The UN special rapporteur blasts four nations for their psychological torture of Julian Assange.
by Joe Lauria ConsortiumNews edited by O Society May 31, 2019
‘A Relentless and Unrestrained Campaign of Public Mobbing, Intimidation, and Defamation’
Warns of ‘Criminalization of Journalism’
The UN special rapporteur on torture issued a stinging rebuke to the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and Ecuador for “deliberately” exposing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to years of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” which can only be described as “psychological torture.”
“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law. The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!” Nils Melzer said in a statement published on the UN High Commissioner for Human Right’s website and the UN News website on Friday, May 31.
“The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” Melzer said. “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”
Melzer went on:
“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment, and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”
Melzer visited Assange at Belmarsh prison in London on May 9 with two doctors, expert in recognizing potential torture victims, who examined the WikiLeaks founder. Melzer’s statement makes no mention of Assange being hospitalized in the prison, unable to converse with his Swedish lawyer.
“It is obvious Mr. Assange’s health is seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he is exposed to for many years. Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange shows all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma.”
Fears Possible Torture in U.S.
The UN rapporteur said Assange’s human rights are further threatened with extradition to the United States to face 18 charges, including 17 under the Espionage Act.
“My most urgent concern is in the United States, Mr. Assange will exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment,” said Melzer.
I am “particularly alarmed” by the Espionage Act charges. “This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, and further charges added in the future,” said Melzer.
The rapporteur expressed deep concern the Trump administration is criminalizing journalism.
“Since 2010, when Wikileaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture committed by US forces, we have seen a sustained and concerted effort by several States towards getting Mr. Assange extradited to the United States for prosecution, raising serious concern over the criminalisation of investigative journalism in violation of both the US Constitution and international human rights law.”
Herald Gets Confidential Report
The Sydney Morning Herald, quoting from the confidential report Melzer sent to the British government on Monday as well as from an interview with rapporteur, reports:
“Assange is really something I’ve never seen in 20 years,” Melzer said. “I’ve seen atrocities in war areas that were physically more horrible but I’ve never seen a single person pursued so relentlessly and with so little foundation.
“[When I saw him] I immediately compared him to some of the graver cases in interrogation prisons in terms of his psychological reaction patterns. That’s what alarmed me so much.” He said Assange’s treatment was “very close to the intentional, purposeful infliction of coercive measures to try to break him”.
He appeared “extremely agitated and preoccupied,” Melzer said. “He asked a lot of questions and he would jump around, he was so preoccupied with everything he can’t even compute my answers any more.
“There were episodes of this, then he was part of the conversation as normal, then again he would enter into this agitated state. I have seen this happen with other victims of psychological torture.”
Melzer also blasted the government of Assange’s native Australia, “Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They’re just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen. That is not the correct way of dealing with it.”
A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Herald: “We reject any suggestion by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Australian Government is complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support for Mr Assange.”
Britain’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, condemned Melzer for his report:
“This is wrong. Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”
Nils Melzer’s reply to Hunt:
“With all due respect, Sir: Mr Assange is about as “free to leave“ as a someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool. As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is unwell and needs a great deal of rehabilitation after spending seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy with no natural light.
The 47-year-old was expected to appear at court via video-link from Belmarsh Prison in his fight against extradition to the United States over allegations he conspired to break into a classified Pentagon computer.
But he did not attend the five-minute hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court after he was said to have been moved to a medical ward in the prison.
During the hearing, his solicitor Gareth Peirce told magistrates Assange is “not very well”.
The public gallery filled with Assange supporters, with many having queued outside the court building for more than an hour.
Among them is journalist and Bafta-winning documentary maker John Pilger, who is friends with Assange.
Asked about Assange’s health, Mr Pilger said he goes through an “extraordinary mental and physical ordeal.”
Pilger stated: “Well he couldn’t appear today because he was unwell. He’s in the prison hospital. When I saw him a couple of weeks ago he wasn’t very well then. But then he’s been in an embassy in a confined space without natural light for almost seven years. He needs a great deal of diagnostic care and rehabilitation. He’s gone through an extraordinary physical and mental ordeal. And now he’s having to go through this.”
He added: “This is so shameful, so shameful that we are even here today to consider the extradition of a journalist for trying to protect his sources.”