Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture:
Nov 20, 2019 —
On 14 November 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer and Former Foreign Minister of Australia Bob Carr spoke at a European Parliament event: Journalism is Not a Crime: The Assange Extradition Case
Julian Assange’s prison conditions have not changed since these comments.
Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture:
(…) Both experts told me that if the pressure is not alleviated soon his state of health will deteriorate rapidly and to a dangerous level. Ten days later he had to be transferred to the medical care division of the Belmarsh prison. So our predictions were correct.
(…) Mr Assange has been detained in almost isolation, it’s not solitary confinement in a strict term but he’s isolated from the population of the prison, he is in a single cell reportedly, what I’ve been told is that whenever he passes the prison corridors they are cleared. He has no contact whatsoever with other detainees. I think that is extremely difficult for months on end, he is apparently surveilled in obviously very stressful conditions and now we come to due process. It’s only in October, after being arrested in April, that he has received access to his legal documents
How is it possible that in the UK a person like this does not get access to his legal documents, that he’s asked to respond to an indictment he has not been able to read? To me this is outlandish. This is not worthy of democracy.
This increases stress levels and (…) if you are exposed to a constant environment of arbitrariness where you can’t trust the authorities you are exposed to, where you don’t know what the next step would be, where you don’t know what you can say in court because in any case, any legal remedy you take has no prospect of success because the whole system is biased against you, where judges that have a documented conflict of interest are allowed to preside your case, where your arguments are not being heard, where a judge calls you a “narcissist” in an open hearing, although you have not even said anything except ‘I plead not guilty’? How can you trust the system like that, what kind of effect will that have on you, psychologically, when you know that your whole environment is skewed against you, and is only after a certain result and will not listen to you?
This time, when you don’t have normal social contact, that will fundamentally, profoundly destabilize a person, and it will show precisely the effects that we have observed and measured medically and clearly fulfilled all the criteria that we would see in a person that has been exposed to psychological torture. It is psychological torture.
I have also received from various reliable sources information that the health condition of Mr Assange is deteriorating, as is to be expected in these conditions of this constant arbitrariness and isolation he’s exposed to. I waited to see what will happen once his sentence was served, for the bail violation, now obviously he’s being kept indefinitely in relation to the extradition request to the US and under condition that are profoundly inhumane.
I don’t think this is being taken seriously enough. I don’t think anyone understands how intense the pressure is when someone is isolated and exposed to this constant arbitrariness and how rapidly someone’s state of health can deteriorate.
Both medical experts have explained to me that psychological torture is not ‘torture light’, and I know that from experience from my own profession from talking to torture victims for 20 years. Psychological torture aims directly at the person’s personality and their emotional identity, and it has physical consequences and he can very quickly go into a downward spiral where these consequences will be irreversible, on the nervous system, on the cardio-vascular system. It needs to be taken seriously. I called on the British Government to release Mr Assange without delay, and to certainly alleviate the conditions of his detention. If he cannot be released, to a situation where he can lead a normal life and regain his health, and certainly gets all the facilities to prepare his defense.
Bob Carr, Former Foreign Minister of Australia:
These two things stand out as far as I am concerned. One, he is an Australian and Australian government should intervene for his defense and intervene strongly now to see that his prison condition are alleviated and I appeal to my British friends, really you can do better than this, if British justice means something it means getting this bloke out of maximum security and seeing that he’s got full access to his lawyers and to his papers. The second point that is important from Australian perspective is that he exposed things that deserved to be exposed and reinforced our right to know. In that spirit, we should intervene strongly and I hope Australia does pretty soon to see that his extradition is quietly dropped but in the meantime his prison conditions are rendered humane.
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