The Julian Assange Show Trial, And The Not-So-Subtle Art Of Normalising Torture

On the 12th March Dr Lissa Johnson writes

Australian journalist Julian Assange remains locked up in a UK prison facing no British charges, having endured years of arbitrary detention and psychological torture. His extradition hearing to the United States is more of the same, writes psychologist Dr Lissa Johnson.

During Senate Estimates Hearings in the Australian Federal Parliament earlier this month, The Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne and her Foreign Affairs colleagues were questioned about the treatment of Julian Assange during his recent extradition hearing in London. 

The Minister and her two advisors explained to Tasmanian Senator Peter Whish-Wilson that Julian Assange’s treatment in London was “no different” than that of other UK prisoners. 

There was nothing to worry about, she assured her parliamentary colleagues.

”Standard” was the word repeatedly used, as though it had been decided well in advance. Routine, in other words. Normal.

What the minster and her colleagues failed to explain, however, is that Julian Assange’s treatment at the hands of Belmarsh prison authorities and Belmarsh Magistrates Court is only “standard” and normal for prisoners charged with terrorism and other violent offences. 

What is not “standard” or normal is for Walkley Award-winning Australian journalists to be prosecuted as spies by the United States, and subjected to maximum security conditions as a result. 

What is not “standard” is for someone charged with nothing whatsoever under United Kingdom law to be treated exactly like someone charged with terrorism.

It is not standard, nor remotely normal, for journalists with no criminal history, no custodial sentence, and no history or risk of violence to be detained under the harshest and most punitive conditions that UK law enforcement has to offer. 

Nor is it standard for publishers to be held behind bullet-proof glass while on trial for their journalism, thereby preventing them from sitting with their lawyers, as if their journalistic skills might break loose and terrorise the court. 

In fact, all of this is so far from normal that the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) issued a statement this week joining “the widespread concern over the ill-treatment of Mr Assange” during his extradition hearing, describing it as “shocking and excessive.” The Institute added that Julian Assange’s treatment was “reminiscent of the Abu Graib Prison Scandal”, adding that “with this extradition trial we are witnessing the serious undermining of due process and the rule of law.” 

So much for “usual”, fine and normal.

Read whole article in the New Mattilda