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  • Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (L) with demonstrators outside London's Ecuadorean Embassy.

    Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell (L) with demonstrators outside London's Ecuadorean Embassy. | Photo: Twitter @PeterTatchell

Published 19 June 2018
Opinion

June 19 marks six years since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange first entered the embassy to avoid extradition on sexual assault charges, which have since been dropped.

A vigil has been held outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to mark the sixth anniversary of WikiLeak's founder Julian Assange's self-imposed exile to avoid extradition to Sweden.

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The two-hour event was held to highlight the deteriorating physical and mental health of the Australian activist, who has not left the embassy in more than five years.

An international group of lawyers contacted the UN Human Rights Council earlier this week to express concerns that Assange's protracted confinement is forcing him to choose between asylum and healthcare.

"The United Kingdom shows a deliberate disregard for his medical needs by forcing him to choose between his human right to asylum and his human right to medical treatment," said human rights barrister Jennifer Robinson. "No-one should ever have to make this choice. 

"We call upon the special rapporteur to give immediate attention to Mr Assange's case, to plan an official visit to the Ecuador Embassy and to urge the United Kingdom to give the assurances required for him to leave the embassy to obtain the medical treatment he requires."

Footage of the event posted on social media showed dozens of demonstrators hoisting banners reading 'Defend free speech' and 'Don't shoot the messenger.'

The vigil was due to be attended by fashion designer Vivienne Westwood; human rights advocate Peter Tatchell and Susan Manning, mother of Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who released nearly 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq.

Tuesday marks six years since WikiLeaks founder Assange first entered the embassy to avoid extradition over sexual assault charges, which have since been dropped.

Assange is still wanted in the United Kingdom for skipping bail in 2012, however, and if he leaves the embassy could also face extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

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