UN expert says Julian Assange has been ‘tortured’ and urges UK not to extradite him to US

Julian Assange
John McEvoy

UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer said on 31 May that Julian Assange has been subjected to “torture”. He also urged the UK government not to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the US.

“Psychological torture”

After visiting Assange in Belmarsh high-security prison – which critics previously called the UK’s equivalent to Guantánamo – Melzer concluded that:

Mr. Assange shows all the symptoms of a person who has been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. The psychiatrist who accompanied my mission said that his state of health was critical.

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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

Here we are not speaking of prosecution but of persecution. That means that judicial power, institutions and proceedings are being deliberately abused for ulterior motives

Melzer added:

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 collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!

The UN expert also spoke to RT‘s Going Underground:


Assange was admitted to Belmarsh prison’s health ward this week; and he was unable to appear for his court hearing via video link on 30 May. After spending seven years in what the UN described as “arbitrary detention” in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, the deterioration of his health is unsurprising. The UK government, moreover, has consistently denied Assange his basic right to health care.

Freedom to be killed

UK foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt responded to Melzer’s report, claiming it was “wrong”:

Hunt’s assessment that “Assange… was always free to leave and face justice” is true, as much as it’s also true that one is free to walk in front of a moving bus at any time. Freedom to be killed, unfortunately, is little freedom at all.

In addition to US charges related to WikiLeaks revelations, of course, Assange faces a rape allegation in Sweden. And now that he no longer has asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, Swedish authorities have reopened this investigation at the request of the accuser’s lawyer. But Assange’s residence in the Ecuadorian embassy was for political asylum; indeed, no government would provide asylum to somebody seeking to escape rape allegations.

Assange’s lawyer has previously insisted that “Julian has never been concerned about facing British justice or Swedish justice”. It is “US injustice”, she said, that concerns him.

The Canary believes that no allegations of sexual assault or rape should ever become politicised by either side.

The long-belittled concerns that the US was seeking to extradite Assange, meanwhile, were soon vindicated after the UK police entered the embassy, leaving with a visibly ill Assange. The US government has now indicted the publisher on 17 new counts under the Espionage Act, for which Assange could face execution.

Many responded accordingly to Hunt’s statement, including Melzer himself:

The UK government’s wilful neglect of Assange is now in the UN’s crosshairs. Will Britain’s political class respect the UN’s judgement over Washington’s vengeful taste for blood? I think we all know the answer to that one.

Featured image via Cancillería de Ecuador/Flickr

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