The case of notorious homicidal pedophile Marc Dutroux, now serving a life sentence in Belgium, is infamous for the deep depravity of the crimes that were committed and witnessed.
Evidence emerged twice in the case, first in legal proceedings, secondly by the publication of many of the prosecution’s records by many have called a coverup perpetrated by the Belgian establishment. The episode is a definitive example of the exposure of deep judicial and political corruption leading to widespread public distrust in the legitimacy of their institutions of government.
Dutroux leaving court during 2013 sentencing appeal. (YouTube)
This sentiment has been echoed most recently in the U.S., where the primary rigging in 2016 by the Democratic National Committee left many feeling that the rule of law has come to mean little in the face of an utterly corrupt establishment that has become unaccountable to the public.
The Dutroux scandal set a precedent of mass public protest in response to such abuses, evident last year (2016) in South Korea’s response to the scandal surrounding President Park Geun-hye and her advisor Choi Soon-Sil.
It took the better part of a decade,/a> for the Belgian legal system to convict Marc Dutroux in 2004 for the mid-1990s kidnapping and rape of six girls, four of whom were murdered. The case was infamous for an inexplicably high number of mysterious deaths, suppression of evidence by the police, and numerous accounts from witnesses of extreme abuse perpetrated by a well-connected, violent pedophile ring.
The case prompted roughly “The White March,” where protesters adopted a color that in Belgium is a sign of hope.
The Dutroux Affair left such deep scars on the consciousness of the Belgian population that roughly one third of Belgians who shared the surname Dutroux with the accused had their names legally changed. Despite the case having been legally concluded, many years later it is apparent that numerous significant elements of the important case remain unresolved.
The case began with the arrest of Marc Dutroux in 1996. Two of the four dead girls found on his properties had been buried alive after being wrapped in plastic. Two more girls died of starvation in a home-made underground dungeon while Dutroux served a brief prison sentence. Part of the public outcry regarding the handling of Dutroux’s case stemmed from his previous convictions for similar rapes against young girls; despite the nature of these crimes, Dutroux had been released early, allowing him to re-offend.
Media reports describe victims kept in cages. A large amount of DNA evidence recovered from these cells were never analyzed by authorities, even though it may have revealed the identities of additional perpetrators. The defense regularly cited DNA evidence indicating that other people visited Dutroux’s cell, alluding to hundreds of human hairs that were never accounted for.
Adding to the botched nature of the case, police eventually admitted that they could have saved lives had they watched videos confiscated from Dutroux’s home showing him constructing the dungeon where some of the girls died.
Dutroux’s lawyer commented in court on the failure to analyze DNA evidence found in the basement cell where two of Dutroux’s victims died: “Can people really make you believe there wasn’t a pedophile ring? We see clearly in the dossier material proof that other people than the accused here present frequented the cellar.”
Dutroux’s claims regarding help from the police appeared to have been corroborated by seven arrests in the case, including that of a police officer.
Dutroux and his counsel consistently alleged that he had abducted and abused girls with police help as part of a child trafficking and abuse network connected to the elite of the Belgian establishment during his criminal proceedings. The claims were discussed by The Washington Post, which also noted that police had said Dutroux was part of a child-prostitution ring that may also have been responsible for several other disappearances still unsolved. Reporters wrote that Dutroux’s “gang” allegedly offered to buy young victims for $5,000 apiece.
House where Dutroux held his victims, covered in a mural, 2015. (CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Accomplice Michel Nihoul
Dutroux also claimed that Belgian businessman Michel Nihoul had been his accomplice and was his link with a larger criminal enterprise. Nihoul was charged in relation to the case with “kidnapping, rape, conspiracy, and drug offenses,” among a total of 13 people who were charged in connection with the Dutroux case. Nihoul was acquitted of charges connected to kidnappping, but was convicted of participating in a ring that trafficked drugs and people into Belgium.
Nihoul had expressed confidence to The Guardian after charges were initially brought against him, saying that the case would never come to court because he had “information about important people in Belgium that could bring the government down.” During the interview Nihoul boasted, calling himself the monster of Belgium. His allusion to sexual blackmail material paralleled Marc Dutroux’s allegations during court proceedings that Nihoul was connected to a network of powerful child abusers.
According to the BBC, investigators believed that Dutroux and Nihoul were both part of a larger human trafficking network: “Investigators believe Dutroux and Nihoul were planning a long distance prostitution trafficking network involving cars and the import of girls from Slovakia…” Fox News reported on the reaction of the mother of one of Dutroux’s victims, who said: “This has confirmed what I thought: They worked together… the recognition of this is a relief.”
Nihoul’s conviction for trafficking drugs and people begs the question as to who else may have been involved in the network. Nihoul’s statement that he could “bring the government down” implied his criminal activities included ties with influential individuals, which echoed statements made by Marc Dutroux.
Witnesses in the case identified Nihoul as a violent man who attended orgies where children were sexually abused, tortured and sometimes killed with members of the establishment present. The first judge in the case, Jean-MarcConnerotte, believed “Nihoul was the brains behind the operation,” The Guardian reported. The Telegraph reported that Dutroux’s lawyers had alluded to horrific claims of a “satanic cult” that included child sacrifice.
There were over 800 mentions of Nihoul in the WikiLeaks dossier, published in 2009. The notes record the presence of a photo of Nihoul with “various political figures,” as well as a statement by Dutroux that: “Nihoul proposed to reduce [traffick] girls from Eastern countries.”
Descriptions of Dutroux in the dossier include his request of help from his brother in pushing a car laden with bodies into a canal. This instance was one of many observations in the dossier which strongly suggest that Dutroux and Nihoul were involved in more crimes than those for which they were charged, and that there may have been additional unknown accomplices in these acts. That these potential links were not investigated fueled public outrage at the failure of the Belgian judicial process.
The olive branch plucked from the dove of peace
And thrown into the fires below
Where smoke still cloaks the ashy terrain
In an age where traitors keep the flame.
The forces of deception that were exposed
Could not feel shame before the curtain torn
And thus their will by force imposed
On the lamb of innocence so forlorn.
They chained the messenger and cut his tongue
They clipped the wings of the golden goose
They lured the victim into a trap
Whose only end is the hangman’s noose.
How many will pass his window never knowing
Of the pain that with time is growing
And yet no compassion comes from the craven minds
Who still presume that the world’s eyes are blind.
But the eyes of the world are watching still
The victims of the order “shoot to kill”
The whistle having been blown cannot be reversed
And yet for telling the truth a purer life is cursed.
Haunted by captivity
Are all of us who cannot be free
Until the embassy doors open to a faraway road
Where the hunched and beaten let down their heavy load.
A sacrifice made to keep us wise
Occam’s razor slicing through a web of lies
Where subterfuge is spewed without hesitation
While idiots delight at justice’s frustration.
Julian Assange is the brother we never met
And yet our tears of rage still burn.
How then could the world forget
The lessons for which he gave his freedom so that we might learn?
This was written 4/7 of this year. I look back on that time, and feel like those of us who've followed Wikileaks for a long time were collectively holding our breath.
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Nils Melzer, the UN expert on torture, explains how the prejudices and smears he confronted when investigating the case of political prisoner Julian Assange. The longtime legal adviser to the International Committee of the Red Cross (known as the ‘Guardian of international law’) offered this OpEd to a wide array of establishment outlets. None responded positively.
A version of this article was first published in Medium on 26 June 2019, it is republished here with permission of the author.
UPDATE 21 JULY 2019 – The paragraph entitled ‘The Swedish case’ was amended for clarity, further to the author’s amendments.
I know, you may think I am deluded. How could life in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard ever amount to torture? That’s exactly what I thought, too, when Assange first appealed to my office for protection. Like most of the public, I had been subconsciously poisoned by the relentless smear campaign, which had been disseminated over the years. So it took a second knock on my door to get my reluctant attention. But once I looked into the facts of this case, what I found filled me with repulsion and disbelief.
Surely, I thought, Assange must be a rapist! But what I found is that he has never been charged with a sexual offence. True, soon after the United States had encouraged allies to find reasons to prosecute Assange, Swedish prosecution informed the tabloid press that he was suspected of having raped two women. Strangely, however, the women themselves never claimed to have been raped, nor did they intend to report a criminal offence. Go figure. Moreover, the forensic examination of a condom submitted as evidence, supposedly worn and torn during intercourse with Assange, revealed no DNA whatsoever — neither his, nor hers, nor anybody else’s. Go figure again. One woman even texted that she only wanted Assange to take an HIV test, but that the police were “keen on getting their hands on him”. Go figure, once more. Ever since, both Sweden and Britain have done everything to prevent Assange from confronting these allegations without simultaneously having to expose himself to US extradition and, thus, to a show-trial followed by life in jail. His last refuge had been the Ecuadorian Embassy.
US hacking claims are “isolated, speculative, and inconsequential”
Alright, I thought, but surely Assange must be a hacker! But what I found is that all his disclosures had been freely leaked to him, and that no one accuses him of having hacked a single computer. In fact, the only arguable hacking-charge against him relates to his alleged unsuccessful attempt to help breaking a password which, had it been successful, might have helped his source to cover her tracks. In short: a rather isolated, speculative, and inconsequential chain of events; a bit like trying to prosecute a driver who unsuccessfully attempted to exceed the speed-limit, but failed because their car was too weak.
Exposing “war crimes, corruption, and abuse”
Well then, I thought, at least we know for sure that Assange is a Russian spy, has interfered with US elections, and negligently caused people’s deaths! But all I found is that he consistently published true information of inherent public interest without any breach of trust, duty or allegiance. Yes, he exposed war crimes, corruption, and abuse, but let’s not confuse national security with governmental impunity. Yes, the facts he disclosed empowered US voters to take more informed decisions, but isn’t that simply democracy? Yes, there are ethical discussions to be had regarding the legitimacy of unredacted disclosures. But if actual harm had really been caused, how come neither Assange nor Wikileaks ever faced related criminal charges or civil lawsuits for just compensation?
But surely, I found myself pleading, Assange must be a selfish narcissist, skateboarding through the Ecuadorian Embassy and smearing feces on the walls? Well, all I heard from Embassy staff is that the inevitable inconveniences of his accommodation at their offices were handled with mutual respect and consideration. This changed only after the election of President Moreno, when they were suddenly instructed to find smears against Assange and, when they didn’t, they were soon replaced. The President even took it upon himself to bless the world with his gossip, and to personally strip Assange of his asylum and citizenship without any due process of law.
Dehumanising the target
In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange had been systematically slandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanised through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.
“Full-fledged psychological torture”
Very well, you may say, but what does slander have to do with torture? Well, this is a slippery slope. What may look like mere «mudslinging» in public debate, quickly becomes “mobbing” when used against the defenseless, and even “persecution” once the State is involved. Now just add purposefulness and severe suffering, and what you get is full-fledged psychological torture.
Yes, living in an Embassy with a cat and a skateboard may seem like a sweet deal when you believe the rest of the lies. But when no one remembers the reason for the hate you endure, when no one even wants to hear the truth, when neither the courts nor the media hold the powerful to account, then your refuge really is but a rubber boat in a shark-pool, and neither your cat nor your skateboard will save your life.
“A precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy”
Even so, you may say, why spend so much breath on Assange, when countless others are tortured worldwide? Because this is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.
This Op-Ed has been offered for publication to the Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek.
None responded positively.
In 2017, a memorandum was sent to the White House from a group of former U.S. intelligence officials, including William Binney, former technical director at the National Security Agency (NSA).
The team was a veritable who’s who of accredited technical wizards, comprising former top brass from the NSA, CIA, U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Intelligence Council, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and IBM.
The subject of the memo was their forensic analysis of the emails that were allegedly obtained from a hack at the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—a basis for assertions that the campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government.
Unchallenged allegations of a computer “hack” permeated nearly all mainstream-media coverage of the investigation and were sprinkled throughout much of the final report from special counsel Robert Mueller. The indictment of 12 Russians by Mueller asserts that the emails were obtained through a remote network breach. The indictment drones on and on about a Russian military unit dubbed “Unit 26165” and “X-Agent malware” that supposedly allowed the DNC emails to be compromised.
But analysis of the files themselves (analysis that team Mueller either never conducted or never discussed) shows otherwise.
What was revealed through forensic analysis of the emails was that they were copied at speeds too high to have been hacked and transmitted over the internet. The metadata indicate that the emails had to have been copied locally—by someone who had physical access to the network—to some sort of mobile hard drive or flash drive.
Binney and former CIA and State Department Counter Terrorism officer Larry Johnson wrote in a report that “the highest transfer rate was 49.1 megabytes per second, which is much faster than possible from a remote online connection. The 49.1 megabytes speed coincides with the download rate for a thumb drive.”
But let’s set that aside for a moment. The report also fails to account for the CIA’s Marble Framework tool—leaked to the public by WikiLeaks in its “Vault 7” drop—that allows the agency to “mask its hacking attacks to make it look like it came from” another country, including Russia. Even if there was a hack (the only available evidence shows there wasn’t), the CIA could have easily been behind it and left false digital footprints that blamed Russia. Mueller failed to address this, as well.
These are hardly minor details. And it should now be clear to all that exculpatory evidence is something that neither the Mueller team nor establishment media are interested in providing to the public.
Here’s a friendly reminder that Mueller’s team couldn’t possibly have asserted, with a high degree of confidence, that the emails were actually hacked, because they didn’t even examine the DNC’s server. Neither did the FBI. It’s not inconsequential that the DNC refused to let anyone examine the server. The FBI just accepted the hack narrative based on the word of CrowdStrike, a firm hired by the DNC—a firm whose analyst that supposedly examined the DNC server just happened to have previously worked for none other than … Robert Mueller.
The Mueller report repeatedly uses the words “hack” and “hacking,” yet fails to offer a shred of evidence that a hack actually took place. The public is just supposed to accept on good faith a claim made by a former FBI director (under his own cloud of suspicion), who’s investigating the current president in a case initiated by biased FBI officials whose investigation is based on opposition research provided by the Russians and paid for by the president’s political opposition, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Analysis of the stolen emails not only eviscerates the legitimacy of at least 12 of Mueller’s indictments—the ones against Russians he accused of conducting a hack that never actually occurred—it further calls into question the motives for the origin of the Mueller probe.
Specifically, the report states, “Taken together, these disparate data points combine to paint a picture that exonerates alleged Russian hackers and implicates persons within our law enforcement and intelligence community taking part in a campaign of misinformation, deceit and incompetence. It is not a pretty picture.”
After an investigation that had 19 lawyers, 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, 500 witnesses interviewed, and more than 230 orders for communication records, not only was there no finding of collusion, conspiracy, or obstruction, we are also still left with a question about how this whole thing started.
Who actually stole the DNC emails?
I think the answer is no one. They were released from someone inside. No, I couldn't tell you if it was Seth Rich.
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Judge Emma Arbuthnot has refused to recuse herself from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s US extradition hearings. This is what “class justice” looks like.
Arbuthnot, Chief Magistrate and Senior District Judge for England and Wales, is flouting fundamental legal principles to ensure that she presides over a show trial against Assange, due to resume at Westminster Magistrates Court on February 25. If extradited, Assange faces charges under the Espionage Act, carrying a 175-year prison sentence. Further charges are pending, which could include the death penalty.
The “Guide to Judicial Conduct” in England and Wales, published in 2018, states that, “Judicial independence is a cornerstone of our system of government in a democratic society and a safeguard of the freedom and rights of the citizen under the rule of law. The judiciary must be seen to be independent of the legislative and executive arms of government both as individuals and as a whole.”
Arbuthnot should have automatically recused herself on this basis.
Her husband, James Norwich Arbuthnot, is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. He is intimately connected with the British armed forces and security services, whose criminal operations were exposed by WikiLeaks.
As a Tory MP, Lord Arbuthnot was between 2005 and 2014 the chair of the Defence Select Committee, the body overseeing the Ministry of Defence and Britain’s armed forces. His watch covered ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the wars for regime change in Libya and Syria.
He is currently co-chair of the UK advisory board for defence manufacturer Thales and is an advisory board member of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI). Lord Arbuthnot is also a former director at security and intelligence consultancy firm SC Strategy, where he worked for two years alongside co-directors Lord Carlile and Sir John Scarlett.
Carlile is a prominent defender of MI5 who supported the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter) enabling the British state to access internet connection records without a warrant. He argued that Edward Snowden’s exposures of illegal mass state surveillance “amounted to a criminal act.’’ He oversaw the implementation of anti-terror legislation and reviewed national security procedures in Northern Ireland.
Scarlett is former head of MI6 and chair of the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). He oversaw the production of a report arguing for the right of the secret services to “collect bulk communications data” and was responsible for compiling the “dodgy dossier” on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
The activities of Lord Arbuthnot and his colleagues were the subject of thousands of WikiLeaks disclosures. There are almost 2,000 references in the WikiLeaks’ database to Thales and nearly 450 to RUSI. Lord Arbuthnot himself can be found in over 50 entries.
As Assange’s legal team and UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer have argued, this “strong conflict of interest” requires Lady Arbuthnot to stand down from Assange’s case. Her husband’s entire political life has been dedicated to crushing the sort of transparency and accountability advocated by WikiLeaks.
The “Guide to Judicial Conduct” explicitly states, “Where a close member of a judge’s family is politically active, the judge needs to bear in mind the possibility that, in some proceedings, that political activity might raise concerns about the judge’s own impartiality and detachment from the political process and should act accordingly.”
Furthermore, “personal animosity towards a party is also a compelling reason for disqualification.”
Arbuthnot’s animosity toward Assange is on public record.
No legal argument will convince Arbuthnot to recuse herself. Her connections via her family to the security services are the very reason she has been selected to oversee this case. The British ruling class requires an official to rubber stamp Assange’s transfer to the US, in what amounts to an extraordinary rendition.
Two previous instances of judges recusing themselves from English court cases provide a stark contrast to the WikiLeaks founder’s case.
The first involves Arbuthnot herself. In August 2018, she was obliged to stand down from a case against Uber after the Observer revealed that her husband had a business interest in the ride hailing company via SC Strategy and its client, the Qatar Investment Authority. A judicial spokesman said “as soon as this link was pointed out to her, she assigned the case to a fellow judge. It is essential that judges not only are, but are seen to be, absolutely impartial.”
No such concerns are evident in the case of Assange. Not one article in the mainstream media has reported on the glaring contradiction between Arbuthnot’s actions in 2018 versus today.
The second instance is of a judge failing to recuse himself in 1998 during the attempt to extradite former Chilean dictator, torturer and executioner Augusto Pinochet to face criminal charges in Spain.
Lord Hoffmann was savaged for failing to make clear his connections with the human rights group Amnesty International, which was a party to the case. He was chair of the charity’s fundraising department in a voluntary capacity. Hoffmann had been one of three Law Lords out of five to vote to overturn a High Court decision affirming Pinochet’s claimed immunity from prosecution due to his being a head of state at the time of his crimes. In an unprecedented move, the House of Lords’ verdict against Pinochet (involving Hoffmann) was scrapped by five law lords and only re-confirmed a year later—with significant qualifications invalidating most of the charges against Pinochet.
The Law Lords, led by Lord Browne-Wilkinson, developed arguments which would absolutely require Arbuthnot to recuse herself from the Assange case. Previously, whether a judge was automatically disqualified from a case depended on having a financial interest in its outcome. Lord Browne-Wilkinson’s decision extended the principle of automatic disqualification to apply to the much looser categories of non-financial “interests” or support for “causes.”
The overturn verdict accepted Pinochet’s claim that he had been denied the right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states, “Any judge in respect of whom there is a legitimate reason to fear a lack of impartiality must withdraw.”
Denunciations of Hoffmann were brutal. The Guardian reported January 16, 1999 that five law lords had “criticised Lord Hoffmann for flouting the basic principle that ‘justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done.’ The devastating criticism cast doubt over Lord Hoffmann’s future as a law lord.”
The Guardian continued, “The judges accuse Lord Hoffmann of ignoring a basic judicial tenet learned by every student in the first year of law school. So well-known is the rule, said Lord Hope, that no civil court in the United Kingdom has had a judgment set aside for a breach of it this century… ‘Judges are well aware they should not sit in a case where they have even the slightest personal interest in it, either as defendant or as prosecutor,’ Lord Hope said.
“Lord Hutton said public confidence in the integrity of the administration of justice would be shaken if Lord Hoffmann’s deciding vote that General Pinochet could be prosecuted was allowed to stand.”
In January 2000, the Blair Labour government’s Home Secretary Jack Straw intervened to protect the mass murderer, overruling the House of Lords and insisting that extradition proceedings should be halted on the grounds of Pinochet’s supposed ill-health. Pinochet arrived back in Chile on March 3, landing at Santiago Airport where he rose from his wheelchair to the cheers of his fascistic supporters.
Clearly, “judicial impartiality” means one thing when it comes to defending a vicious dictator and long-time ally of US and British imperialism. It means another when it amounts to persecuting a world-renowned journalist who has exposed the crimes of the ruling class.
Assange’s scalp must be taken at all costs to further imperialism’s colonial-style wars of conquest and the global assault on the social and democratic rights of the working class. To silence him forever, not only the judiciary but the entire state apparatus and its defenders in the media are shedding all democratic and liberal pretensions.