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“Whistleblowers like Julian Assange are the heroes of our time”

Since the detention of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 11 April in the London Embassy of Ecuador and his conviction to 50 weeks imprisonment, there have been numerous protests, demonstrations, appeals for the release of Assange worldwide. Edward Snowden spoke from his asylum in Russia in a letter that was read in Berlin. In Switzerland, a group of lawyers has asked the Federal Council to grant Assange asylum in Switzerland because he is politically persecuted and threatened with torture and the death penalty if he is extradited because of his revelations of war crimes in the USA.
Assange himself has repeatedly expressed this fear since his flight to the Ecuadorian embassy. Numerous articles can be found in the alternative media. Many mainstream media, which at the time were keen to publish the WikiLeaks material on war crimes on their front pages, are now demonstrating at best restrained reporting.
But there’s more at stake here. It is about the protection of people who uncover war crimes, serious violations of international law by governments for the public, about the right to public participation of citizens. It is about protecting those for whom the UN Charter and human rights are still important. To protect democracy and the dangers to world peace. “In a democratic society, everyone must have access to reliable information […] so that a personal opinion can be formulated,” as Alfred de Zayas, who visited Assange 2015 in the embassy, stated in his demand for a charter of whistleblower rights already in 2016. And: “The weight of the law should fall on the persons whose criminal acts are uncovered by the whistleblowers. But those who commit war crimes, those who engage in corruption, those who conspire to defraud states of their tax revenue, continue to enjoy impunity.” (Current Concerns No. 11 from 18 May 2017).
It is also and above all about truth and justice for the countless innocent victims of the wars. Quite a few of these victims have expressed their gratitude to Assange for publishing with WikiLeaks the truth about the war, as Mairead Maguire, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1976) from Northern Ireland, writes in her haunting appeal. The hunt for Julian Assange – as the extensive chronicle makes clear – Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and many other whistleblowers must stop.

Eva-Maria Föllmer-Müller