Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people …
The General Assembly,
Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples …
— preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A few days back, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was angered by ambassadors from ten western countries — US, Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden — who called for the release of Osman Kavala. Originally, Erdogan declared, “These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once.” Eventually, Erdoğan would backtrack.
Kavala, often described as a philanthropist in western media, was arrested on 1 November 2017 and charged with “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order” and “attempting to overthrow the government” in connection with the Gezi Park protests. Afterwards, Kavala was imprisoned in the maximum-security facility Silivri near Istanbul.
He was acquitted in February 2020, but soon after charged with involvement in the 15 June 2016 coup attempt. Kavala was also cleared of this accusation, but he was kept in jail on the charge of “political or military espionage.”
The incarceration of Kavala bears similarities with that of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. However, a glaring difference stands out.
No western governments have spoken out for the human rights of Assange, including his native country, Australia.
However, the United Nations Human Rights Commission did have something to say. Its expert on torture, Nils Melzer, said,
The evidence is overwhelming and clear, Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.
But western governments have been unmoved by such damning news. One might well surmise a tacit condonation among them for torture when carried out by western countries.
Assange is a philanthropist! His sacrifice through WikiLeaks, to inform people of the machinations of their governments (and without error), has thoroughly demonstrated this. Among the files published by WikiLeaks was revealing the CIA hacking tools and extremely notoriously, for the United States and its military, the video Collateral Murder.
The US is out to get Assange for exposing its crimes.
If you don’t understand German turn on the subtitles.
The British court, though, blocked his extradition to the US over concerns for Assange’s mental health and his risk of suicide. Nonetheless, the US appealed. Britain, for some inexplicable reason that defines logic and morality, returned a man who their judge deemed was at mental risk back to — what the UN torture expert said were conditions of “psychological torture” — the high-security Belmarsh Prison.
Human rights are for everyone. It is not just an obligation of governments to abide by their signature on the UNHDR; it is the duty of people of conscience to hold their governments to account, to do what they can to protect Julian Assange and any other wrongfully imprisoned or oppressed people.