The UN expert Nils Melzer has no doubts. “Julian Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years”, he says.
Mr Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment, is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, the fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address specific country situations and thematic issues all around the world by means of a number of experts in the field of UN human rights system, independent from any government or organization.
He visited Julian Assange on 9 May, together with two medical experts specialised in examining potential victims of torture or different ill-treatment. The Wikileaks founder spoke with them and went through an accurate medical assessment. “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”, they said.
The connection between these symptoms and what Assange has been through in the last nine years has been clearly highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur. “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.”
All this began in 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,” Melzer stated.
The degrading and inhuman treatment Julian Assange was subjected to has been openly reported. “I condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate, concerted and sustained nature of the abuse inflicted on Mr. Assange and seriously deplore the consistent failure of all involved governments to take measures for the protection of his most fundamental human rights and dignity,” the expert said. “By displaying an attitude of complacency at best, and of complicity at worst, these governments have created an atmosphere of impunity encouraging Mr. Assange’s uninhibited vilification and abuse.”
Later, Jeremy Hunt, on Twitter, said Mr Melzer’s declarations were wrong, claiming Assange was free to leave Ecuadorian Embass and suggesting the UN expert to “allow British Courts to make their judgements”.
The reply of Mr Melzer on Twitter came soon,”With all due respect, Mr Assange was as “free to leave” as someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool. As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK Courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law”.