Assange has been held since 2019. He has spent most of this time there under judicial remand, awaiting the conclusion of his extradition trial.
In this era of police violence, pandemic worries, and economic crisis, it is no surprise that U.S. (and local) government agencies have a poor track record of sharing information honestly and directly—especially information about their own complicity in actions and policies that are undemocratic, militaristic, racist, sexist or otherwise oppressive. Basic truths about the society we live in are actively suppressed and denied—including truths about the imprisonment of those whose political views and actions challenge the powers that be. Though the growth of the prison industry has been well documented, there is virtually no documentation and even less news about the imprisonment of many who would be considered political prisoners by any international human rights standards.
Inspired by the famous Russell-Sartre people's tribunal, the Belmarsh Tribunal places the War on Terror on trial and holds the US government accountable for its war crimes. It is named for the London prison that has held Assange in permanent confinement for the last two years, as he faces extradition to the US, whose government plotted his assassination. The Belmarsh Tribunal will hold its first physical proceedings in London on the 22 of October 2021 at the Convocation Hall, Church House, Westminster, which was used for sittings of parliament during the Second World War. The Belmarsh Tribunal will gather leading figures from politics, the law and journalism, to shed light on the US crimes that were revealed by WikiLeaks - torture, violence, illegal spying - but also to speak about the existing crimes of both US and UK against Julian Assange for exposing their illegal and unjustifiable actions.
I have been following the extradition proceedings in the court in London with equal measures of disbelief and disgust. Some lyrics I wrote forty years ago for a theatrical piece called ‘The Wall’ come to mind, if I may. “The evidence before the court is incontrovertible there’s no need for the jury to retire, the prisoner who now stands before you was caught red-handed showing feelings, showing feelings of an almost human nature, this will not do.” Those lyrics fit the kangaroo court in London and would sound perfect coming out of the mouth of Judge Barraister.