This is an open letter to Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Attorney-General Nicola Roxon. It calls on the Australian government to take steps to ensure Julian Assange’s human rights are protected. It will be delivered on 19 December 2011, but we encourage members of the public to sign the letter below by adding their full name in the comments section, together with any comment they may wish to make. Please feel free to spread the word about the letter to others who may be interested.

Bernard Keane and Elizabeth O’Shea

The Hon Kevin Rudd
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House ACT 2600

Dear Minister

We write to express our concern about the plight of Julian Assange.

To date, no charges have been laid against Mr Assange by Swedish authorities. Nonetheless, we understand that should he be sent to Sweden, he will be held on remand, incommunicado. We note your comments last year about the need for Mr Assange to receive appropriate consular support. We trust that this consular support is being provided and will continue.

We are concerned that should Mr Assange be placed in Swedish custody, he will be subject to the process of “temporary surrender”, enabling his removal to the United States without the appropriate legal processes that accompany normal extradition cases. We urge you to convey to the Swedish government Australia’s expectation that Mr Assange will be provided with the same rights of appeal and review that any standard extradition request would entail.

Any prosecution of Mr Assange in the United States will be on the basis of his activities as a journalist and editor (Mr Assange’s status as such has been recently confirmed by the High Court in England). Such a prosecution will be a serious assault on freedom of speech and the need for an unfettered, independent media.

Further, the chances of Mr Assange receiving a fair trial in the United States appear remote. A number of prominent political figures have called for him to be assassinated, and the Vice-President has called him a “high-tech terrorist”. Given the atmosphere of hostility in relation to Mr Assange, we hold serious concerns about his safety once in US custody. We note that Mr Assange is an Australian citizen, whose journalistic activities were undertaken entirely outside of US territory.

Mr Assange is entitled to the best endeavours of his government to ensure he is treated fairly. He is entitled to expect that his government will not remain silent while his liberty and safety are placed at risk by a government embarrassed by his journalism. Australians also expect that their government will speak out against efforts to silence the media and intimidate those who wish to hold governments to account.

We ask that you convey clearly to the United States government Australia’s concerns about any effort to manufacture charges against Mr Assange, or to use an unrelated criminal investigation as the basis for what may effectively be rendition. We also urge the government to publicly affirm that Mr Assange is welcome to return to Australia once proceedings against him in Sweden are concluded, and that the government will fully protect his rights as an Australian citizen once here.

We have copied this letter to your colleague, the Attorney-General.

Yours sincerely

Phillip Adams AO
Adam Bandt MP
Wendy Bacon
Greg Barns
Susan Benn
Senator Bob Brown
Dr Scott Burchill
Julian Burnside QC
Dr Leslie Cannold
Mike Carlton
Professor Noam Chomsky
David Collins
Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Lance Collins, Australian Intelligence Corps
Eva Cox
Sophie Cunningham
Roy David
Andrew Denton
Senator Richard Di Natale
Peter Fitzsimons
Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser AC CH
Anna Funder
Professor Raimond Gaita
David Gilmour and Polly Samson
Kara Greiner
Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Liz Humphrys
Barry Owen Jones AO
Professor Sarah Joseph
Bernard Keane
Professor John Keane
Stephen Keim SC
Steve Killelea
Andrew Knight
Mary Kostakidis
Professor Theo van Leeuwen
Ken Loach
Antony Loewenstein
Senator Scott Ludlam
Associate Professor Jake Lynch
Professor Robert Manne
Dr Ken Macnab
David Lyle
Alex Miller
Senator Christine Milne
Alex Mitchell
Reg Mombassa
Gordon Morris
Jane Morris
Julian Morrow
The Hon Alastair Nicholson AO RFD QC
Nicolé Nolan
Rebecca O’Brien
Elizabeth O’Shea
Michael Pearce SC
John Pilger
Justin Randle
Senator Lee Rhiannon
Guy Rundle
Angus Sampson
Senator Rachel Siewert
Marius Smith
Jeff Sparrow
Professor Stuart Rees AM
Rob Stary
Stephen Thompson
Dr Tad Tietze
Mike Unger
Dale Vince
Brian Walters SC
Rachel Ward
Senator Larissa Waters
Tracy Worcester, Marchioness of Worcester
Senator Penny Wright
Prof Spencer Zifcak

Editorial team

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  1. I would like to think that a government I heiped to elect because I believed them to be fair and just would have the courage and integrity to protect an Australian citizen’s rights.

  2. Please add my support, because the government should do the right thing for the citizens of its country and as a young teen growing up I would like to believe our government protects the human rights of everybody.

  3. Please add my name. Aussies abroad are entitled to consular support no matter what their alleged crimes.

  4. It’s time that the Australian Government took the rights of citizens abroad as seriously as the United States does. The US will not grant Mr Assange any preference by dint of his Australian birth. For what it’s worth, this effort to elicit a decent response from our Government has my full support.

  5. It is absolutely chilling that prominent political figures in the United States have called for Julian to be assassinated.
    It is a tragedy that Julian could face a high price for merely revealing the truth. I agree with the letter and I would like to add my name to it.

  6. There are times where Australian government must move to protect the rights of its citizens, irrespective of how annoyed another country may become with such an intrusion. For goodness sake are we “mice or men” when confronted with such an obvious choice between right and wrong. The United States have drifted into areas where we do not want to follow. I want to see a strong stance taken to protect this man’s rights.

  7. I support this letter wholeheartedly and will be watching the actions of the Australian Government with interest and concern.

  8. There are no secrets. Get over it. Personally, my advice would be to look at the flag & remember which country & which citizens you represent if you want to keep representing any of them then do your duty for all & each of them equally.
    It isn’t sensible to be getting mixed up in war crimes, torture & massive fraud all in the name of a war of lies.

    Failure to be sensible will probably turn out badly, like it usually does except very badly this time.

  9. Kevin your trailing of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s name in your first Monthly essay was shameless but to a old left wing catholic like me sparked a bit of hope that you may understand important issues. On your demise you warned of harsher times for aliens/refugees like Moses/Jesus. Surely Dietrich would be in Julian’s corner. Please don’t wash your hands and render an Australian citizen to another power.

  10. Freedom of speech is paramount & journalistic sources must be protected. Despite what our PM Ms Gillard has said Mr Assange has broken no known law in Australia. If you don’t stick up for our fellow Australians in sticky times then expect that they may be less inclined to do that for you when your turn comes around.

  11. The initial comments of the Australian Prime Minister and Attorney-General, about Julian Assange’s role in disclosing data on Wikileak’s website, lead me to believe that they are both unfit to serve in the Australian Parliament.

  12. I fully support this letter. Free speech, an independent media and the rights of an Australian citizen must be upheld. Australian should expect no less from their Government.

  13. Please add my name. Thank you for writing this letter.We need to stand up and insist that Julian Assange is protected. If we allow the US government to have its way with Assange, then we will have lost what little civil rights and democracy we have left.

  14. I fully endorse this letter. Australian government should not meekly defer to the ‘great and powerful friend’!
    Please add my name .

  15. Thank you to all the writers of the lettter to the Foreign Minister. I fully support its argument. The rule of law is the fulcrum of democracy and the presumption of innocence is the key to our law.

  16. politicians should remember they are in service to the people. the people have a right to know what is going on in the world. Wikileaks has done well to expose cruelty and oppression. let us see a fairer, more compassionate world, where we can all live in dignity. H

  17. I fully support the letter to the Foreign Minister and Attorney General regarding the need to provide protection to Australian citizen Mr Julian Assange.

  18. I support this letter and urge strong action be undertaken by Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the Attorney General (congratulations Nicole – it would be a great if you acted promptly on this!)

  19. I fully support the letter to the Foreign Minister and Attorney General regarding the need to provide protection to Australian citizen Mr Julian Assange.

  20. Lets have less sycophancy in relation to the USA, Prime Minister, and more demonstrated support for an Australian citizen whom, it appears, has been pre-judged on very tenuous grounds.

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