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News > United Kingdom

UN Rights Expert Defends Assange, Says Institutions Abusing Power for 'Ulterior Motives'

  • U.N. Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland May 31, 2019.

    U.N. Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland May 31, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 31 May 2019

Swiss law professor Nils Melzer warns that Julian Assange could face the death penalty if extradited to the United States.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has suffered psychological torture and should not be extradited to the United States where he would face a "politicized show trial," the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer said Friday.

Wikileaks Confirms Assange Moved to Prison Medical Area

Melzer, who visited Assange in London's Belmarsh high-security prison on May 9 along with two medical experts, said that he found the Australian journalist agitated, under severe stress and unable to cope with his legal case.

"Our finding was that Mr. Assange shows all the symptoms of a person who has been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. The psychiatrist who accompanied my mission said that his state of health was critical," Melzer said.

This Swiss law professor also expressed that Assange is being subjected to political persecution carried out on multiple fronts and by different actors. 

"Here we are not speaking of prosecution but of persecution. That means that judicial power, institutions and proceedings are being deliberately abused for ulterior motives," he added.

The WikiLeaks co-founder was too ill Thursday to appear via video link from the British prison at a hearing on a United States extradition request, his lawyer Gareth Peirce told Reuters.

Assange made headlines in 2010 when his organization leaked a classified military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people.

The U.S. government has charged him with espionage arguing that he conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in order to obtain classified information.

"I am seriously, gravely concerned that if this man were to be extradited to the United States, he would be exposed to a politicized show trial and grave violations of his human rights," Melzer said about Assange, who faces 17 U.S. criminal counts and decades in prison if convicted.

"The main narrative in this affair really is the United States wanting to make an example of Mr. Assange in order to deter other people from following his example," the U.N. Special Rapporteur explained.

“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 criminalization of investigative journalism,” he added.

Nevertheless, Melzer did not expect U.S. authorities to subject Assange to physical torture during interrogations.

"I would much more expect him to be subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, to very harsh detention conditions and to a psychological environment which would break him eventually."

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