Assange spoke directly via a video link from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been holed up since June this year, firstly seeking and finally receiving political asylum from that country.
The "Strengthening Human Rights" event was hosted by Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, and this event gave Assange a platform to draw attention to his case and the importance of revealing the truth.
Assange told the gathered assembly, "And it is because of article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights that WikiLeaks has been able to receive and impart information through any media and any medium, regardless of frontiers."
"It is because of article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to seek asylum from persecution and the 1951 Refugee Convention and other conventions produced by the United Nations that I am able to be protected, along with others from political persecution."
"It is thanks to the United Nations that I am able to exercise in this case my inalienable right to seek protection from this arbitrary and excessive action taken by governments against me and the staff and supporters of my organization."
"It is because of the absolute prohibition on torture enshrined in customary international law and the UN Convention against Torture, that we stand firmly to denounce torture and war crimes as an organization regardless of who the perpetrators are."
He then went on to discuss a 21-year-old soldier, Bradley Manning
, who came from a military background, and trained as an intelligence analyst. In Iraq, it is alleged he saw a US military who did not often follow the rules of law, and engaged in murder and political corruption. He gave to Assange and WikiLeaks
details that exposed the torture of Iraqi citizens and the murder of journalists in that country and Afghanistan. He further gave WikiLeaks diplomatic cables that went on to start the Arab Spring.
Manning was then imprisoned in Baghdad, Kuwait and Virginia, USA, where he has been tortured as the US government tries to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and Assange. He has now been imprisoned for 856 days, where the legal maximum is 120 days. Assange added that the FBI had produced 42,135 pages of WikiLeaks-related activity, and less that 8,000 pages actually concern Bradley Manning, reiterating his belief that the US private is being senselessly detained.
In his speech Assange was highly critical of US involvement in the Arab Spring, denouncing Obama as audacious for exploiting it. He added that it is "disrespectful of the dead" to claim that the US has supported forces of change.
"Was it not audacious for the US President
to say that his country supported the forces of change in the Arab Spring? Tunisian history did not begin in December 2010, and Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so Barack Obama could be re-elected," he said.
"The world knew after reading WikiLeaks publications that Ben Ali and his government had for long years enjoyed the indifference, if not the support, of the US, in full knowledge of its excesses and its crimes. So it must come as a surprise to the Tunisians that the United States supported the forces of change in their country, and it must come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American tear gas out of their eyes, that the US administration supported change in Egypt."
The full speech can be heard in the video above including the question and answer session. The full transcript of the speech can be read here
on the WikiLeaks website.
Meanwhile, Assange remains at the Ecuador embassy in London awaiting a decision as to whether he can be transferred to Sweden
, under the protection of Ecuador, for questioning at their embassy in Sweden. Assange would “remain under our protection while also satisfying the demands of the Swedish justice system,” said Patiño. Patiño further said that Assange's right to freedom must be respected.
"I don’t know any case in history where diplomatic asylum did not end in freedom for the person. I hope this will not be an exception in history. Every country must respect the right of the country granting asylum and the person who was granted it," said Patiño.