UN torture expert warns over Assange extradition to US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen as he leaves a police station in London, Britain April 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2019
0

UN torture expert warns over Assange extradition to US

EVILARD, Switzerland: Julian Assange is not guaranteed a fair trial in the United States, a UN rights expert told AFP Friday, questioning the US justice system’s credibility in national security cases.
The United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Nils Melzer, also said that the manner in which Ecuador terminated Assange’s diplomatic protection broke international norms.
But Melzer made clear that his greatest concerns for the WikiLeaks founder — arrested by British police on Thursday after spending almost seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy — stem from Assange’s possible extradition to the US.
“I’m worried about fair trial,” said Melzer, one of several UN rapporteurs active on the Assange case.
“I’m worried that he might be exposed to (the) detention practices of the United States, which in part are very problematic,” he added.
“The United States in the last decade unfortunately has not proven to be a safe state with regard to the provision of torture in cases that involve national security,” Melzer added.
Melzer has previously raised alarm about alleged torture in the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as well as over the use of waterboarding, which President Donald Trump has labelled an effective interrogation technique.
The US request to extradite Assange is set to be heard in British court on May 2.
US officials have unsealed an indictment against him for computer hacking as part of his WikiLeaks whistleblowing activities.
But Melzer echoed concerns that the US charge sheet could be expanded, especially if the Justice Department gets Assange on US soil.
The UN expert argued that regardless of one’s personal view of Assange, “from a human rights perspective, he was basically doing the same thing that investigative journalists do all over the world,” by publishing information that states try to conceal.
The national security implications of the charges, combined with the fact that the US practices the death penalty, is “obviously a very serious concern,” the UN expert further said.
Turning to the arrest, Melzer conceded that “theoretically” Ecuador had the right to terminate Assange’s protection and strip his citizenship.
“But in a state that is governed by the rule of law, these types of steps are to be taken in a procedure that is subject to legal remedies and appeals,” added Melzer, a Swiss national who also teaches international law at the University of Glasgow.
The “shortcuts” taken in the run up to the arrest are “very, very problematic,” he said.
“The rule of law is not being respected.”
Melzer, like all UN special rapporteurs, is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council who does not speak for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Guterres’s top human rights official, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, has not condemned the arrest.
Bachelet’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, told reporters in Geneva on Friday that the high commissioner expects “all relevant authorities to ensure that Mr. Assange’s right to a fair trial is upheld.”


Protesters urge ASEAN leaders to ban trash imports

Updated 20 June 2019
0

Protesters urge ASEAN leaders to ban trash imports

  • Countries in ASEAN now receive more than a quarter of global plastic waste
  • Waste comes from developed economies like Canada, the US, Australia and Japan

BANGKOK: Protesters in Bangkok on Thursday dumped plastic waste in front of a government building and called on Southeast Asian leaders to ban imports of trash from developed countries.
The protest comes ahead of a weekend meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with many countries struggling to deal with the flood of plastic waste unleashed by China’s decision last year to stop importing recyclables from abroad.
Countries in ASEAN now receive more than a quarter of global plastic waste, most of which comes from developed economies like Canada, the US, Australia, and Japan.
A group of about 50 Thai activists, some holding placards reading “No Space for Waste,” joined Greenpeace campaigners to call for an end to all trash imports to Southeast Asia.
“The communities are here today to reclaim ... the right to live in a sustainable environment in Thailand,” said Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace Thailand.
They called for ASEAN countries to ban the export of waste “from anywhere in the world into the region,” Tara said.
The trash pile-up in Southeast Asia accelerated after China stopped accepting waste in 2018, and Greenpeace says plastic refuse imports have increased by a staggering 171 percent since 2016.
The imported waste is supposed to be recycled, but sometimes arrives mixed with unrecyclable items or is improperly handled and ends up being burnt or leaking into waterways and the sea.
The issue has been in the headlines recently after the Philippines sent a huge shipment of garbage back to Canada, sparking a diplomatic row.
And last week, Indonesia returned five containers of rubbish to the US, saying it refused to be a “dumping ground.”
Thailand currently imports waste from scores of countries, much of it ending up in landfills and waste disposal facilities that have prompted pollution complaints from residents.
“There is air, dust, and water pollution... it burdens the Thai people,” said Jorn Naowaopas, an activist from Chachoengsao province where several dumpsites are located.
The contaminated groundwater run-off and toxic fumes caused by disposing of plastic and electronic waste can cause serious environmental and health problems if not properly treated.
The ASEAN summit, which kicks off Saturday with a foreign ministers meeting, has not put the waste issue on its agenda.
But discussions will have as a “priority” the issue of marine waste because it affects “the food chain of people worldwide,” Thai government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said Wednesday.
In March, ASEAN environment ministers drafted the “Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris,” the first-ever region-wide attempt to tackle plastic waste clogging its waters.