Julian Assange has been subjected to drawn-out “psychological torture”, a UN rights expert said Friday, accusing the United States, Britain, Ecuador and Sweden of “collective persecution” of the WikiLeaks founder.
The United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Nils Melzer, also warned that if London agrees to an extradition request from Washington, Assange risked the death penalty.
Melzer visited the Australian whistleblower in a London prison on May 9, nearly a month after his arrest at Ecuador’s embassy where he had been holed up for seven years.
“It was obvious that Mr Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” Melzer said in a statement.
“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,” he said.
Melzer, who was accompanied on the visit by two medical experts specialised in examining potential torture victims, said there was “overwhelming” evidence that Assange had been “deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
“The cumulative effects,” he said, “can only be described as psychological torture.”
Assange, 47, sought refuge at Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces accusations of sexual assault.
He is currently serving a separate 50-week sentence at London’s Belmarsh prison for skipping bail.
Assange now also has an extradition request against him from the US, which has charged him with violating the US Espionage Act by publishing a huge cache of military and diplomatic files in 2010, rejecting his claim that he is a journalist.
– ‘Death penalty’? –
Melzer warned that extraditing Assange to the US would expose him “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.”
“I am particularly alarmed at the recent announcement by the US Department of Justice of 17 new charges against Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act, which currently carry up to 175 years in prison,” he said.
“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,” he warned.
Melzer voiced outrage at the “sustained and concerted effort by several states” over the past nine years to secure Assange’s extradition to the US.
Since 2010, “there has been a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador,” he said.
“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,” he said.
“The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”
World hunger on the rise with more than 820 million at risk, UN report says
More than 821 million people suffered from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide last year, the United Nations reported Monday -- the third year in a row that the number has risen.
After decades of decline, food insecurity began to increase in 2015 and reversing the trend is one of the 2030 targets of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
But getting to a world where no one is suffering from hunger by then remains an "immense challenge," the report said.
"The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World" was produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN agencies including the World Health Organization.
‘It’s just sparkling racism’: Internet mocks the hell out of the New York Times for describing Trump’s comments as ‘racially infused’
In an analysis piece in the New York Times on Sunday, chief White House correspondent opted to describe President Donald Trump’s overtly racist comments on Democratic congresswomen color as “racially infused” — an euphemism one Twitter user joked is “the worst flavor of LaCroix.”
Trump over the weekend caused an uproar in the media by tweeting the following:
Fox News’ John Roberts tells Trump to his face: ‘White nationalists are finding common cause with you’
Fox News reporter John Roberts asked President Donald Trump to his face whether he cared that white nationalists agreed with his views on race.
The president provoked widespread outrage by calling on four Democratic congresswomen -- all women of color -- to leave the country because they disagreed with his policies, and Trump insisted his tweets were not racist while continuing to lob bigoted attacks at them.
"Mr. President," Roberts asked during an impromptu Monday news conference, "does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist, and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?"