‘FREE Julian Assange!’ demanded a 20-strong demonstration outside the Home Office on Friday mid-day.
Addressing the protest Emmy Butlin of the Julian Assange Defence Committee said: ‘Successive Conservative governments have ignored the report by Nils Melzer the UN special rapporteur on torture which said that Julian Assange has been a victim of psychological torture for years.
‘We are demanding Priti Patel uphold international obligations to victims of torture and release him immediately.
From the campaign Joe Brack told News Line: ‘I am appalled that Home Secretary Priti Patel refuses to acknowledge UN condemnation of his treatment on this day in support of torture victims which includes Julian Assange the UK’s no1 political prisoner.
Her silence is indicative of the misrule of law and abandonment of international treaties on human rights.
‘Working people and youth have risen up against their treatment at the hands of the state and are demanding their share of the national wealth and a socialist future.
‘The trade unions should be here today and their leaders should be organising action to kick out this Tory government.’
‘We are escalating our campaign for his release with a demonstration at Westminster magistrates court this Monday morning and on Friday holding a ‘Happy 49th Birthday Julian!’ party outside Belmarsh prison with a soul choir so he will be able to hear our voices outside.’
In a letter to the British medical journal The Lancet, on International Day in Support of Victims of Torture ‘Doctors for Assange’ say that the British government may be held legally responsible for the torture of the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher.
The letter is titled:
The ongoing torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange
‘On February 17, 2020, Doctors for Assange demanded an end to the torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.
Yet no responsible authority has acted. Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and two medical experts visited Mr Assange in prison in May, 2019, concluding that his treatment constituted psychological torture, a form of torture aimed at destroying the personality of an individual.
The situation has deteriorated since then, with continued abuses of Mr Assange’s fundamental rights and the medical risks posed by Covid-19.
Since February, 2020, there has been a string of hearings in the context of Mr Assange’s US extradition trial.
His treatment throughout has been described as “shocking and excessive” by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI).
He has been held in a bulletproof enclosure unable to fully hear proceedings and denied meetings with his lawyers.
He was strip-searched, handcuffed 11 times, moved to five different holding cells, and had privileged client-lawyer communications seized.
Mr Assange attended, by videolink due to ill health, only one hearing, missing the four following hearings because of Covid-19 related restrictions and medical risks.
Prison lockdowns in the UK have prevented meetings with his lawyers to prepare for future hearings.
These irregularities and excesses cause helplessness, arbitrariness, threat, and isolation, all key components of psychological torture. Mr Assange is at grave risk from contracting Covid-19.
As he is non-violent, being held on remand, and arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, he meets internationally recommended criteria for prisoner release during Covid-19.
A bail application with a plan for monitored home detention was refused, however, and Mr Assange is held in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day.
Isolation and under-stimulation are key psychological torture tactics, capable of inducing severe despair, disorientation, destabilisation, and disintegration of crucial mental functions.
Given recent attacks against journalists, the psychological torture of a publisher and journalist sets a precedent of international concern.
Human rights organisations and others have called for Mr Assange’s release and condemned the extradition proceedings.
Amnesty International has advocated for Mr Assange’s release on bail. The Council of Europe considers Mr Assange’s treatment to be among “the most severe threats to media freedom”.
We reiterate our demand to end the torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.
IBAHRI states that, in view of Mr Assange being a victim of psychological torture, his extradition to the USA would be illegal under international human rights law.
The World Psychiatric Association emphasises that withholding appropriate medical treatment can itself amount to torture, and under the Convention Against Torture, those acting in official capacities can be held complicit and accountable not only for perpetration of torture, but for their silent acquiescence and consent.
As physicians, we have a professional and ethical duty to speak out against, report, and stop torture.
Silence on Mr Assange’s torture might well facilitate his death. The silence must be broken. Now. Please join us!
We are members of Doctors for Assange. This Correspondence has 216 signatories, representing 33 countries.’
William Hogan, Stephen Frost, Lissa Johnson, Thomas G Schulze,
E Anthony S Nelson, William Frost, on behalf of Doctors for Assange.
- On the same day, a US federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia returned a second superseding indictment on Friday charging Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with ‘offences that relate to his alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a press release: ‘The new indictment does not add additional charges to the prior 18-count superseding indictment returned against Assange in May 2019.
It does, however, broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged.
According to the indictment, Assange sought to find hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia – with hopes to provide WikiLeaks with classified information.
‘In 2010, Assange gained unauthorised access to a government computer system of a NATO country,’ the DOJ press release said about the new indictment.
‘In 2012, Assange communicated directly with a leader of the hacking group LulzSec (who by then was cooperating with the FBI), and provided a list of targets for LulzSec to hack.’
The 18 charges unveiled last year alleged that Assange worked with former Army Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 to obtain and disclose sensitive ‘national defence information’ through conspiring to crack a password tied to a Department of Defence computer.
WikiLeaks has published thousands of pages of material obtained from Manning, including details around Guantanamo Bay detainees and combat guidelines concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If convicted, Assange faces a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the existing 18 charges brought against him except for alleged conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, for which Assange could face up to five years in prison.
Assange is currently detained in Belmarsh prison after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he took refuge for several years. The U.S. has requested Assange’s extradition.
Manning was freed from prison in March after being jailed since May, 2019 for refusing to appear before the grand jury involved in the indictment against Assange.
A federal judge ruled that her testimony was unnecessary, but ordered her to pay a fine of $256,000. The ruling came the day after reports emerged that Manning had attempted suicide while in custody.
Last week Stella Morris, the fiancé of Julian Assange and mother of his two young children, was interviewed on Australian TV’s ‘60 minutes’ program where she said: ‘Belmarsh, is exacerbating physical and psychological health issues stemming from his protracted persecution.
‘He’s very unwell and I’m very concerned for his ability to survive this,’ she said. ‘Now he’s in the UK’s worst prison. It’s a high-security prison. One in five prisoners are murderers. He shouldn’t be there. He’s not a criminal, he’s not a dangerous person, he’s a gentle intellectual thinker and a journalist. Those people are not the people who belong in prison.’
She has been unable to visit him since February, as a result of coronavirus lockdown measures. Despite widespread infections throughout the British penitentiary system, including in Belmarsh, and Assange’s vulnerability to the virus as a result of a chronic lung condition, he has been refused bail.
‘If you’re separated from your family and you’re alone in a tiny, dark room for 23-hours a day, with no control over your surroundings, I think people can imagine what that is like,’ Morris said.