Julian Assange wrote from Belmarsh prison to a supporter: “I am in the whale but you are at the surface and have grasped the line. ” Here is how one such supporter
@wattland. grasping the line , brings him closer to freedom! Let’s follow that example!
As a local constituent, I am writing to you today with significant concerns for the health and wellbeing of politically persecuted multi award-winning journalist and publisher Julian Assange.
I have been following this case for almost a decade now and am persistently shocked and distressed by the continual flouting of the rule of law concerning this particular human being. As we now know, UN Special Rapporteur for Torture met with Mr Assange while accompanied by two medical doctors and found that Mr Assange has been systematically psychologically tortured for the period of nearly a decade. He wrote:
‘(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.’
‘In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.’
In 2016, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) found in Mr Assange’s favour that the,
‘deprivation of liberty of Mr Assange is arbitrary and contravenes various rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Articles 9 and 10) and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14).
As a result, the UK and Sweden were instructed to allow Mr Assange safe passage and to compensate him financially. Neither the findings of Mr Melzer or those of the UNWGAD have been observed by the UK government, meaning the UK government is in direct contravention of UN findings which, I am sure you will agree, does not bode well legally or morally in terms of international law. Further, in response to a lengthy 12 page summation of his findings on the torture of Mr Assange, Mr Melzer had to wait over 100 days for a reply from the UK which, when it arrived, consisted of a scant two paragraph refusal to take any ownership or responsibility for the UN decision. This is not only deeply unsatisfactory, it is profoundly troubling, most especially since the health and wellbeing of Mr Assange continues to decline at an alarming rate.
On Monday the 21st of October, Mr Assange was brought from Belmarsh to Westminster Magistrates Court from his conditions of 23 hrs a day solitary confinement where corridors are locked down when he is moved from his cell so that he may not fraternise with any other prisoners, a condition which applies only to Mr Assange. It is important to note that Mr Assange is only a remand prisoner. When he was brought to the dock of the court to attend an administrative process for his impending extradition trial, witnesses in the gallery were shocked and moved to tears at the terrible decline of Mr Assange’s condition. Former diplomat and author Mr Craig Murray was in attendance at the proceedings and spoke of harrowing conditions relating to both the proceedings and the decline of Mr Assange. Mr Murray who was ‘deeply shaken’ writes that:
‘(Mr Assange’s) physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both.’
‘Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness.’
When Mr Assange himself was asked to speak he fought back tears and answered that, ‘I can’t think properly’. Given that Mr Assange was one of the sharpest, most erudite geopolitical analysis of our time, it seems particularly devastating to hear that his essential being has been so fundamentally injured by almost a decade being a victim of no-touch psychological torture methods, then profoundly impacted upon by solitary confinement – a torture method banned by the UN. Why is the SNP in Westminster silent on these crimes of state against this man? Why is no one defending him against this truly barbarous and inhumane treatment? While I understand that foreign affairs are matters reserved for the UK government, what I fail to understand is why the SNP is not condemning the treatment of Mr Assange in the strongest possible terms given the clear and violent human rights abuses he continues to be submitted to?
The other very glaring aspect of this terrible situation is that Mr Assange is not able to prepare for his extradition case because of the excessive conditions of his remand imprisonment. Most people in his situation would be permitted their liberty with legal conditions imposed on them, such as that of an ankle bracelet. Clearly Mr Assange is not afforded due process in rule of law or in the conditions which would permit him the proper privileges afforded to someone requiring to prepare for an extradition trial, the likes of which would see him incarcerated in a US supermax prison on a 175 year tariff. How can it be that someone in this position is being denied legal process, which is also a significant infringement upon his human rights?
Importantly, however, Mr Assange will be tried under Article 4 of the Extradition Treaty between the US and the UK. Within the treaty itself is the following stipulation: ‘Extradition shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.’ Under ordinary rule of law, which we have established isn’t be afforded to Mr Assange and which is illegal, Mr Assange cannot be tried under this stipulation because his action of publishing information on US war crimes was a political act. Why is this stipulation not being adhered to? Why is the SNP not condemning this case?
Of course, apart from the morally fractured state of this entire case involving Mr Assange and the egregious breaches to his human rights, there is also a wider application which affects threats to the media and which is known as the ‘Assange Precedent’. That is, if the US government can practice extra-territorial reach to try and extradite Mr Assange – a publisher and journalist who is not an American citizen and who has committed no crime in any US jurisdiction – then this particular case may be used as a litmus test to completely erode press freedoms. If we as a society permit this to happen then our collective human rights will come dangerously under threat. And so, as you can see, this case against Mr Assange effectively becomes a danger to free speech rights, freedom of the press, and our collective human rights.
We cannot sit idly by when a human being is being degraded to the extent that Mr Assange has been because it is and will become an indelible stain on our humanity if we deny or ignore what is happening here. And so, I appeal to you in the strongest possible terms to bring this tragic case to the attention of the Commons, consider backing the motion set by Chris Williamson MP, and to do whatever you can by way of intervention.