Leading International Advocates for Civil Liberties Honor, Accept Award on Wikileaks Founder’s Behalf
February 3, 2013, New York, NY
Yoko Ono Lennon this evening granted her 2013 Courage Award for the Arts to journalist and Wikileaks principle Julian Assange. The award was delivered to Mr. Assange in absentia at The Modern restaurant in Manhattan before an audience of civil rights advocates, artists and diplomats.
Ms. Ono Lennon initiated the Courage Award in 2009 to recognize artists who demonstrated courage in their work, despite pressure to succumb to commercial and political constraints.
Today Yoko Ono Lennon commented on her decision to extend the award to a journalist:
“Our public officials have forgotten that they are ultimately accountable to the people who put them in office; that the information they keep in secrecy belongs to all of us. Julian Assange took a courageous step by rightfully returning what belongs to the public domain. For that reason, I believe we need to stand behind him.”
Currently confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Mr. Assange accepted the award via two of his legal counselors: Baltasar Garzón Real of Spain, best known for his precedent-setting pursuit of Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity, and Michael Ratner, longtime civil rights attorney and President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who delivered Mr Assange’s speech to the audience.
In his speech, Mr Assange gives special thanks to Ecuador’s people, its President, Rafael Correa, and its Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patiño, who also honored Mr Assange at the ceremony.
Mr Assange’s speech dedicates the award to Wikileaks’ sources, supporters and staff, stating, “through their courage and wit they are revealing the true nature of our global human civilization. This is how we may reform it. Elevate it – and make it just, beyond its humble origins. Their courage in documenting war crimes, gross human rights violations, and the corruption of our societies is unequalled.”
He also made special mention of the recent death of American programmer and Internet activist, Aaron Swartz, who took his own life after being pursued with felony charges for downloading academic articles at MIT.
Notably, the ceremony also included a speech by American whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who famously exposed the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War era.
Daniel Ellsberg: “Julian Assange richly deserves this award. I hope that this award will give the Nobel Committee the courage to award Bradley Manning and Julian Assange the Nobel Peace Prize.”
Michael Ratner: “Julian and others who’ve opened secret governments and exposed crimes should be treated as heroes. Hopefully the courage award will go a long way toward acknowledging his public service and ending his persecution. I hope that in five years Julian will be standing before us, celebrated like Daniel Ellsberg was tonight.”
Baltasar Garzón: “Even when he is a prisoner inside the Ecuadorean Embassy his voice is not. His words, wisdom and acts are out, reminding us all the time that courage is contagious and truth is a powerful force.”
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino Aroca: “Julian gives us all an example: the powerful cannot hide information to dominate states and destroy democracies.”