Treatment of Assange putting his life ‘at risk’: UN expert

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London, after having been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2019

Treatment of Assange putting his life ‘at risk’: UN expert

  • Nils Melzer: ‘Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr. Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life’
  • Assange is facing an extradition request by the US over charges he violated the US Espionage Act by publishing a huge cache of military and diplomatic files in 2010

GENEVA: The treatment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is facing the threat of extradition from Britain to the US on espionage charges, is putting his life “at risk,” an independent UN rights expert said Friday.
“Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr. Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life,” the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Nils Melzer, said in a statement.
Melzer, who visited the 48-year-old 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, has previously warned he was being subjected to drawn-out “psychological torture.”
A spokesperson told AFP that the independent expert, who does not speak on behalf of the United Nations, had not met Assange since then but had received “updates” about his condition.
Friday’s statement warned that Assange’s health had continued to deteriorate since his arrest, stressing that “his life was now at risk.”
In the statement, Melzer pointed out that in May he had demanded immediate measures to protect the WikiLeaks founder’s health and dignity.
“However, what we have seen from the UK Government is outright contempt for Mr. Assange’s rights and integrity,” he said.
“Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law,” he charged.
Assange “continues to be detained under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance, not justified by his detention status,” he said.
His statement pointed out that Assange had completed his prison sentence for violating his British bail terms in 2012 and was now “being held exclusively in relation to the pending extradition request from the United States.”
Assange is facing the extradition request by the US over charges he violated the US Espionage Act by publishing a huge cache of military and diplomatic files in 2010.
“While the US Government prosecutes Mr. Assange for publishing information about serious human rights violations, including torture and murder, the officials responsible for these crimes continue to enjoy impunity,” Melzer said.
He also decried that “despite the complexity of the proceedings against him led by the world’s most powerful Government, Mr. Assange’s access to legal counsel and documents has been severely obstructed.”
This, he said, had effectively undermined “his most fundamental right to prepare his defense.”
In his appeal, Melzer urged London to bar Assange’s extradition to the US, and demanded that “he be promptly released and allowed to recover his health and rebuild his personal and professional life.”


Malaysia’s ruling party makes fresh push for Anwar to take over as PM

Updated 40 min 13 sec ago

Malaysia’s ruling party makes fresh push for Anwar to take over as PM

  • Mahathir Mohamad promised to hand over the reins to Anwar Ibrahim soon after laying the groundwork for a new administration
  • But says he may need more time to repair the damage left by the scandal-tainted government of his predecessor

MALACCA, Malaysia: Leaders of Malaysia’s ruling party on Sunday renewed a push for Anwar Ibrahim to lead the country, as Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad dithers on the timing of the planned power transition he had promised to his former rival-turned-ally.
Mahathir, elected to power in May 2018, had promised to hand over the reins to Anwar, 72, soon after laying the groundwork for a new administration.
But Mahathir has said he may need more time to repair the damage left by the scandal-tainted government of his predecessor, Najib Razak, while Anwar grapples with deep-seated factionalism within his own People’s Justice Party (PKR), the largest member of the ruling coalition.
“As far as I am concerned there has been clarity (that it will happen), except for the time,” Anwar told a news conference after PKR’s annual congress in Malacca, about 150 km from the country’s capital Kuala Lumpur.
“But let us work out an acceptable formula so that the transition is smooth and orderly.”
Hundreds of delegates were seen holding “Anwar PM-8” placards at Sunday’s congress, a year after he was elected the party’s president. PKR was formed 20 years ago to carry on Anwar’s reform agenda, after he was first jailed on what he has said were trumped-up charges of corruption and sodomy.
Anwar, who would be the country’s eighth premier should he take power, has been jailed twice, receiving a second sodomy conviction in 2015. He was granted a royal pardon last May.
Last week, Anwar denied fresh allegations that he had sexually assaulted a former male aide, describing the accusation as “politics at its worst.”
“This is not an ordinary annual conference. It is an important platform for Anwar to legitimize his position as the successor to Mahathir,” said Adib Zalkapli, a Malaysia director with political risk consultancy Bower Group Asia.
“He won the party leadership last year. This year, Anwar has to show that he is still in control of the party.”
But on Saturday, Anwar’s party deputy and perceived rival, Azmin Ali, led a walkout after delegates hit out at the president’s critics for allegedly trying to destabilize the party and challenge Anwar.
Azmin denied it was a boycott of the three-day meeting, insisting that their message was for the party to focus on governance and not be hung up on the power transition.
“When the people voted us in, the people wanted us to reform ... that should be the focus of the new government,” Azmin told reporters.