Letter on arrest of Julian Assange

Dear Editor (unpublished)

Whether or not Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, it is shocking that 70+ MPs calling for his extradition to Sweden in the name of justice refuse to take position on his possible extradition to the US and the torture and even death he may face there. (Give priority to Julian Assange rape claim, home secretary urged, 13 April 2019)

We agree with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott: Assange’s current detention is not about “the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public.” And so it was from the beginning.

Chelsea Manning (currently re-in prison despite President Obama’s pardon) was able to use Wikileaks to expose the extensive cover up of rape, other sexual violence and murder, including of women and children, by the US military in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. Do these victims not count?

At the time of the original allegations against Assange, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued. (Guardian 19 Dec 2010 and 23 August 2012) The UK low conviction rate – 6% of reported rapes, and falling – resulting largely from negligent and biased investigations, speaks volumes about how rape is generally downgraded.

The MPs letter claims that Sweden dropped their investigation because of Assange’s ‘unavailability’. Untrue. We and others urged the Swedish authorities to question him at the Ecuadorian embassy so his accusers would not be denied the investigation they were entitled to and justice could be done. They refused until December 2015 when they finally did. They then dropped the case. No charge was ever made. [But Sweden recently reopened the investigation.]

Where is the letter demanding justice for the rapes and murders Wikileaks exposed? Who will speak up for these victims if whistle-blowers are silenced? In 2004, together with Black Women Rape Action Project, we wrote to women MPs about the war crimes and torture, including rape, that were being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We received no reply.

[Since this letter was submitted to The Guardian, the US government has initiated extradition proceedings against Assange.]

Yours sincerely,

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape