UN torture expert urges UK to halt extradition of Julian Assange to US over torture fears

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A UN torture expert has called on the UK government to block the possible extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US, citing concerns he would be at risk of torture or other forms of treatment. of ill-treatment or punishment.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, said in a press release that Assange “suffers from a long-term and persistent depressive disorder” and is “assessed to be at risk suicide”.

The hearing for Assange’s possible final legal appeal against extradition to the US against charges of leaking classified US military documents will be held at the High Court in London on February 20 and 21. legal appeals, Assange would face trial in Alexandria, Virginia, and could be sentenced to up to 175 years in America’s maximum security prison.

“If extradited, he could be held in solitary confinement pending trial, or as a prisoner. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison,” Edwards said.



A United Nations torture expert is calling on the UK government to block the possible extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US, citing concerns he would be at risk of treatment tantamount to torture. . (AP)

Assange, 52, faces 17 charges of allegedly receiving, possessing and communicating classified information to the public under the Espionage Act, and one charge of -conspiracy to commit computer harassment.

The charges were brought by the Trump administration’s Justice Department over the publication of WikiLeaks cables in 2010 released by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning detailing war crimes committed by the US government in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp, Iraq and Afghanistan. The materials also featured examples of the CIA engaging in torture and assassinations.

WikiLeaks’ “Collateral Murder” video showing the US military shooting down civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, was also released 14 years ago.

“The risk of being placed in prolonged solitary confinement, despite his precarious mental health status, and receiving a potentially disproportionate sentence raises questions about whether Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States is consistent with the United Kingdom’s international human rights obligations, particularly under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights,” said Edwards.

“Diplomatic assurances of humane treatment provided by the United States Government are not a sufficient guarantee to protect Mr. Assange from danger,” Edwards said. “They are not legally binding, they are limited in scope, and may not opportunity for the person who makes the promises to defend them if they are broken.”

Assange, an Australian journalist and publisher, has been held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since he was extradited from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, 2019, for breaching bail conditions. . He had sought asylum at the embassy since 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden over allegations that he raped two women because Sweden would not guarantee to protect him from extradition out to the United States.

Last month, a group of Australian lawmakers wrote a letter to UK Home Secretary James Cleverly calling for Assange’s extradition to the US to be halted over concerns for his safety and well-being. . The letter called on the UK government to carry out an independent assessment of Assange’s risk of persecution.


Alice Jill Edwards

The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, said Assange “suffers from a long-standing depressive disorder and is “assessed to be at risk of suicide -murder”. (Getty Images)

A cross-party delegation of Australian lawmakers visited Washington, DC, last year and met with US officials, members of Congress and civil rights groups to demand that the charges against Assange be dropped. give up Multiple bipartisan efforts they were also made last year by US lawmakers who called for Assange’s release.

The Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, has also asked the US in the past year to end the prosecution of Assange.

No publisher has been charged under the Espionage Act until Assange, and many press freedom groups have said that his prosecution is setting a dangerous precedent that intends to criminalize journalism. US prosecutors and Assange’s critics have argued that WikiLeaks’ release of classified material endangered the lives of US allies, but there is no evidence that anyone was put in danger as a result. the documents released.

Editors and publishers of US and European institutions that worked with Assange have published excerpts from more than 250,000 documents he obtained in the Cablegate leak – The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País – write an open letter in 2022 asking the US to drop the charges against Assange.

The Obama administration chose not to tell Assange in 2013 about WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of the classified cables because it also required journalists from major news outlets to release the same materials. Former President Obama also sentenced 35-year-old Manning for violations of the Espionage Act and other crimes to seven years in January 2017, and Manning, who had been imprisoned since 2010, was later released forward in that year.

But the Department of Justice under former President Trump he later moved to indict Assange under the Espionage Act, and the Biden administration has continued his prosecution.

“I ask the Government of the United Kingdom to carefully review the order to extend Mr. refoulement torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to take all necessary measures to protect Mr. Assange’s physical and mental health,” Edwards said.

Julian Assange sign

The hearing for Assange’s final legal appeal against extradition to the United States will be held at the High Court in London on February 20 and 21. (Fox News Digital/Landon Minor)

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Assange’s UK lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, has previously said she fears “he would not be alive if extradited to the United States”.

Under the Trump administration, The CIA reportedly had plans to kill Assange following the disclosure of hacking tools from sensitive groups known as “Vault 7,” which were leaked to Wikileaks, Yahoo reported in 2021. The group said it was the leak “the largest data loss in CIA history”.

The CIA was accused of having discussions “at the highest levels” of the administration about plans to assassinate Assange in London and allegedly followed orders from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo to ” sketches” and “options” to kill. The group also had advanced plans to kidnap and extradite Assange and had made a political decision to depose him, according to the Yahoo report.

WikiLeaks also published internal communications in 2016 between the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that revealed the DNC’s efforts to promote Clinton in that year’s Democratic primary.

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