United Nations, Jun 1: After visiting Julian Assange in a London prison, an independent UN human rights expert expressed urgent concern on Friday, for the Wikileaks co-founder’s well-being, accusing “a group of democratic States” of “ganging up” on the prisoner to “isolate, demonise and abuse” him and warned against extraditing the controversial publisher to the United States.
“My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr Assange would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” said Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, in a statement.
He said he was “particularly alarmed” at the recent announcement that the US Department of Justice had lodged 17 new charges against Mr Assange under the Espionage Act, which could lead to a sentence of 175 years in prison.
“This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were to be added in the future,” said the Special Rapporteur, who was also following up on earlier concerns for Assange’s health.On Thursday, according to reports, he was too ill to appear via video-link from a British prison in a hearing over an extradition request from the US.
Although Assange is not being held in solitary confinement, Melzer said he was gravely concerned over the limited frequency and duration of lawyers’ visits and lack of access to case files, which make it impossible to prepare and adequate defence.
“Since 2010, when Wikileaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture committed by US forces, we have seen a sustained and concerted effort by several States towards getting Mr Assange extradited to the United States for prosecution, raising serious concern over the criminalisation of investigative journalism in violation of both the US Constitution and international human rights law,” the expert spelled out.
Since then, he said that there has been a “relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation” against the defendant – not only in the US, but also in the UK, Sweden and more recently, Ecuador – that includes humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and online as well as by senior political figures and magistrates involved in proceedings. (UNI)