The Belmarsh Tribunal is all about trying those who are guilty of crimes against humanity and those who are trying to cover them up by persecuting Julian Assange. (With transcript).
Yanis Varoufakis, co-founder DIEM25 for Progressive International Belmarsh Tribunal, Great Hall, Sydney University, March 4.
Hello, this is Yanis Varoufakis, addressing you from Athens on behalf of the Progressive International. This is the first time the Progressive International is in-situ in Australia, in Oz, doing important things. And what could be more important than the Belmarsh Tribunal on behalf of Julian Assange and the immensely important campaign to secure his freedom and his life on behalf of all whistleblowers, all journalists, all people around the world who care about free expression, free journalism, and for the possibility that we may glean, just about glean the truth about what our governments do on our behalf in our name.
But first, a few words about the Progressive International. It was late in 2018 when Bernie Sanders, myself and quite a few others met in Vermont, in the great state of Vermont in the United States and issued a call, a call to all progressives around the world to do that which the authoritarians, the fascists and the bankers have been doing so successfully for yonks, unite, in order to pursue a progressive agenda against the agenda of the nationalists, the racists, the fascists, and, of course the bankers.
Officially, the Progressive International was put together by DIEM25, the splendid pan-European transnational democratic movement that we set up in Berlin, in Europe, back in 2016 and the Sanders Institute. Since then, the Progressive International has spread its wings across the world. We’ve campaigned against Amazon, against the exploitation of people and nature in Africa, Asia, in Latin America, in North America, in Europe.
It was about time we came to Australia. On a personal note, let me express my utter jealousy at all of you who are gathered in the splendid Great Hall, a stone’s throw from the Meriwether Building, where I spent 12 good years lecturing economics and political economy at the University of Sydney. I mentioned that period of my life… it was in the 1990s.
At the time, I believe my great friend Phillip Adams was also being made aware of Julian Assange’s ambitions, for creating serious problems for those who are trying to usurp power straight out of our hands and wield it in misanthropic campaigns. Reading about Julian Assange back then was a great relief for me. For the first time, I felt there was an answer to what George Orwell was prognosticating in ‘1984’.
Since Big Brother was always going to gain the technological means to peer into our lives, to turn us into transparent beings, Julian’s answer was to use the same technologies that Big Brother was turning against us, to construct – think of it as a large scale digital mirror – which we turn towards the face of Big Brother. So while he’s watching us, we can be watching him.
That was the essence of WikiLeaks and that is the reason why the global establishment is so inimical to WikiLeaks and so determined to destroy the life and spirit of Julian Assange. For us at the Progressive International, at DIEM25 here in Greece, political party MERA25, Julian Assange is not just a celebrated cause. He’s a comrade. He was a founding member of DIEM25.
He appeared on the screen at the Fox Bruno Theatre in Berlin with us when we introduced DIEM25 to the world. For us, Julian Assange signifies and symbolises resistance to exorbitant power and to a ruthless, tiny oligarchy determined to destroy the world, if needs be, to preserve its own power. Liberating Julian Assange, saving his life and his spirit is a duty for all of us.
Speaking also as an Australian citizen, I want to call upon Mr. Albanese, the Australian Prime Minister, to move heaven and earth in order to unsully the bad name of previous Australian governments and the Australian state that stood idly by while one of its citizens was effectively taken to the cleaners by a recalcitrant, violent series of American administrators.
Mr. Albanese. Free Julian and bring him home. But friends, we’re not here today simply to issue calls and to defend Julian: his body, his spirit and his legacy. This is the Belmarsh Tribunal. Our decision as the Progressive International to hold Belmarsh tribunals, first in London, then in the United States, now in Australia, wherever we can, stems from a prior decision, our decision to go well beyond simply defending a man whose only crime was to unveil power’s dirty secrets.
We’ve pleaded for too long for them to stop torturing his body and mind. We have spent too long warning the good people out there that first they came for Julian. Then they will come for anyone who tells a truth inimical to the interests of the very few. We have used too much energy trying to impress upon journalists, who have not lifted one finger to defend Julian Assange, that their profession is under threat if Julian’s persecution continues.
Enough! The Belmarsh Tribunal is all about trying those who are guilty of crimes against humanity and those who are trying to cover them up by persecuting Julian Assange. If we are truly in the business of allowing unalloyed truth to shine through, we must make the transition from defending Julian Assange; from warning against the dire consequences of him being extradited to the supermax prison system of the United States;
From explaining to the apathetic that their apathy is feeding into their helplessness; we must make the transition, to turning the tables against those who are persecuting Julian. We must turn the current judicial process into a process for trying those who killed innocent civilians, who maimed and murdered journalists, who shrouded whole communities in pain and tears. We must turn Julian’s prosecutors into defendants, and in so doing, allow the great jury out there, a well-informed demos, to reach the verdict that history demands.
This is not hard to do. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we have all the information we need. The evidence is at our fingertips. We need to remind even those who still claim to be liberal, that to save what is left of liberal democracy’s instruments, we need to take the fight to Julian’s accusers, with a glorious, a magnificent, a righteous, a collective “We accuse you”.
For this reason, I salute the Belmarsh Tribunal. I salute today’s event. I salute all of you for being here, either as speakers or as active observers. Above all, I salute Julian for having sacrificed so much so that we can accuse all those who deserved to be accused, as is our duty. Free Julian Assange.
The Belmarsh Tribunal was hosted by Mary Kostakidis & Mark Davis; organised by Progressive International & Wau Holland foundation and co-sponsored by the Search Foundation, Jacobin, PEN Sydney, PEN International, Declassified Australia, NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Consortium News and The Walkley Foundation.