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No Time to Wait: We Must Act Now to Save Julian Assange

Why are the general public not outraged by the psychological torture and deterioration in Julian’s Assange’s health? The answer is as simple as it is abominable: because the corporate and state media oracles have conducted an eight-year campaign of vilifying Julian Assange.

On Thursday 30 May, was the first time that many of us realised that we might lose Julian Assange due to his deteriorating health. That same day he was due to speak by video link at the hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court in relation to his US extradition. I had hoped the decision to postpone this hearing would have been made several days earlier. Instead we were informed that he was too unwell to speak by video link from Belmarsh prison as it would add to his own anxiety and fragile mental state. “He’s in fact far from well,” said one of Assange’s defense lawyers Gareth Peirce, to the court. That hearing on US extradition has been moved to a later date.

A few days previous, the alarm had been raised about the seriousness of Julian Assange’s health by Emmy Butlin of the Julian Assange Defence Committee on 28 May, following a report in the Swedish press. His Swedish defence lawyer, Per Samuelson had visited him at Belmarsh prison on Friday 24 May. Samuelson explained to the Swedish media that, “Assange’s health situation on Friday was such that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him.” 

A request to postpone the hearing regarding Assange’s detention en absentia for the Swedish rape allegations had been rejected.

Speculation and concern over his well-being was growing on social media as his supporters searched for information and confirmation from those close to Julian Assange. There were unconfirmed reports that Assange had been transferred to the hospital unit at Belmarsh prison.  Finally, on 29 May, Wikileaks issued a statement confirming Julian Assange had been moved to the hospital unit at Belmarsh prison, ending much of the speculation but not the news we all wanted.

This raised more questions about the gravity of Julian’s Assange’s health situation. Why were the mainstream media so reluctant to report on his condition after his arrest on 11 April 2019?  At that point he should have been taken to hospital and given urgent medical treatment. To understand how his mental and physical health has declined to such a point that he required hospitalisation, it’s important to understand he had only sought refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 after losing his appeal to the UK Supreme Court against possible extradition to Sweden – despite never having been actually charged with any crime in Sweden.  Assange was eventually questioned by the Swedish prosecutor in 2016, after wich time the case was dropped for a second time by Swedish prosecutors. Still, detention at the embassy had not only deprived him of his freedom, but also direct sunlight, as well as adequate medical care for several ongoing health issues he was experiencing.

In February 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in their report that, ‘the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation

Again, in December 2018 the WGAD repeated their demand that the UK government abide by international obligations and allow Julian Assange to walk free from the from the Ecuadorian embassy. The UK government failed to abide by those obligations and its commitment in ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

After almost seven years of arbitrary detention at the embassy, Julian Assange was already frail and since his incarceration at Belmarsh, according to those who saw him, was effectively confined to his cell for most of the day, has dramatically lost weight and was suffering from Vitamin C and D deficiency.

On 31 May the UN Special Rapporteur Professor Nils Melzer, published his full report based on his visit to Julian Assange on 9 May. He was accompanied by two medical experts, both specialising in assessing potential victims of torture. Their assessment concludes:

It was obvious that Mr Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” “Most importantly in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

Professor Melzer expressed fears that Assange’s human rights would be violated if he were to be extradited to the U.S. and strongly condemned the US, UK, Swedish and Ecuadorian governments for a sustained and relentless campaign of intimidation and personal defamatory attacks of Julian Assange’s character through ‘humiliating, debasing and threatening’ statements made in the mainstream media and on social media. He also directed his criticism at the Australian government for failing to intervene and protect one of their own citizens.

The report was powerful and shocking in its detail of the sustained emotional and mental abuse suffered by Julian Assange. Melzer also noted that Assange was agitated and took some time to understand questions posed to him. Assange has been emotionally and mentally destroyed but to add to his distress, he has limited visits from his lawyers and his lack of access to case files and which make it difficult to adequately prepare any defence. See the official summary of Dr. Melzer’s report here:

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24665

This was followed by a concerted media cover-up. Despite being provided with overwhelming evidence by Nils Melzer in interviews conducted on 31 May, why had media outlets like the BBC decided not to air their ‘exclusive’ interview? Why did Sky News refuse to make the interview available online?

Is it possible that the corporate media was acting in concert with the British government, and in particular Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who in a deplorable tweet attacked the UN Special Rapporteur’s report and suggesting that Prof Melzer is interfering in British justice? In his own words:

I was disgusted, and so I felt compelled to respond on social media to Jeremy Hunt:

It’s difficult to dismiss the possibility that the UK, US and Swedish governments are working together to ensure he is extradited to the US to face 18 indictments, possible life sentence or at worse the death penalty. Corporate and state media are still failing to highlight the years of psychological and physical damage to Julian Assange.

With some irony Jeremy Hunt attended the World News Media Congress in Glasgow on 1 June and said the following:

“We can’t physically stop journalists from being locked up for doing their jobs, but we can alert global public opinion and make sure the diplomatic price is too high.”

Clearly, Hunt was not referring to Julian Assange who is a brave and unique journalist – a spokesperson for free speech and freedom of the press, who has been demonised because he and Wikileaks exposed war crimes. He has suffered enormously for his actions and may well die in prison if his conditions are not improved immediately. We should aim to do everything in our power as individuals to prevent the worst from happening.

Earlier this week, a Swedish court ruled that it will not seek to detain Assange in relation to their recently re-opened sexual misconduct investigation, stating that Assange would not be extradited to Sweden for questioning, and that he can instead could be questioned in Britain, where he is currently detained. Per Samuelsson said his client will “be happy” that he’s not being extradited to Sweden, but is still remains in a perilous state at Belmarsh.

Julian’s mother, Christine Assange, posted a powerful and emotional tweet which captures the full horror of Julian’s situation.

So, what can we all do to help? We can talk to our friends and families and raise awareness of his plight, sway public opinion, hold protest and rallies and write to our MPs and most importantly, ask them the following questions:

  • Why was Julian Assange not given urgent medical treatment on the day of his arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy on 11 April 2019? Why has Julian Assange not been given access to his legal documents so he can prepare his defence?
  • Does the British government still recognise international law and the determinations of multilateral institutions like the UN, or will the UK simply fall in line with the unilateral dictates of the US?

We must act now to protect Julian Assange.

For more information on Julian Assange and how you can help please go to the Wise Up Action website at: https://wiseupaction.info

This article was submitted to 21WIRE by Charlotte Gracias.

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