The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has expressed alarm at the continued deterioration of Julian Assange’s health since his arrest and detention earlier this year, saying his life was now at risk.
Mr. Assange was sent to a UK high-security prison on 11 April 2019 where he continues to be held in connection with a US extradition request on espionage charges for having exposed evidence for US war crimes and other misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. “While the US Government prosecutes Mr. Assange for publishing information about serious human rights violations, including torture and murder, the officials responsible for these crimes continue to enjoy impunity,” said Melzer.
The Special Rapporteur and his medical team visited the imprisoned Wikileaks founder in May and reported that he showed “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture” and demanded immediate measures for the protection of his health and dignity.
“However, what we have seen from the UK Government is outright contempt for Mr. Assange’s rights and integrity,” Melzer said. “Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law.”
Under the Convention against Torture, States must conduct a prompt and impartial investigation wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed.
“In a cursory response sent nearly five months after my visit, the UK Government flatly rejected my findings, without indicating any willingness to consider my recommendations, let alone to implement them, or even provide the additional information requested,” the UN expert said.
As predicted by Melzer, shortly after the Special Rapporteur’s visit, Mr. Assange had to be transferred to the prison’s health care unit.
“He continues to be detained under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance, not justified by his detention status,” said Melzer, adding that having completed his prison sentence for violating UK bail terms in 2012, Mr. Assange was now being held exclusively in relation to the pending extradition request from the United States.
“Despite the complexity of the proceedings against him led by the world’s most powerful Government, Mr. Assange’s access to legal counsel and documents has been severely obstructed,