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Issue #1922      July 6, 2020

“End the silence” over Britain’s torture of
Julian Assange, warn doctors around the world

Over 200 medical professionals sign letter warning “we do not want him to die” in prison cell

More than 200 doctors from 33 countries have signed a letter to seek to end the “complicit silence” of British officials over the “psychological torture” of Julian Assange.

Doctors for Julian Assange have written in medical publication The Lancet to demand an end to the “medical neglect and torture” of the Wikileaks founder.

Assange has been held in HMP Belmarsh for over a year after he was seized by British police in the Ecuadorian embassy. He was refused bail in March.

Last year UN medical expert Nilz Melzer said that Assange was displaying all the symptoms of a person subjected to prolonged psychological torture.

The letter, published yesterday, warns that Melzer issued a “further warning that the inhumane conditions of Mr Assange’s detention in Belmarsh may soon end up costing him his life.”

The doctors claim that the risks to Assange’s life and health have “grown more acute” since the UN rapporteurs issued warnings over the coronavirus.

During lockdown the imprisoned journalist is being held in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours a day. Requests for a radio were denied until he received one just last week, they said in the letter.

Earlier this month, the 48-year-old was said to be too ill to attend the latest court hearing in his extradition case.

He is wanted in the US to face seventeen charges under the Espionage Act, as well as conspiracy to commit computer intrusion after the publication of classified documents, including those exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The letter reads: “We have a professional and ethical duty to speak out against torture, report past torture, to stop present torture and to prevent future torture.

“Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists have recently warned that silence on Mr Assange’s torture may well facilitate his death. The silence must be broken.”

It follows a previous letter by the group last year, which it says was ignored.

Dr L Johnson, a campaigner in the group, told the Star she believes this reflects an “attitude of impunity for torture and human rights abuse, and a lack of a sense of accountability to citizens.”

“Alarm at the escalation of abuses against Julian Assange, both during his extradition hearing and during the coronavirus crisis, has prompted Doctors for Assange to repeat these demands,” she continued.

“Julian Assange’s life is at very real risk as a result of his inhumane treatment, and that risk is growing. We do not want him to die.”

United Nations special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer told the Morning Star:

“I welcome the renewed call of numerous medical doctors for Assange’s release.

“More than seven months ago, I warned that Mr Assange’s life may be in danger and officially called on the UK government to bar his extradition to the United States and to promptly release him to allow him to recover his health and rebuild his personal and professional life.

“I voiced serious concern at his prolonged isolation and the ‘blatant and sustained arbitrariness’ shown by both the judiciary and the government in this case, which ‘suggests an alarming departure from the UK’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law.’ ”

These broader concerns, which were reinforced by the government’s refusal to conduct the long-awaited judicial inquiry into British involvement in the CIA torture and rendition programme, have been further exacerbated by the UK government’s recent attempt to introduce, through the Overseas Operations Bill, a five-year statute of limitation even for the most serious crimes committed by UK personnel, including torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

Morning Star

Next article – Yemeni children to starve amid COVID-19 pandemic’s aid loss

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