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Case Mismanagement in London: Julian Assange, Political Offences and Surveillance

While Australian journalists bonded and broke break in condemning national security legislation that some of them had previously supported, one figure was barely mentioned. Julian Assange was making his first public appearance since April for a case management hearing at the Westminster Magistrates Court.

Those in attendance were disturbed. Craig Murray professed to being shaken. “Every decision was railroaded through over scarcely heard arguments and objections of Assange’s legal team, by a magistrate who barely pretended to be listening.” His condition had deteriorated: receding hair, premature ageing, lost weight. Some cognitive impairment seemed to have set in: incoherent trains of thought, a trouble to articulate and recall events.

By the end of the session, we were left with a few points of consideration. The first, as ever, remains that British justice is, at best, a ceremonial cloak that continues to operate in the shadows of power. Observe formalities, but do away with the substantive matters.

The second is an unfolding international dimension that links private security firms, the US intelligence services, and Ecuador in what can only be described as a political effort to eliminate a one of the most recognisable figures of publishing in recent memory. He must be done away with, mentally and physically eroded as person and being. Spiritually, he must be snuffed out.

With odds firmly against him, Assange’s defence team were keen to impress district magistrate Vanessa Baraitser on two grounds: that they be granted a preliminary hearing on the issue of whether the extradition might fall foul of the US-UK Extradition Treaty of 2003; and that they be granted a postponement of the February 24, 2020 full extradition hearing.

The latter point was based on two grounds: Assange’s acute legal isolation in Belmarsh prison and emerging evidence arising from a Spanish investigation currently underway into a surveillance operation on Assange when resident in the Ecuadorean embassy in London. The material gathered there might prove critical to the defence, not least of all its evident illegality.

When Assange was asked by the magistrate whether he had understood what had transpired, he gave the sort of reply that one would justifiably expect from a bruised, ailing political prisoner. “I don’t understand how this is equitable. This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can’t access my writings. It’s very difficult where I am to do anything but these people have unlimited resources… They are saying journalists and whistleblowers are enemies of the people. They have unfair advantages dealing with documents. They [know] the interior of my life with my psychologist. They steal my children’s DNA. This is not equitable what is happening here.”

Magistrate Baraitser was not exactly feeling generous, though she did relent in granting a two months extension to Assange’s defence team, ostensibly to give them time to consult evidence emerging from Spanish investigative proceedings.

The Spanish angle on this is critical, concerning, in the words of the WikiLeaks press release, “clandestine operations against Assange, his lawyers and doctors and Assange’s family, including at the Ecuadorean embassy.” These centre on the conduct of David Morales, owner of UC Global SL, a Spanish security company charged with protecting the Ecuadorean embassy in London when Assange was its famous tenant.

Morales is being investigated by the Audiencia Nacional, Spain’s High Court, for allegedly ordering the surveillance of Assange’s conversations in the embassy, including those with his lawyers, and passing on material to US intelligence services. Morales, keen on being as comprehensive as possible in this endeavour, specifically requested his team to list “the Russian and American citizens” visiting Assange, material of which was sent to a File Transfer Protocol server in the company’s mother ship location in Jerez de la Frontera. The storage material there comprises data from phones, details on professions, and matters of nationality. Rather damnably, employees who worked for Morales’ company have revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency had access to the server.

The case being presented against Morales is a true cocktail of breaches: privacy violations, the violation of lawyer-client privilege, bribery, misappropriation, money laundering, and the criminal possession of weapons.

Morales was arrested in Jerez de la Frontera on September 17, but as the investigation is under seal, relevant material had not surfaced till this month. That said, the rather seedy resume of UC Global SL was already common knowledge, with an investigation by El País revealing the existence of a surveillance apparatus created by the company with the specific purpose of targeting Assange.

While Baraitser permitted the defence extra time to incorporate material arising from these revelations, she refused to postpone the date set for the full extradition hearing, scheduled for February 24, 2020. The matter will, however, be revisited during the December 19 case management hearing.

What the magistrate did not discuss was the evident intransigence of British authorities who have frustrated efforts by the investigating Spanish Judge José de la Mata to question Assange. On September 25, the judge sent a European Investigation Order (EIO) requesting a video conference with Assange, who would be a witness in the case against UC Global SL. The EIO process, which came into force in Spain in 2018, is designed to ease the laborious processes behind the customary transfer of evidentiary material from one EU state to another. But the United Kingdom Central Authority (UKCA) has decided to stonewall the application, claiming that “these types of interview are only done by the police” in the UK. Nor was the request by De la Mata clear, either in grounds or on the assertion of jurisdiction.

Baffled, De la Mata has pressed the issue in determined fashion, citing previous examples of international cooperation treaties, and noting that restrictions on videoconferencing only apply to the accused, not a witness. “We also provided a clear context for our case, describing all the events and crimes under investigation.” On jurisdiction, the matter was also clear: the suspect was Spanish, the victim (Assange) had filed a complaint and the crimes in question (unlawful disclosure of secrets and bribery) were also crimes in the UK. Quod erat demonstrandum.

The district magistrate also cold-shouldered hearing preliminary arguments as to whether the extradition request was barred by the 2003 US-UK Extradition Treaty. Lawyers representing Assange noted in their court submission that the Extradition Treaty “was at the time contentious, reducing the number of safeguards that might prevent extradition, in particular safeguards from the UK to the US.” Despite much weakening on the subject of citizen protections, one section in the treaty remains unaltered. Article 4(1), retained in the 2007 ratified version, makes the point that, “Extradition shall not be granted if the offence for which extradition is requested is a political offence.”

The US prosecution is positively larded with political implications. Each of the 18 charges against Assange has, at its core, an allegation of intent, namely to obtain or disclose US state secrets in such a way as to damage the security of the United States. Given that state of affairs, the defence sought to advance three grounds: that the court had jurisdiction to determine the issue of whether the charges were political in nature; that the court rule that the offences were such, pursuant to Article 4 of the Extradition Treaty, and “for that reason alone, extradition should be refused in the case.” The magistrate was not so obliging, either in listening to the grounds or giving reasons for her refusal.

Back in Assange’s home country, the editors of News Corp, Fairfax, the ABC, SBS and The Guardian, held hands in their damning campaign dubbed “The Right to Know”. Death to cultures of secrecy, they proclaimed. Onwards transparency warriors. But as with much in journalism, it is slanted, specific and skewed, ignorant of some of the most far reaching changes in the industry in the last decade. Assange remains indigestible to their sensitive palettes. Should he be extradited and convicted, their campaign will come to naught, a mere sliver of after-the-fact protest.

Perhaps fittingly, Australia has produced two notorious figures associated with journalism. They lie at two extremes of the information spectrum: Rupert Murdoch (yes, the same man behind News Corp), who continues to traffic in tits-and-bum titillation and demagoguery, influencing elections through such organs of demerit as The Sun; and Assange, who prefers revealing official secrets through WikiLeaks and, his accusers sneer, influencing elections.

At least some Australian politicians have taken the very public step of not only supporting Assange, but suggesting he return to Australia. It took some time, but this cross-party group have realised that behind the Imperium’s quest to punish the human face of WikiLeaks is a political purpose marked by the ugly, ghastly visage of the national security state.

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The Cancer of Capitalism

By Christian Marx

Capitalism by its very definition is exploitative. It relies on winners and losers. At its most basic definition it can be defined as the exploitation of an individual or group of people for financial gain. Modern day capitalism has been in existence for approximately 400 years.

In that time it has been the direct cause of hundreds of millions of deaths and the suffering of many hundreds of millions more. Almost all wars are fought for financial gain, in the past 100 years the wars have concentrated around natural resources such as fossil fuels and other minerals.

The entire conflict in the Middle East can be traced to the extraction of oil from poorer Arab countries via U.S imperialism. In order for the West to manufacture consent for the Iraq and Afghan wars, propaganda and blatant lies were told to the populace of Western countries. Lies, such as, “these countries had weapons of mass destruction”, and that “Islam wants to destroy the West and needs to be contained”. The populace was manipulated and divided by fear, through a corrupted corporate media and various puppet governments. The real enemy was the West itself, one again raping and pillaging sovereign nations for their corporate backers.

These two wars are just the tip of the iceberg as far as capitalist imperialism is concerned. Here is a list of just some of the capitalist wars waged by The U.S and their allies, and their corresponding death toll:

  • Iraq and Afghan wars: More than 2 million
  • Angola: 500,000+
  • Cambodia: 2.5 million
  • Chile: 3,000 murdered by the CIA backed Augusto Pinochet
  • Cuba: 2,000-4,000
  • East Timor: Indonesian government backed by the U.S: 200,000 dead
  • Al Salvador: U.S financed puppet government to kill its own citizens protesting against austerity and fighting for social justice: 75,000
  • Indonesia: 1 million Communists murdered
  • Iran: 262,000

In all, 37 sovereign nations have either been invaded or attacked by foreign backed, corrupt puppet governments. These puppet governments have been installed by the U.S. in a bid to smash socialist movements and protect U.S profits. (Global research, 2015).

While imperialism is responsible for the overwhelming amount of deaths attributed to the capitalist system, it is not the only source of misery and death.

Austerity measures have contributed to an astonishing increase in suicides in the U.K and the U.S. A study conducted by Scientists, Stuckler and Basu confirmed that a spike of over 10,000 suicides and over 1 million cases of depression have resulted since the introduction of austerity measures in the U.K and the U.S (Guardian, 2013).

Some 5 million Americans have gone on to lose their healthcare insurance, as a direct result of their job loss, and a staggering 10,000 U.K families are now homeless (Guardian, 2013).

Stickler goes onto say “If austerity was run like a clinical trial, it would have been discontinued. The evidence of its deadly side effects – of the profound effects of economic choices on health is overwhelming”. (Guardian, P.1, 2013).

The media also has to shoulder much of the blame for the lies and propaganda that they feed to the masses. How many times have we heard the blatant lies and rationalizations for more tax cuts for the wealthy and less services for the needy? Just today Scott Morrison is using the new tax slogan “The taxed and the taxed nots,” and hitting the most vulnerable yet again!

Not only does capitalism, and in particular Neoliberalism champion war and attack social systems, but it also now destroys jobs! Offshoring of our manufacturing industry and now even some of our service industry is the order of the day. Compounding this, are both major political parties slavish devotion to the causualisation of the workforce. They then wonder why consumer spending is down! The mind boggles at the craven stupidity of these lunatics.

Austerity and offshoring is not only deeply flawed but highly immoral. On the one hand they destroy jobs, and then they attempt to shift the blame on the unemployed whose jobs they wantonly destroyed! Casualised jobs keep the workers desperate and compliant. Off shoring jobs, exploits cheap labour in foreign countries and maximises CEO bonuses.

Ultimately infinite growth on a finite system is suicide. The only organism that replicates this system is the cancer cell. Just like cancer, capitalism will ultimately destroy its host.

References

Henley, J. (2013) Recession Can Hurt, But Austerity Kills. The Guardian, 16 May.

Lucus, James, A. (2015) U.S Has Killed More Than 20 Million People In “Victim Nations” Since World War 2. Global Research, 27 Nov.

 

A Short Aside on Iran and the Nuclear Deal

There’s been much talk around Iran, the United States, and the role of the two in the continuing instability in the Middle East of late, and I felt that perhaps it was time to have a little look into the wider context of the current drama and extricate some key points for consideration.

Iran, like the overwhelming majority of countries in the world including our own, has human rights issues. These are worth noting, as without awareness of them we are liable to form an inaccurate image of the country.

Of course, our images of the country will be inaccurate regardless of how we approach forming them, so we must be careful not to confuse our talking here with the actuality of life in Iran and the wider context of complex political manoeuvring.

Iran’s government is comprised largely of what we would term Islamic extremists, effectively theocrats with extremely conservative moral and social ideological positions. These repressive elements within the judiciary, security and intelligence forces retain much wider powers than equivalent positions in our country. 

In 2014, Iran executed more people than any other nation barring China, and executed the largest number of juvenile offenders. The country is one of the biggest jailers of journalists, bloggers and social media activists in the world. Their treatment of women is despicable in many cases, in keeping with other Islamic theocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

While Iran has not directly attacked another nation, the quality and amount of their military equipment has been undergoing a steady increase since the 1960’s. This is likely due to US influence after the coup of ’53, the reason being that after the Shah was overturned in ’79, there was a 60% desertion from the military.

Iran now supports various armed military groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Kurdish groups. Interestingly enough, Iran had been at loggerheads with the Taliban long before the United States, supporting the Northern Alliance for over a decade against the group and nearly declaring war on them in 1998.

Now, on to the coup. In 1953, the then democratically elected Mohammad Mossadegh was deposed in a plot by the CIA. Mossadegh had sought to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP, British Petroleum) and to change the terms of the company’s access to Iranian petroleum reserves. As with most acts of socialism by small developing nations, the United States saw its role to step in, as Noam Chomsky puts it, destroying the virus before it can spread. It’s worth noting that the virus is democracy in this case, and in most others.

In August 2013, 60 years after, the CIA admitted that it was involved in both the planning and the execution of the coup, including the bribing of Iranian politicians, security and army high-ranking officials, as well as pro-coup propaganda. The CIA is quoted acknowledging the coup was carried out “under CIA direction” and “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”

The coup involved assassinations and the use of Nazi and Muslim military groups in the area.

The result of this contemptuous behaviour towards a newly democratic nation coming to grips with what that meant, practically, for its citizenry, was to seed a deep anti-American sentiment in the public mind. It is noted as being instrumental in the 1979 revolution, which replaced the “pro-Western” government with an “anti-Western” Islamic republic.

The current prevalence of human rights abuses in Iran, and the relationship thereof to extreme interpretations of Islam, can be seen as an almost direct result of US foreign policy. It’s almost daft to see it otherwise, when you consider the above factors. To believe that this is more a religious or “Iranian” issue is to greatly exaggerate the power of religious and political life in Iran pre-intervention.

Now why would the United States bother to set up an elaborate coup in the first place? What do they have to gain from the political and social destabilisation of Iran? Well, it seems pretty obvious. Iran had traditionally been one of the strongest and most progressive of the Arab nations, and was increasingly moving towards socialist policy, democratic governance and the kind of nationhood that sees the natural resources of the land as belonging to the people of the nation, rather than foreign moneyed interests.

Iran was in the position, through its actions, to symbolise the independence of the Arab people. If this were allowed to play out unchecked, it’s highly likely that Iran would have pulled trade with many of the foreign owned oil companies harvesting its resources, and that neighbouring nations would follow suit. It’s not unlikely that a unified Middle East, somewhat similar in form to the EU, could have occurred if the democratic and socialist processes at work in Iran were encouraged and allowed to thrive, as opposed to being violently cut short.

I think the nuclear deal with Iran is a positive outcome, especially for the people of Iran and surrounding countries, insofar as it is what it claims to be. If the deal is as it is written, then we should see a slow movement of the Iranian zeitgeist back towards their upstart democratic tendencies. It’s also worth noting that this deal is not, as some have suggested, a United States ultimatum but rather the dissolution of an existing one; namely that the United States was, insofar as I can tell, veto-ing any application to the wider community of nations, by Iran, to embark upon a nuclear program.

We also must distinguish a “nuclear program” from a “nuclear weapons program”, the two are not mutually exclusive and a country can have one without the other. The former is what Iran has been pushing for to meet their energy needs, and like any other sovereign nation, they have a right to work to provide for their people.

One other possibility, and one worth considering, is that the deal is pretext for military intervention in Iran. By allowing Iran to develop nuclear capability, the US can make a pseudo-moral argument based on effectively falsifying some form of panic about what *might* be around the corner now that Iran could arm itself with nuclear weapons.

The history of the the West and Arab nationalism is one fraught with misunderstanding, exploitation and greed, and it has its roots deep in the past. The decline of the Ottomans and the subsequent division of the Middle East along the economic preferences of Russia and Britain were formative developments in the creation of the current forms of radicalised Islam and the theocracies in the region. We can also look to the Grand Area Planning conducted by the US State Department during the war years to give us an outline of the intent of US interaction with the Middle East.

What we won’t find is an individual to bring us through this unscathed. Many are looking to world leaders to mitigate the situation in the Middle East, but I feel this is misguided. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is in an unprecedented position within the United States, having mass grassroots support for a platform of simple, direct socialism, and many see him as being potentially instrumental in reforming the conflict, however he’s just a man. There have been countless great men and women throughout history, reformers and revolutionaries who have changed somewhat the course of history, but the main problems of humanity remain: our callousness, our violence, out hatred, our pettiness.

These are not problems to be fixed by an individual, but symptoms of a crisis in consciousness. We have dulled ourselves, become robotic, conditioned, frivolous, and rarely do we really look within ourselves to clarify the nature of these characteristics, or our relation to them.

So then, to place the responsibility for change onto another we are effectively giving life to stasis, we are creating a resistance to change and binding it to time. How do we extricate ourselves from this following mind, and find the state of being from which genuine change can grow?

I want to put a question from Krishnamurti to you to consider while we discuss this issue:

How is it possible to bring about the creative release of the individual, not only at the beginning of his existence, but throughout life? 

That is, how is the individual to have abundant energy rightly directed so that his life will have expansive and profound significance? 

Heres his answer:

Our thinking at present is merely a reaction, the response of a conditioned mind, and any action based on such thinking is bound to result in catastrophe. 

To discover what is truth, there must be a mind that has understood itself, which means going into the whole problem of self-knowledge. Only then is there the total revolution which alone brings about a creative release, and that creative release is the perception of what is truth.

 


For those interested in further study, Noam Chomsky has many talks on the subject which I’ve drawn the majority of my understanding from. Wikipedia, as always, is invaluable if you follow the sourcing. Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher who contributed perhaps one of the most lucid explorations of human thought in history, and spoke frequently on the problems of violence and inhumanity in the modern era.

Beyond the Bali 9: Indonesia’s Ongoing Contempt for Human Rights

After ten years of languishing in the Indonesian penal system, Myuran Sukumuran and Andrew Chan have been executed for drug smuggling on Wednesday the 29th of April 2015.

The executions came after months of diplomatic back and forth between Australia and Indonesia, high profile social media campaigns and even weigh-ins from celebrities around the world. Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s decision to go through with the killings is sure to deeply alter the future of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and cause international debate on the legitimacy of the death penalty and the so-called justice systems that administer it.

Hours after the event, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the decision to remove Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, an unprecedented response to the death penalty being carried out on a citizen. It is currently unknown how long the measures will last, according to The Age, senior government sources say that all aspects of the diplomatic relationship are “on the table”.

Australian politicians say that the Australian public should not “boycott” Indonesia and that the relationship between the two countries, although facing a “dark period”, should remain strong in the future.

Tony Abbott made statements today to the effect that he, or perhaps he means “us”, respects the Indonesian system of justice. All well and good. Diplomacy at times like these is, of course, an important consideration to avoid loss of relations, trade, and potential hostilities.

In saying this without qualification, however, we’ve missed our chance to stand up for our national values in a very real sense. Why has the administration not overtly and clearly denounced the death penalty? We can respect the Indonesian system as a sovereign judicial construct, but this does not imply that we must swallow it whole.

There are aspects of Indonesia’s justice system, as there are of our own, that are simply not good enough. The death penalty is one of them. More than half of the world’s countries have now abolished the punishment, and it is counted as a violation of section five of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

There is also the issue of Indonesia’s legal hypocrisy when it comes to their treatment of Indonesian nationals facing the death penalty overseas. Their government, under Widodo’s leadership, has launched a formal appeal to acquit an Indonesia domestic worker on death row in Saudi Arabia for murdering her Saudi employer’s wife.

If President Widodo cannot practice universality in his treatment of human beings, we cannot take him seriously as a democratic leader. The rule of law is one of the most important foundations of the modern democratic state, and to skew the process so that some are treated more fairly than others is to hold democracy, and it’s values, in contempt.

His treatment of the issue has been frivolous at best, declining even to read each separate clemency application as he is required to by law.

To uphold the legitimacy of the death penalty is to state that, under certain circumstances, crimes committed are so reprehensible that their perpetrators are beyond redemption and worthless as human beings. For a crime far worse than this, that argument may hold some weight with some of the less astute moral thinkers among us, but if we are to be sensible in our appraisal of these Chan and Sukumuran, we must recognise that trafficking even a drug as dangerous as heroin is no cause for a state to engage in murder.

We must also acknowledge that these two young men were, factually, not beyond redemption. They had spent ten years in the Indonesian prison system, which is more than enough time to rethink the actions that landed them there. And so they did, Chan becoming a pastor with aspirations of starting a family with his new wife, whom he married on Monday this week, and Sukumuran a qualified artist using his talent to draw attention to the human costs of the Indonesian justice system.

The response from the opposition and from the Greens has been more strident in condemnation of the executions, with Christine Milne stating, “Capital punishment must be abolished wherever in the world it is still carried out. We in Australia must continue to advocate for an end to capital punishment and promote human rights around the world, especially in our region.”

Labour leader Bill Shorten and deputy leader Tanya Plibersek condemned the executions in “the strongest possible terms”, in a joint statement today, questioning their commitment to the rule of law and the impact the killings will have on Indonesia’s reputation.

“Indonesia has not just robbed two young men of their lives but robbed itself of two examples of the strengths of its justice system.”

It has also robbed itself of two men who could have served as mentors to Indonesia’s underfunded and mistreated prison population, giving hope to human beings in a situation that is, for all intents and purposes, hopeless.

There is also the burning question of whether the Australian Federal Police’s decision to alert Indonesian authorities prior to the arrests of the Bali nine in 2005 was a responsible one to make. It is public knowledge that Indonesia executes drug smugglers, so the AFP cannot plead ignorance. At best, their actions unintentionally sentenced nine people to face a corrupt and brutal system of justice, at worst, it was calculated and intentional.

In the wake of the executions, it has come to public attention that Justice Minister Michael Keenan had omitted a line from the ministerial direction of the organisation outlining the role of the AFP in matters concerning the death penalty. The line reads as follows: “[the Australian Federal Police should] take account of the government’s longstanding opposition to the application of the death penalty, in performing its international liaison functions.”

This seems to run contrary to Julie Bishop’s comments that the government has sought to uphold the values of Australians. The Foreign Minister criticised the attention given to the removal of the line, stating that the AFP guidelines and the ministerial directive were “completely different documents.”

This seems to me to be missing the point. Any removal of strong words condemning the death penalty from government publications is cause for discussion, and those responsible for the changes should be subjected to questioning from the press and the public.

On the topic of discussion, there has been talk about “redemption” in the media with regards to Sukumuran and Chan, and I think that’s patently absurd to talk about with regards to the situation. They were not murderers or rapists, they were drug traffickers, men who engaged in a form of business we have made illegal.

When a banker is caught laundering money, the word “redemption” is suspiciously absent. When a CEO is caught funnelling money out of his shareholders accounts, again the word is nowhere to be seen. To use it in the context of drug smuggling is to characterise the behaviour as in some way a condition, rather than a decision, and that seems to me to be in no-one’s best interests but those of cheap political commentators.

Many of those commentators have failed to use this disturbing waste of human life to draw attention to the wider humanitarian issues taking place in Indonesia today. While the eyes of the world are on Widodo and the people he governs, it is high time to critically examine the legitimacy of the power structures in Indonesia and the ways in which they affect the some 252 million inhabitants of the nation.

Advocates for human rights have noted Indonesian government actions as a concern. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticized the Indonesian government on multiple subjects. In it’s 2012 World Report, Human Rights Watch stated that “while senior officials pay lip service to protecting human rights, they seem unwilling to take the steps necessary to ensure compliance by the security forces with international human rights and punishment for those responsible for abuses.”

This contempt for human rights seems to have marred Indonesia since it’s establishment as a democracy. The nations first elected president, Sukarno, employed a form of political control he termed “Guided Democracy”, an oxymoron if there ever was one, and seemed to act as more of a de facto emperor than a democratic leader. After being deposed in a United States-backed military coup on October 1st, 1965, the Indonesian and East Timorese people were subjected to decades of abuse and genocidal murder at the hands of the new kingpin, General Suharto. By most estimates, between 500,000 and a million civilians were murdered, and tens of thousands were detained in concentration camps and prisons.

Journalist Kathy Kadane quoted Robert J. Martens as saying that senior U.S. diplomats and CIA officials provided a list of approximately 5,000 names to the Indonesian Army while it was fighting the Indonesian communist party and its supporters.

One would assume that such violence so close to our own borders would engender strong condemnation from our officials, but the reality is far from it. Internal documents from Australian embassies show that officials were approvingly reporting that army units and Muslim groups were working hand in hand to shoot, hack or club to death at least 1,500 suspected Communist Party sympathisers per day, sometimes parading their heads on sticks.

General Suharto relied heavily on the military to “maintain domestic security”, a synonym for suppressing dissent and quashing resistance to his authoritarian style of governance. By 1969, 70% of Indonesia’s provincial governors and more than half its district chiefs were active military officers. Under these conditions, foreign journalists were murdered for reporting on the abuses taking place, including five Australian men in October 1975.

Corruption in the government was rife during Suharto’s reign, with lucrative government contracts, such as the national toll-expressway market, being awarded to his children. The family is said to control about 36,000 km square of real estate in Indonesia, including 100,000 square metres of prime office space in Jakarta and nearly 40% of the land in East Timor.

From 1983-1985, army death squads murdered up to 10,000 suspected criminals in response to a spike in crime rates. Efforts were made to control the freedom of the press by issuing a law that required all media to possess a press operating license, which could be revoked at any time by the Ministry of Information.

While the situation has improved markedly in the years after Suharto’s leadership, conditions are still less than humane for many living in Indonesia, West Papua and East Timor. Many Papuans will be able to recount stories of friends or family members who have been murdered. A study carried out by the University of Sydney claims that the continuation of current practices in West Papua “may pose serious threats to the survival of the indigenous people”.

Torture is not only a reality for Papuans, it is widespread, with significant documentary evidence including “trophy footage” filmed by Indonesian soldiers that depicts extreme abuses being carried out on helpless individuals. Rape and sexual assault has reportedly been used as a weapon by the military and the police forces, with a 1999 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concluding that security forces used rape as “an instrument of torture and intimidation” and that “torture of women detained by the Indonesian security forces was widespread.”

There are often limited or no investigation into human rights abuses and if any discipline is handed out it is usually a token gesture, with little effect on the perpetrators of the abuse. West Papua is currently off limits to international journalists, who face deportation, attack or imprisonment if they are discovered. The International Red Cross were expelled from the nation in 2010, and in 2012 Peace Brigades International were also forced to depart.

With all this injustice painfully surrounding the people of Indonesia, we simply cannot stop at a condemnation of the murder of two Australian men at the hands of a corrupt judiciary. If we are to call ourselves a nation that values human rights, where better to demonstrate that valuation than with our closest neighbour?

A clear message needs to be sent to Indonesia by Australian political leaders, that if they are to continue to commit genocidal acts on their citizens, that our economic and political relations will be unable to continue. If Australia garners international support for the movement, there is a good chance that the Indonesian leadership will be forced to comply, and that we can reopen the country to human rights organisations, aid groups and inspectors.

The omission of any mention of the crimes being committed under Widodo’s leadership in the Australian media’s response to the executions of Chan and Sukumuran speaks volumes about our leaders commitment to the goal of ending human rights violations in Indonesia. It is our responsibility as citizens of a somewhat functioning democracy to take action, to raise awareness and to push our elected officials to take a stand in our name against torture, rape, murder and genocide.

It is the least we can do.


This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

 

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