Govt could be doing more for Assange: human rights lawyer

Rachael Brown reported this story on Thursday, May 31, 2012

TONY EASTLEY: Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson has been associated with Julian Assange since his legal proceedings were launched in December 2010.

She says Australia could be exploring possible diplomatic protections but is choosing not to.

She says the Australian Government is keeping quiet regarding any discussions it’s had with the US about Mr Assange’s eventual fate.

Jennifer Robinson is speaking here to our Europe correspondent Rachael Brown.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: Many are speculating about the information that’s being shared between the US and Australian authorities. Unfortunately though from a freedom of information request that has been put to the government by numerous journalists and by Senator Ludlam of the Greens Party, all of those responses have come back rejected so that we have no clue as to exactly what’s being said. So it’s very difficult to know what information is being shared.

The Australian Government is denying that it has any knowledge of any charges or indictments that have been brought against Julian but the indications suggest otherwise – what we know about the ongoing grand jury process in the US, what we know about those associated with WikiLeaks and having had relationship with WikiLeaks being interrogated, detained and forced to testify, it’s quite clear that there is an ongoing process in the US.

Many are concerned that there is an existing indictment. And if the Australian Government does not know about it as it claims, we have to wonder what does the US/Australian alliance mean if we can’t find out what’s going to happen to one of our citizens?

RACHAEL BROWN: And I understand you personally have received a letter from the Attorney-General Nicola Roxon saying that she doesn’t know anything about extradition to the US.

JENNIFER ROBINSON: What has been clear from the information that’s been released under freedom of information laws in Australia about the communications between Australia and the US is that Australia has particularly asked the US to warn them about any potential indictment and charge because they are most concerned about the PR and the PR aspect and to manage the media aspects of this case.

I don’t think any Australian will consider that to be a satisfactory response. The Australian Government ought to be asking more proactively and seeking assurances of the US government about what they intend to do with Julian – whether they intend to prosecute or not and under what conditions he will be held should that take place.

It is well within Australia’s right as a sovereign state to exercise diplomatic protection over its citizens. And what we’ve learnt so far is that the Australian Government is not being as proactive as I think we’d all hope they would be.

As we’ve seen from the US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks the US government regularly asks other states and seeks assurances from other states not to prosecute their citizens and to seek assurances about their treatment.

Similarly, other states have done so. We’ve seen cases involving British citizens who have been extradited to the US where assurances have been sought by the British state that that citizen would be put on bail. The Australian Government, has said in the letter from the Attorney-General has said that they will not seek assurances with respect to bail.

These are possibilities that the Australian Government could be exploring and they are choosing not to and we have to ask the question, why?

TONY EASTLEY: Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson speaking to Europe correspondent Rachael Brown.

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