Julian Assange has been nominated for the 2019 Nobel peace prize. As the founder of WikiLeaks, an organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks and classified documents from anonymous sources, he has attracted, amongst others, the ire of the United States.
Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 2012, having been granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian government. He was forced into this refuge to escape extradition to the US, where he could face many years of incarceration.
This fear is well founded. Sources in the US Department of Justice have confirmed to both the Associated Press and the New York Times that charges have secretly been brought against the whistleblowing publisher. (DoJ inadvertently confirms sealed indictment awaits Julian Assange if extradited to the US by Whitney Webb, Mint Press News, 16 November 2018)
Legal action is currently being undertaken by Assange’s lawyers in an attempt to force the US government to reveal the nature of these charges. (Assange takes legal action to force Trump administration to reveal charges against him by Popular Resistance, Mint Press News, 23 January 2019)
However, his situation remains bleak. Summarising the situation, the Ecuadorian foreign minister stated: “Mr. Assange has basically two options: to stay indefinitely because the British authorities have told us … that they will never authorise a safe passage for him to leave the embassy to a third country, and the other alternative is to surrender.” (WikiLeaks’ Assange should surrender to UK rather than stay at embassy indefinitely – Ecuador FM, RT, 11 January 2019)
Mairead Maguire, a Nobel peace prize laureate in her own right (for her contributions to peace during the Irish troubles), nominated Assange for the prize. In her letter to the Nobel committee, Maguire stated: “Through his release of hidden information to the public we are no longer naive to the atrocities of war; we are no longer oblivious to the connections between big business, the acquisition of resources, and the spoils of war.” (Mairead Maguire nominates Julian Assange for Nobel peace prize, World Beyond War, 7 January 2019)
Ironically, Assange could face tough competition for the award from none other than US president Donald Trump, who, in recent days, has been boasting to the press of his own nomination by the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. (Trump: Shinzo Abe nominated me for Nobel peace prize, The Guardian, 15 February 2019)
Assange is unlikely to win the award (war criminals such as Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama tend to be more in vogue with the Nobel committee) for the simple reason that a victory would create great embarrassment for the US.
After all, how could a nation that claims to uphold ‘freedom’, ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’ and the ‘rule of law’ seek to imprison a winner of the Nobel peace prize? How could they justify seeking to punish the very acts that the award panel would have recognised as being just?