1 July 2019
When Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, issued a May 31 statement demanding an immediate end to the “collective persecution” of Julian Assange it made headlines all over the world.
Assange, Melzer wrote, “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.”
“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,” he added.
In the run-up to last Wednesday’s International Day in Support of Torture Victims, Melzer wrote an op-ed titled, “Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange.” He offered the hard-hitting piece to leading publications, including the Guardian, the Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek.
Professor Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, speaks at a press conference at UN Headquarters in New York. [Credit: United Nations]
All of them declined to publish, leaving Melzer, one of the world’s foremost legal experts on torture, to publish his article on the online blogging platform Medium.
Melzer told RT he had been offered various reasons by newspaper editors for rejecting his op-ed. “Some of them said it wasn’t high enough on their news agenda, some of them said it wasn’t within their core area of interest,” he said.
Expressing contempt for their excuses, Melzer noted that the same media executives had happily published stories about Assange “when it was about his cat and his skateboard and… allegations that he smeared excrement on the walls… But when you have a serious piece that actually tries to de-mask this public narrative and to actually show the facts below it,
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