Friday, April 03, 2020

Psychological torture of Julian Assange

As reported by Reuters, Julian Assange appeared confused at a court hearing on 21st October 2019. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture had said the "collective persecution" of Assange must end on 31st May 2019 and sounded the alarm again that his life may be at risk on 1st November 2019. Doctors for Assange sent two letters to the UK government on 22nd November 2019 and 4th December 2019 and to the Australian government on 16th December 2019. A letter was published in the Lancet on 17th February 2020. On 10th March 2020, the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute condemned the UK treatment of Assange in the US extradition trial.

With the entry of COVID-19 into UK prisons, Amnesty International on the 25th March 2020 warned that "if Julian Assange is shown to have an underlying condition that puts him at risk, he should be immediately released on bail". Nonetheless, a district judge decided on the same day that, "As matters stand today, this global pandemic does not of itself yet provide grounds for Mr Assange’s release" (see Independent report). At that time, there were no known cases in HMP Belmarsh where Assange is being held. Again, on the same day, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on governments to take urgent action to protect the health and safety of people in detention as part of overall efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Ways should be examined to release those particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, as well as low-risk offenders.

The psychological torture of Julian Assange must end. His mental state is putting him at physical risk of dying.

(With thanks to Eric Windgassen and Lissa Johnson)

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