The United Nations expert on torture has condemned the psychological torture inflicted on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying: ‘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, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.’
The ‘democratic states’ that Nils Melzer, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture, was referring to being America, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.
Melzer made his savage indictment of the treatment Assange has been subjected to after visiting him in Belmarsh prison and conducting a medical examination of the 47 year old.
Assange has been held in the maximum security prison since he was seized by police after spending seven years living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after seeking refuge there from deportation to the US on spying charges.
Melzer reported that Assange is displaying ‘extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma’ after being subjected to several years of ‘progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.’
Assange suffered ‘oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy,’ along with ‘deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation’ and had virtually no access to sunlight during his seven years there.
Melzer added that in Belmarsh he is being allowed only short and infrequent visits from his lawyers, and denied access to legal documents and case files, making it ‘impossible’ for him to prepare his legal defence properly.
Assange is fighting against extradition to the US where he faces multiple charges, including 17 counts under the Espionage Act for allegedly encouraging and publishing national defence information, charges that carry up to 175 years in prison if found guilty.
The US government is hounding Assange for his role in publishing classified documents released by the US whistleblower Chelsea Manning which revealed atrocities against civilians carried out by US armed forces during their bloody invasions and occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning is still facing continued jail sentences for her heroic refusal to testify against Assange. Meltzer also revealed that Assange could face the death penalty if further charges are added by the US in the future.
Sweden is also trying to get Assange extradited over allegations of rape made years ago and that were originally dropped after they were investigated back in 2017 but suddenly reopened last month.
Melzer was so shocked by Assange’s brutal treatment that he sent a letter to the British government calling on them to block his extradition to the US.
He wrote: ‘My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr Assange would be 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 or degrading treatment or punishment.’
This was met with a dismissive reply from Tory foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who tweeted: ‘The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.’
Hunt made it clear that he would not ‘stand in the way’ of Assange’s extradition to the US to face a lifetime in jail and permanent torture to make an example of him – that this is the fate of any journalist or whistleblower who exposes the barbarism of imperialism.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has defended Assange, saying that the UK government should not extradite him ‘for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan’. This defence must be taken up by the Labour Party and the entire trade union movement.
The hounding and persecution must be stopped immediately, and Assange freed at once.
The Tories have made it clear they won’t do it, indeed they are complicit in all the crimes committed by US imperialism.
The working class must take action to stop Assange’s extradition by demanding the TUC organises strikes and demonstrations to kick out the Tories and go forward to a workers government that will free him.