Julian Assange shows symptoms of psychological torture, according to United Nations experts

“The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now,” Nils Melzer, a rapporteur on torture, says

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published May 31, 2019 3:10PM (EDT)

Julian Assange (Getty/Jack Taylor)
Julian Assange (Getty/Jack Taylor)

Julian Assange shows symptoms of psychological torture, according to United Nations experts.

Nils Melzer, a rapporteur on torture for the U.N. requested an appeal to the United Kingdom on Friday, recommending Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. because it would violate his human rights due to his current health state. Melzer visited Assange earlier this month in Belmarsh Prison in London with two medical experts. The expected appeal comes as the Wikileaks founder is being charged with an 18-count indictment for "alleged complicity in illegal acts" by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“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,” Melzer said. “I am particularly alarmed at the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice of 17 new charges against Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act, which currently carry up to 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.”

Last week, U.S. federal prosecutors accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of violating the Espionage Act of 1917 — a highly controversial law long viewed as dangerous by civil libertarians.

Although Assange was not held in solitary confinement, the public interest, excessive lawyer visits, intimidation and abuse have all taken a toll on Assange’s mental health, Melzer added.

“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy; to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation; to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination,” Melzer said.

The two medical experts who were not named in the announcement by the U.N. concluded it was obvious Assange’s mental health is suffering.

“Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma,” the expert said. “The evidence is overwhelming and clear, Mr. Assange 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.”

Melzer also reminded the U.K. of its obligation to ensure Assange’s unrestricted access to legal counsel. In his 20 years or working with war victims and more, he said he has “never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.”

“The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now,” Melzer said.


By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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