Kunduz Hospital After the Attack

Julian Assange, or the vengeance of States

Jean-Hervé Bradol

Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine, emergency medicine and epidemiology. In 1989 he went on mission with Médecins sans Frontières for the first time, and undertook long-term missions in Uganda, Somalia and Thailand. He returned to the Paris headquarters in 1994 as a programs director. Between 1996 and 1998, he served as the director of communications, and later as director of operations until May 2000 when he was elected president of the French section of Médecins sans Frontières. He was re-elected in May 2003 and in May 2006. From 2000 to 2008, he was a member of the International Council of MSF and a member of the Board of MSF USA. He is the co-editor of "Medical innovations in humanitarian situations" (MSF, 2009) and Humanitarian Aid, Genocide and Mass Killings: Médecins Sans Frontiéres, The Rwandan Experience, 1982–97 (Manchester University Press, 2017).

Rony Brauman

Medical doctor, specialized in tropical medicine and epidemiology. Involved in humanitarian action since 1977, he has been on numerous missions, mainly in contexts of armed conflicts and IDP situations. President of Médecins sans Frontières from 1982 to1994, he also teaches at the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI) and is a regular contributor to Alternatives Economiques. He has published several books and articles, including "Guerre humanitaires ? Mensonges et Intox" (Textuel, 2018), "La Médecine Humanitaire" (PUF, 2010), "Penser dans l'urgence" (Editions du Seuil, 2006) and "Utopies Sanitaires" (Editions Le Pommier, 2000).

Le Monde
Date de publication

Opinion piece initially published December 18 2019 in the daily Le Monde, under the title "Nous appelons à la libération de Julian Assange et de Chelsea Manning, victimes de la vengeance d’Etats(payable access).

We know now that the United States and Great Britain lied about the reasons for starting the war in Iraq, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded. In addition, both countries belonged to military coalitions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria that committed numerous acts of torture and other war crimes.For revealing some of those atrocities to the public, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were persecuted.

Chelsea Manning – who was given a 35-year prison sentence in 2013 that was commuted to 7 years by Barack Obama – continues to be harassed by the US justice system, which put her in prison again for several months for refusing to testify against the WikiLeaks founder. Julian Assange’s fate is even more worrisome. Held in solitary confinement in alarming health, the journalist has been waiting in a high-security prison near London for a February 25, 2020 U.S. extradition hearing. 

Julian Assange is being subjected to psychological torture and cruel and unusual punishment. According to former British ambassador Craig Murray and current United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer, his life is in danger – the situation is urgent.

Unconstitutional prosecutions

The charges against him in the United States are very serious; if he is not ruled a political prisoner, the journalist will be sent there to face up to 175 years in prison. What is the U.S. Department of Justice charging him with? Conspiracy, hacking, and espionage, after WikiLeaks, in 2010, published documents leaked by soldier Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning exposing U.S. Army atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan. The journalist is accused of having “shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it”.

The charges are worrying to a number of newspapers and human rights organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which consider Manning’s prosecution unconstitutional and are alarmed by the legal precedents that such prosecutions could set.  The information was, after all, processed and published by internationally renowned newspapers, and the right to inform is being seriously challenged here – not by a dictatorship, but by democratic governments borrowing methods from authoritarian regimes.

While awaiting his U.S. extradition hearing, Assange is being officially held in Great Britain for having violated the conditions of his parole; in 2012, he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition after the Swedish courts charged him with sexual assault. Although that case has been dropped – after discrediting, in the process, someone willing to answer to the Swedish courts on the condition that he would not be extradited –, Assange remains in custody.

This time, Assange is not enjoying a wave of support equal to the indignation provoked by the WikiLeaks revelations helped by Chelsea Manning. Even NGOs and newspapers are keeping their distance – an attitude that no doubt stems from Assange’s alleged role in defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, his supposed connections with the Russian government, or the criminal investigation against him.

A crushed life

Yet we are not here to judge Assange’s personality or the “drift” that some see at WikiLeaks, but rather to point out that because he exposed war crimes and released thousands of military reports about abuses, acts of torture, kidnappings, and disappearances by the United States, Julian Assange’s life is now being crushed.

Because we are doctors and because Julian Assange’s life is in danger – just for revealing killings – we are adding our names to the international effort by sixty doctors to demand that Julian Assange immediately receive the care he needs in a hospital with qualified personnel.

Médecins Sans Frontières also witnesses, directly and indirectly, massacres and abuses committed by states with the power to cover them up or dictate the narrative about them.  In Afghanistan, for example, the United States has denied – despite the evidence – having intentionally bombed our Kunduz hospital, killing 42 people in October 2015.

As MSF members who are worried for those who expose war crimes and pay a high price for it, because the WikiLeaks founder has now been isolated and left to his fate, and out of solidarity with whistleblowers, we call upon the public to mobilize and demand the unconditional, immediate release of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, political prisoners and victims of state vengeance.

Jean-Hervé Bradol and Rony Brauman, past presidents of Médecins Sans Frontières.

To cite this content :
Jean-Hervé Bradol, Rony Brauman, “Julian Assange, or the vengeance of States”, 24 décembre 2019, URL : https://msf-crash.org/en/rights-and-justice/julian-assange-or-vengeance-states

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