Two weeks ago, I emailed this very short letter to the Christchurch newspaper, The Press.
April 11, one week after Easter, was the second anniversary of the arrest of Julian Assange. He is still languishing in Belmarsh Prison.
Does anyone remember or even care, for that matter?
Actually someone does.
On Palm Sunday, the Pope sent Julian Assange a ‘kind, personal message’ , as reported by Assange’s financeé Stella Moris.
More messages need to be sent, not just to Assange but to President Biden to drop the espionage charge.
My letter wasn’t printed.
I find the silence from our media very disturbing. Many international journalists make the point that Julian Assange is being abused as a warning to other journalists, wherever they are. The UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer has said, “The progressively severe suffering inflicted on Mr. Assange, as a result of his prolonged solitary confinement, amounts not only to arbitrary detention, but also to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Melzer is very concerned about Assange’s exposure to COVID-19.
Why is our media silent? For that matter, why the silence from our political, religious, academic and media élite?
Why haven’t NZ clergy joined the Pope in writing to Assange?
Is it fear? Or just indifference?
I have recently read an essay by Richard Flanagan titled The Australian Disease where he says,“Yet in recent times we seem to have lived through not so much a crisis of politics as a collapse of that most human attribute, empathy…”
In an even more recent letter to The Press, again not printed, I referred to another issue that keeps me awake at night, the abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli forces.
Years ago, Martin and I were fortunate to visit the Ramallah , West Bank , HQ of Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) . We met some of their lawyers, Palestinian and international. DCIP issued a report in December 2020, Isolated and Alone: Palestinian Children held in Solitary Confinement by Israeli Authorities for Interrogation.
DCIP has accused the Israeli regime of practising “solitary confinement, amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under international law norms.”
The report should be publicised and discussed.
The abuse of Palestinian children by the Israeli regime should be an international scandal. Yet the West looks the other way.
Again, questions need to be asked. Why the silence? It is fear? In this case it is fear of being accused of anti-Semitism, ie, the ‘Jeremy Corbyn’ treatment?
Or paraphrasing Richard Flanagan , does New Zealand society too, suffer from , ‘a collapse of empathy?’
Lois Griffiths is a Human Rights Activist.