On June 5, on the edge of Lake Geneva, Davide Dormino’s bronze sculptures, depicting the two whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and journalist Julian Assange, were officially inaugurated.
Prior to the exhibition’s unveiling, the Swiss Press Club held a press conference on June 4, which was presented by Pierre Rueschi (Executive Director of the Geneva Press Club) and hosted speakers such as Nils Melzer (UN Special Rapporteur on Torture), Stella Morris (Julian Assange’s fiancée), Christophe Deloitre (Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders World), Jean Rossiaud (Former Geneva parliamentarian, initiator of the Swiss visa idea for Assange), Davide Dormino (Sculptor of “Anything To Say?“), Sarah Ducret (Association des usagers des Bains des Pâquis), Frédérique Perler (Mayor of Geneva -from June 1st), Yves Daccord (Former Director General of the the International Committee of the Red Cross and former journalist), Carlo Sommaruga (State Councillor, Swiss Parliament), Antoine Vey (Julian Assange’s attorney), Blaise Lempen (President of Press Emblem Campaign) and Joseph Farrell (WikiLeaks ambassador to the UK). *
The press conference was also an official call by the city of Geneva, for the UK government to release Julian Assange from Belmarsh prison in London. There was no doubt amongst the many speakers of Assange’s innocence nor of the unlawfulness of his imprisonment.
Former Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Yves Daccord, said:
“If you want to tackle a system, especially when you want to tackle a system, that is put in place, to put pressure on the people, to torture, to dehumanize people and I am really talking about a system, you need to have public disclosure.“
Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks ambassador to the UK, said about Assange’s case,
“We hear about press freedom constantly, especially from the global political establishment, who support it, yet, the name that seems to haunt it, all the time, is Julian’s name, Julian Assange. Despite having won his case against extradition, he remains detained in a maximum security prison, whilst the USA try to persecute and prosecute him with 175 years using an outdated law, that has ever been previously used on a journalist, on a publisher before…This case is so well known, his name was trending during world press freedom day, every major NGO, every major press freedom group has taken up his case. Every major media outlet opposes his extradition and they do this not just because it is the right thing to do, but they do it because they see the ramifications that this case will have in the world, in fact, is having in the world. The case hasn’t even been concluded and already we are seeing the precedent set and employed. Governments are going after journalists. We saw it with Bolsonaro in Brazil going after Greenwald, Macri going after journalists in Argentina, Russia going after Navalny. Planes have been dragged out of the sky.“
Julian Assange’s fiancée Stella Morris also commented the upcoming meeting between Presidents Biden and Putin in Geneva on June 16, “Biden is coming to this city in a few days’ time and everyone should tell him to stop this lunacy. It is an aberration that Julian is not a free man. In no sane world can this be normalised.“ Artist Davide Dormino’s suggested that “It would be awesome, if they [the presidents] would stand up on the empty chair.“ Let’s not get our hopes up.
The actual lives of the three figures Dormino has depicted in his art do not provide great cause for optimism. Edward Snowden still lives in exile in Russia, Julian Assange sits isolated in a cell in Belmarsh Prison in the UK, and Chelsea Manning, though free, has previously attempted suicide and is in a great deal of debt due to legal costs.
It is clear that the fight for Julian Assange‘s freedom has become a fight for his life, and this knowledge gave the otherwise hopeful event an undeniable weight of sombreness. Evidently, the very same institutions that are supposed to act in accordance with human rights, human dignity and our International jurisdictional system, are rejecting their responsibilities.
UN Special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said at the press conference:
“I can’t even motivate other governments, friendly governments, the German government, to support my call. And what pains me most, it’s the first time I say this publicly, I cannot convince the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations to have a meeting with me, to talk about Julian Assange. I’ve asked for that meeting in writing, in January last year. She has always found a reason not to meet with me. And that’s not because they are bad persons, but because the pressure is so huge. You have to know, that is the reality .”
A possible conclusion is that, if people from within the institutions have no power to change the outcome, only a critical mass of people on the outside can make the difference. Only the united voice of a majority can demand justice and pressure the Institutions. Prominent figures build platforms so that we can speak up. They give us the opportunity to stand behind them, while they cover the frontline.
Experts write books to equip us with knowledge, so we can safely speak the truth based on facts and lose the fear of being wrong about something that is absolutely right, which is this: journalism is not a crime and whistleblowing is an indispensable duty to society if the information is in the public interest.
Of course we need to know if our governments break laws or kill innocent people. Not supporting the people who expose government misconduct is, in effect, not supporting the very rights and freedoms upon which we so depend. The ones who “blow the whistle“ and sound the alarm have become the focus of the argument, while the real criminals walk free – their crimes forgotten as quickly as they were revealed.
On July 3 will be Julian Assange’s 50th birthday. To mark this occasion DiEM25 will organise collective actions during that time and an exclusive DiEM TV event on July 5, especially dedicated to him, featuring Davide Dormino and Angela Richter, who have been fighting over the years for Assange’s freedom, and for the future of the free press.
They will discuss how the silencing of whistle-blowers, including cancel culture, hinders progressive change, and how art can have an impact in the defence of freedom of expression. More information coming soon!
If you would like to support the cause and place pressure on the UK government to release Assange, please sign and share this petition.
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