Assange receives Hicks treatment


The UK judge who is deciding the Swedish Government request to extradite Julian Assange from the UK to Sweden to answer police questions about rape allegations has retired to consider his verdict. It will be announced on 24 February.

The issue now has taken on an independent public and political dynamic of its own, regardless of whether the prime mover was a genuine, coincidentally arising 'Swedish rape' allegation, or an outcome of a US intelligence-fomented provocation.

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Swedish national pride is now firmly engaged. The Swedish prime minister resents Assange's defence team's vocal scepticism about Assange's chances of fair legal process in Sweden.

EU extradition values and conventional practice, which favour extradition irrespective of the merits of particular cases, out of respect for the integrity of fellow EU member countries' legal systems, are also engaged.

On the other side, the case has mobilised formidably skilled and well resourced UK human rights groups. It has also engaged British national sovereignty lobbies.

So whatever the judge's decision on 24 February, there are likely to be appeals — probably to more than one level. The case could now go on of its own volition for years, because it is bigger than Assange now.

If there are covert US forces out to discredit and silence Assange, they would be satisfied at the prospect of a long and morale-sapping legal process now facing Assange. They could sit back and watch the court process unfold, while hoping he will lose public standing and political momentum.

Hoping, too, that he may make errors of judgement under the stress of house arrest, exacerbated by an increasing flow of hostile books by disgruntled persons from within his own original Wikileaks group, and by an expanding and very nasty internet traffic about his alleged destructive personality, manipulativeness and disloyalty to friends, improper sexual conduct, business corruption and so on.

The man must be under huge pressure now from all the mud being slung at him.

Perhaps worst of all, we see now a cynical distancing from him by editors of major newspapers which have already profited from his best Wikileaks scoops (e.g. Guardian, New York Times) and now seem to be pleased to be damning him with condescension, faint praise, or worse.

All intelligence agencies are expert at designing and running complex dirt files on targeted individuals who have challenged the power of national security states. Agencies are skilled at exploiting known human weaknesses or traits of character, to build and circulate tissues of believable lies around kernels of verifiable truths.

What is happening now to Assange bears the hallmarks of a successful dirt file operation, whose unattributable poisoned fruits are starting to ripen. Such tactics are corrosive of the morale of any but the very strongest human rights warriors: they know that they finally must stand alone, having few if any real friends they can trust. This is the way the world is.

In this finely balanced political context, Kevin Rudd's cold rebuttal of Assange's mother's appeal to him on Friday is most unworthy. To say that Assange has been offered normal consular assistance, which he has so far refused, does not answer her at all.

David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib received similarly worthless consular access from Howard and Ruddock at the times they were rendered with Australian Government consent to years of torture in Guantanamo. Both men were being abusively treated in Pakistan and Egypt while on their way to Guantanamo, as Australian consular officers looked on impotently.

Christine Assange knows that the case has been so politicised in the EU that it has escaped the bounds of normal legal process.

For the sake of argument, suppose the UK judge rules in Assange's favour, and Sweden appeals, or vice versa, and she then appeals to our foreign minister to start offering Assange real public and private support. For Rudd to continue to refuse her plea could only be because he and the prime minister put their interpretation of alliance solidarity ahead of an embattled Australian citizen's rights.

This would be cowardly of them. It would confirm Obama and Clinton in the view that Australians are US lackeys rather than self-respecting allies who defend their own citizens' rights: as the UK Government defended the rights of its citizens incarcerated in Guantanamo, while Howard and Ruddock did nothing at all for Hicks and Habib.

I hope Rudd and Julia Gillard may reconsider their positions. If not, who will make these points in the Australian Parliament? Not the Coalition under Abbott. Maybe the Greens or Andrew Wilkie? I hope someone does, because we should not be casting any Australian fellow citizen adrift in this way. 

Tony KevinTony Kevin retired from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1998, after a 30-year public service career in DFAT and Prime Minister's Department. He was Australia's ambassador to Poland (1991–94) and Cambodia (1994–97).

Topic tags: Tony Kevin, Julian Assange, Wikileaks, dirt file, David Hicks, Mamdouh Habib



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Existing comments

What rights have been infringed? Mr Assange was offered consul and refused. Most likely because he has received free assistance from " formidably skilled and well resourced UK human rights groups" (read pro-bona legal consul). Unfortunetly his mother's legal opinion is not relevant. So now are we reduced to comparing Assange to Hicks? As an Australian I can only assume your patriotism blinds you. Hicks was by his own admission involved in with terrorists (this is all well documented on Wikipedia). Perhaps Australia should consider who her friends really are

Richard Brice | 15 February 2011  

I had such high hopes for Mr Rudd am very disappointed in him and Julia Gillard. Maybe if we all pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten them things will change

irena mangone | 15 February 2011  

Well written Tony Kevin. If anyone would know a CIA inspired "dirt file operation", you with your long career experience surely can. Rudd is not just lining up with the US Alliance, he isprotecting his masters and covering his arse. Truth is outing. War criminals will be shamed.

Graeme Dunstan, | 15 February 2011  

Tony Kevin is correct, I believe, in urging more support for Assange. Nevertheless a decision involves a conflict of loyalties or priorities. Whatever we think of particular policies and actions of the United States - and some are reprehensible - it remains as a potential safeguard for a vulnerable Australia, as it proved to be 70 years ago.

Bob Corcoran | 15 February 2011  

Bob, where do you get the idea that the US was a 'safeguard for a vulnerable Australia... 70 years ago'? The US did not enter WW2 to protect Australia or, for that matter, Europe. It entered because it had been attacked. It did not send troops to Australia to protect Australia, or because Australia had been a loyal ally, but because Australia was a convenient base from which the US could attack Japanese forces in SE Asia and the Pacific. The US acts according to its best interests, and so should we. It's high time that the Australian Government stood up for any Australian citizen abroad, no matter what s/he has done, who is at risk of abuse by foreign governments. If standing up and being counted proves prejudicial to an 'alliance', so be it, the alliance obviously wasn't worth much in the first place.

Ginger Meggs | 15 February 2011  

Suddenly public figures turn sideways and become thinner than their shadows. Kevin and Julia, now you see me now you don't. We have seen what fellow Egyptians have done for the common cause believing in the future with a democratic flavour and personal rights. We and the US hardly act as beacons for their aspirations.

Mamdouh Habib's final settlement was an acceptance of wrong doing on the part of the government, or lack of spine at the time Habib was incarcerated. These shadow thin politician's must have no mirrors in their houses, and must look downwards when faced with their image reflected in windows. Fellow Australians must be concerned that their leaders have no public moral fibre when it comes to requests of someone in power and authority publicly demanding a fair go on their behalf.

The sense of mateship waved before us ad nauseum during the recent natural disasters suddenly has lost its voice and presence because the US is smarting over its lack of security of its confidential information and watching our leaders. [If a lowly private found his way in, who else?]

Tony London | 15 February 2011  

Excellent article and couldn't agree more that our government's track record gives Australians no confidence that any of us will have our rights protected when the crunch comes. What are the US & Australian governments really frightened of? Us?

SUE CROCK | 15 February 2011  

Haven't "Whistleblowers" been persecuted for years. This time of course Assange has taken on a formidable foe in the United States and our Government has never to be courageous to give support against them. We are fed the line that the United States is our Ally and we need them to come to our aid in the event of attack! The only enemies we have are those created by our "friendship" with the United States.

Enid Mulcare | 15 February 2011  

This article sums up the situation very well. Likewise, Ginger Meggs gives a good round-up of US interests in WWII. Spot on, Ginger! Very disappointed in Rudd and Gillard. It is like a continuation of what we could have expected under Howard - and believe me, Julia and Kev, that ain't good!

WicketWatcher | 15 February 2011  

Thank you, Tony Kevin. You have had the heart to think beyond the politics and policies of governments under scrutiny. If an Assange cannot pass on information he has received about the misdeeds of a government, what hope is there for other Davids in our midst, fighting Goliaths?

Joyce | 15 February 2011  

The US is pursuing Assange with such venom, and so abusing Bradley Manning, you'd almost think Wikileaks have got something on the Clintons.

David Arthur | 15 February 2011  

We all have certain views of the how world looks and runs. TONY KEVIN's article is closest if not identical to my views of what I think of the Assange situation. Perhaps because I lived in Czechoslovakia till 1992. TONY KEVIN and I would know more about how complex the transition from socialism to current form of ever evolving still corrupted democracy is. People with less experiences do have more positive and possibly more naive outlook on world that can be well off from reality. American public specificaly. Someone clever once said: "The most difficult thing in the world is to see it as it is and still love it." Openleaks is blooming and it would not suprise me if they have support or powerful. So why Openleaks is welcomed and supported and Wikileaks is not? One is keen to compromise the other is not. One is there to fill the hole that now must be filled (since people do know about new idea) and the other continues to show the world a mirror that is very uncomfortable. The world is evolving and wikileaks is part of it.

PETER CZIEL | 16 February 2011  

Thank you Mr Kevin.

Phil Gorman | 19 February 2011  

A thoughtful,fair and compassionate summary of what must be one of the most challenging complex and multifaceted situations I have considered in a long time. I am ambivalent on many scores but on the right of a citizen to the diplomatic protection afforded by a sovereign government extended to one of its citizens in distress is beyond controversy. Rudd and Gillard are exposed as shallow and self-serving. Our supine response to US demands in galling.

Graham Warren | 20 February 2011  

Is wikileaks an intelligence operation? I don't know. Domscheit, who recently left wikileaks, says no - but why should we believe him?

telfer cronos | 08 March 2011  

If there were any doubt about Australian sycophancy towards the US - Julia's cleverly crafted speech to the US Houses ends them. Thank you Tony KEVIN for writing as you have. Some weeks ago I recall thinking Mamdouh HABIB and David HICKS - if the US gets its grubby hands on Julian ASSANGE and I too was shocked at the callousness of official Australian responses to the anguish of Julian ASSANGE's mother. When I think of the US military rapists of little girls on Okinawa and at other US bases in Japan (so undoubtedly elsewhere wherever there are US bases) - who never get handed over for local justice - yet our nation will hand over its own (misguided or innocent - both) to the US! Tragic! Tony KEVIN please take this plea/argument of yours further!

And Richard BRICE - can it be true that you read a journal of social justice yet harbour such reactionary thinking? Appeals to Wikipaedia as the arbiter of judgement is not wise Rich!

Tokujiro | 10 March 2011  

Evidence provided by Howard Brown with regard to arrangements made prior to Mamdouh Habib's rendition to Egypt from Pakistan was contradicted in court and subsequently reported in the Australian press. Brown claimed reduced Australian High Commission staff resources at the time of Habib's arrest and non-involvement between US, Pakistan and Australian intelligence officials. Brown, who was well known for micro managing consular and immigration matters at posts prior to Islamabad, an SES officer in the Australian Public Service, a known racist. So he seems to have placed the Habib consular responsibility over to Alastar Adams, another wondrous truth teller. Or did he? That is what Vivienne Thom should determine through non-redacted classified correspondence between Brown and Canberra, at the time Habib was arrested on his 'watch'. Seems Habib was considered a non Australian citizen by Brown in the first instance and treated accordingly, Brown style.

Vincent | 09 December 2011  

"In court earlier this year, commonwealth solicitors accused Mr Habib of making up the claim that he was taken to the Australian high commission and questioned by diplomat Alistair Adams in a bid to advance his case for compensation.

Mr Habib told the Federal Court that Mr Adams met him several times while he was being held in Pakistan, and that the diplomat was present when he was interrogated by US spies.

Mr Habib also claimed that Mr Adams told him to co-operate with the authorities or risk losing his citizenship and being sent back to Egypt."

With Howard Brown's probable cohesion.

Alastar Adams could have known better, after all he was an experienced DFAT consular official. Somewhat influenced as most are by continual attractive overseas allowances.

Brown went on to attract overseas allowances until mid term appointment as Australian Ambassador to Sweden, then curtailed. Why?

Brown was well known as a self centred, micro manager. The Australian High Commission in Lagos Nigeria suffered financial calamity towards the end of Howard Brown's term, 1997. Why?

Outside R.G. Casey building Canberra when Brown's posting to Sweden was curtailed in early 2009 :

"I've been overseas 20 years, had enough, there is nobody here (R.G. Casey Building)"

So now, retired Howard C Brown via DFAT, admit sad blatent racism, convenient black market money exchange for personal gain in Lagos, Nigeria 1994 - 96. Fiction reports to Canberra when Nigerian Foreign Affairs officials were not available in Abuja between '95 - 97. Gutless attention to Australian based colleagues' concerns as the mission on Brown's watch in Nigeria headed towards financial collapse.

And conviently escaped critisism, passing trail of administrative shortcomings on to Matthew Neuhaus before cowering to Cyprus.

No wonder Habib got the bum's rush and no wonder Brown has elected not to contribute publicly along with Kevin 07's class of '69 diplomats. God help us either way.

ONA stated there were terrorist issues in Indonesia before the Bali Bombing in 2002. What did DFAT do? 20 medals in lieu for ONA's frustration.

Vincent | 09 December 2011  

'The 33-page AAT judgment acknowledged that Mr Habib's case was a "troubling matter" and if his claims of torture were even only partly true it would "shock" the public. It said there was no serious dispute that Mr Habib had been taken to Egypt after being arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and there was no evidence to contradict his accounts that he had been tortured. It was also said Mr Habib had been manacled and shackled during interrogations in Guantanamo Bay. "It is difficult to imagine any reason why Mr Habib was restrained in this manner other than to intimidate him," the AAT decision said. It said that Mr Habib's evidence of torture and the conditions in which he was held were in stark contrast to the evidence given by Australian Federal Police agents and that of ASIO officers who said "Mr Habib appeared to be in a fit state to be interviewed in Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay". Australian diplomat Alastair Adams was criticised for making "disturbing" comments about Mr Habib during the hearing. Mr Adams, who was stationed in Pakistan when Mr Habib was arrested, has denied Mr Habib's claims that he had interviewed him while he was in detention. Mr Adams told the tribunal that if Mr Habib's assertions were found to be untrue, the former detainee could be hanged in the middle of the city for it and "he (Mr Adams) would like to be there for that".' ... while Brown would gloat in the background from afar of course. What a convenient miserable team, Brown & Adams.

Vincent | 29 January 2012  

Vivienne Thom's report: Mr Brown does not agree with the chronology of events upon which my views rely. His recollection is that a significant period of time elapsed between Mr Habib being detained and the Australian Government being advised of that fact (whereas the documentary record shows that only two days elapsed); and that the actions taken by the High Commission on 7 October 2001 were immediately followed by the actions taken by the Consul on 20 October 2001. He summarised this as follows: The IGIS claim that I did not take ‘any action’ to provide consular assistance to Habib between 6 to 20 October of that year is totally incorrect. As I advised during my appearance before the IGIS, as soon as the AFP officer in the Australian High Commission, Islamabad was advised – informally and belatedly – of Habib’s arrest … I, with the support of the Consul, took immediate action to … lodge a formal request with the Pakistani Foreign Ministry for confirmation of the arrest and for consular access to Habib … Notwithstanding Mr Brown’s evidence on this matter, I have placed greater weight on the bulk of other evidence before me (both documentary and that given under oath or affirmation) which consistently reflects the sequence of events that I have described above.

Vincent | 23 March 2012  

Vivienne Thom's report with regard to Mamdouh Habib:

The Consul contacted his desk officer counterpart in the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs by telephone that day asking for assistance to visit Mr Habib and to offer consular services. From evidence given to the inquiry, it appears that he was somewhat assertive in his manner during this telephone call. Whilst I make no criticism of his behaviour, it appears to have caused offence to the Pakistani official and resulted in a reprimand being given to Mr Brown by the Protocol Officer in the Pakistani Foreign Ministry later that week. It is not clear from the contemporaneous records whether this incident was the cause of further delay in pursuing consular access to Mr Habib. However, it is clear that a Third Person Note from the High Commission to the Pakistan Foreign Ministry - formalising the request for consular access - was not sent until 1 November 2001. By that date, Mr Habib had been in detention for some twenty-six days.

Early and formal contact by the Australian High Commission with the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to pursue full consular access, should have been important having regard to:

DFAT's responsibility under its consular guidelines to visit detained Australians 'at the earliest possible moment'

Mr Habib being the first Australian known to have been detained by a Pakistani intelligence agency (rather than the Pakistani police forces)

the serious allegations of terrorism that had been made against him in the post-September 11 environment

the fact that he was apparently being held without charge

the lack of knowledge by Australian authorities about the location of his place of detention and the conditions in which he was being kept.

Notwithstanding the pressure on staff from the downsizing of the High Commission and increased activity in the region, I have come to the view that the High Commission in Islamabad should have demonstrated a greater sense of urgency in formally pursuing proper consular contact with Mr Habib through the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I do not accept that action could reasonably have been delayed until Mr Habib's identity was fully confirmed on 15 October 2001, nor until the fact of his detention was revealed in the media on 20 October 2001. It is my view that DFAT's administrative responsibility to seek access to Mr Habib 'at the earliest possible moment' commenced as soon as the possibility of an Australian being detained was first raised.


Vincent | 26 March 2012  

Australian consular policy on dual nationality: 29. Although Australia has acceded to the Hague Convention, the Government extends to Australian dual nationals the same level of consular assistance as other citizens. The Consular Handbook – Policy states that ‘Despite Article 4 of the Hague Convention, Australian consular officers are charged with protecting Australians even if they hold another nationality’. Nevertheless, the receiving state is under no obligation to allow consular access or assistance to the sending state if the individual is a dual national of the receiving state.

Vincent | 02 February 2014  

I concur with Vincent's comments. Howard Brown was obsessed with intrusion attention on his watch; whether visa issue and focus upon unofficial exchange rate via the likes of Len Lewis

Jordy Maas | 06 June 2015  

Mamdouh Habib was considered a non-Australian, most likely by Howard Brown & supported by his class of '69 mates. Brown's reputation as a head of mission was not flash.

Jordy Maas | 06 June 2015  


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