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.”


Malaysian ministry tells women to stop nagging and wear makeup during lockdown

A security guard checks the temperatures of customers arriving at a supermarket during the partial lockdown in Malaysia to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Penang on March 27, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 19 min 55 sec ago

Malaysian ministry tells women to stop nagging and wear makeup during lockdown

  • The posters, shared by the ministry on social media on Monday, provided guidance on “building a happy family”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Women and Family Development Ministry’s posters with guidelines on household happiness during coronavirus isolation have enraged human rights groups, who say such narratives strengthen stereotypes that lead to domestic violence.
The posters, shared by the ministry on social media on Monday, provided guidance on “building a happy family.” Women are advised to wear makeup at home and “speak with a Doraemon voice” while addressing their husbands.
Doraemon is a character in a popular Japanese cartoon series, who in its Malaysian version speaks with a characteristic high-pitched female voice.
One of the posters shows a picture of a husband and wife hanging clothes. It reads: “If you see your spouse doing something in a way you don’t like, don’t nag at him — use humorous words like ‘this is the way to hang clothes, darling’ (using Doraemon’s voice tone and giggling).”
Another poster advised women to wear makeup and dress neatly when they were working from home.
Rosana Isa, executive director of civil society organization Sisters in Islam, told Arab News the posters were inappropriate — creating the impression that wives must please their husbands and abide by certain rules to maintain household happiness.
“It reinforces negative gender stereotypes against women and men, as it implies that women are the only ones responsible for house chores whereas the burden of housework should be shared by both husband and wife,” Isa said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The women’s ministry issued guidelines for avoiding domestic conflict during lockdown.

• Rights groups fear domestic violence may be on the rise during the lockdown period.

She added that the message from the ministry supported the notion of women having to resort to “infantile language and mannerisms.”
As Malaysia has been on partial lockdown since March 18 to contain the further spread of coronavirus, women’s organizations have expressed concerns that domestic violence may rise during the period. Isa said the government should focus more on promoting hotlines and providing shelter for women in abusive relationships rather than harmful stereotypes.  
“These stereotypes are the root of gender inequality and will lead to discrimination and violence against women,” she said.
The ministry was slammed by various women’s and rights groups, with the word “Doraemon” becoming a trending topic on Malaysian Twitter following the backlash.
Women’s Aid Organization, a group that helps domestic abuse victims, said in a Twitter post: “Women should never have to act like Doraemon or childlike to be taken seriously. And even if they want to laugh coyly like Doraemon, it’s their own decision.”
The ministry has removed the posters from its social media accounts and on Monday evening issued a statement apologizing for the “tips” if certain groups found them inappropriate. “We will be more careful in the future,” it said.