Global Exchange’s Human Rights Awards honor the achievements of groups and individuals whose work embodies the principles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: peace, justice, and equality.
We celebrated the 2013 Human Rights Awards on Thursday May 9th in San Francisco. This year’s Honorees are:
- People’s Choice Award: Julian Assange and Wikileaks
- Grassroots Award: Crystal Lameman
- Human Rights Award: Noam Chomsky
The award to Julian Assange and Wikileaks was presented by Kiki Kapany of the Julian Assange Defense Fund and accepted by Daniel Ellsberg and Jacob Applebaum.
If you missed this special night, (or were there and want to re-visit a few moments from the program) below is Julian Assange’s acceptance speech (as read by Daniel Ellsberg), along with Kiki Kapany’s introduction.
Introduction delivered by Kiki Kapany:
Good evening! My name is Kiki Kapany, and I’m here on behalf of the Julian Assange Legal Defense Committee. In 2010, Global Exchange–in true grassroots spirit–decided to add the People’s Choice Award to this event to shine a spotlight on the sung – and unsung – heroes and heroines working for peace, justice and sustainability, as determined by the global community.
This year’s event is particularly important to us because it’s Global Exchange’s 25th anniversary. The response in previous years has been tremendous, and the honorees, from Mu Sochua from Northern Cambodia, to Javier Sicilia from Mexico, to Bradley Manning in prison in Kansas – are all inspiring examples both of this award and the values for which our movement stands. This year, 108 amazing activists were nominated. This year’s honoree won by an overwhelming majority.
In my mind there is no greater pursuit than defending the rights of the defenseless. But in order to right wrongs, in order to alleviate wrongdoing and defend those who need defending, we first need to know about that wrongdoing.
Today governments have unprecedented power to keep their wrongdoing secret. Julian Assange has shown the way to smash through that secrecy and to bare the face of all wrongdoing to the world. Whether exposing Ben Ali’s corruption in Tunisia or releasing secret diplomatic cables — or videos of airstrikes on innocent civilians, Assange and WikiLeaks have made it possible for the people to know about and have proof of these wrongs, and sometimes even to right them—as the Tunisians did when they drove Ben Ali out of power.
The creation of WikiLeaks is a truly revolutionary act and indeed represents a revolution in human rights. By using the internet to shatter the power of governments and large institutions to do their depredations in darkness, in secrecy, Assange has taken a giant step toward the protection of human rights.
Kofi Annan has said, “Business as usual is not an option… No nation can be prosperous without respect for human rights and law. Disruption is the wrecking ball that we must swing against inertia.” And what better exemplifies the swinging of that wrecking ball than the release of critical information?
A few years ago, Julian explained the impetus behind WikiLeaks to by saying, “I looked at something that I had seen going on with the world, which is that I thought there were too many unjust acts. And I wanted there to be more just acts, and fewer unjust acts.” Well, if you don’t imagine change – it won’t happen.
One person who is living proof of that axiom is here with us tonight: Daniel Ellsberg, whose release of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and other newspapers was an act of outright bravery that changed the entire course of history.
So who better to accept Global Exchange’s 2013 Peoples Choice Award to Julian Assange and WIKILEAKS–and to read a statement by its exiled editor in chief, Julian Assange–than another hero of transparency, Daniel Ellsberg.
Julian Assange’s Acceptance Speech read by Daniel Ellsberg
Thank you for this honor.
I am very happy to be sharing it with Noam Chomsky whose generosity and
strength of character I know personally. Noam, you are the sea; relentless and enduring. Crashing wave after wave of understanding into towering cliffs of lies, eroding them at their base. The rotten foreshore of empire has a precipitous overhang as a result. You have inspired and continue to inspire many, including me.
Thank you to the people in this room for supporting this award. I’m going to thank you and Dan in the best way I know. By keeping this speech short. Then you can go and do the important thing. Make alliances to fight for WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning and me. Don’t think you can escape just because I am not there. We have a lot more spies in this room than the FBI.
San Francisco and the Bay Area is important to us. Ideologically, personally and practically. We fought our first big court case in the San Francisco federal courts in 2008; That was no-coincidence. If we were going to have a fight, anywhere in the world, then I wanted it to be in San Francisco. I structured WikiLeaks to encourage attacks on us to be drawn to San Francisco (sorry about that). The EFF, FPF and many of our other defenders are based here. If any state of the Union is going to save the United States from itself, it will be California. Washington sees that too–that’s why we’re being prosecuted in Virginia and Maryland.
Noam’s presence in this room –useful, even if from the east coast–reflects something very special. Cross generational solidarity. From Dan and Noam to Michael Ratner, from Kiki to me, from Jacob to Bradley Manning. The issues of each demi-generation are being understood as a continuation into the present. My fight is right now. But so is Bradley Manning’s. So is Jacob’s. I want Dan, Noam and Jacob, and all of you here, together with me in this fight because I know you understand. Our conflict tests every aspect of character, but it has also brought out the best in many and I am proud of them.
Remember that Bradley Manning’s trial starts on June 3. It’s scheduled to run for 12 to 16 weeks. The prosecution is bringing 141 witnesses. It is a show trial. A 12 week off-Broadway extravaganza being performed at Fort Mead. Its legal and political result will directly feed into the larger prosecution of WikiLeaks.
What is to be done? The answer is easy. It has always been easy. Stop saying “not in my name” and start saying “over my dead body”.
Re-visit the 2013 Human Rights Awards, check out the photos from the evening on our Facebook page.