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UN Urges UK to Halt Extradition of Julian Assange to the US

Assange extradition to US
Activists campaign against the continued detention of Julian Assange in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison and his extradition. Credit: Alisdare Hickson, CC BY-SA 4.0

The UN special rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, urged the UK on Tuesday to halt the possible extradition of Julian Assange to the US.

Edwards urged authorities to heed his appeal as he highlighted Assange’s fragile mental state and cited grave concerns that extradition could subject him to treatment tantamount to torture or forms of cruel punishment.

“Julian Assange suffers from a long-standing and recurrent depressive disorder. He is assessed as being at risk of committing suicide,” said Edwards. “In the United States, he faces numerous charges, including under the Espionage Act of 1917 for alleged unlawful releases of diplomatic and other cables and documents via WikiLeaks.”

Assange, whose extradition proceedings have drawn international attention, faces prolonged solitary confinement and a potential prison term of up to 175 years if convicted.

“The risk of being placed in prolonged solitary confinement, despite his precarious mental health status, and to receive a potentially disproportionate sentence raises questions as to whether Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States would be compatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations,” said Edwards.

“I call on the Government of the United Kingdom to carefully review Mr. Assange’s extradition order to ensure full compliance with the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of refoulement to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

The impending decision looms large as Assange’s final domestic appeal approaches before the High Court in London on Feb. 20 – 21.

Assange faces 18 criminal counts in the US

Assange, the controversial figure behind WikiLeaks, faces eighteen criminal counts in the US for his alleged role in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to national defense, including evidence exposing alleged war crimes.

The US authorities accuse Assange of conspiring with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning (the former Bradley Manning) to decipher a passcode known as “hash” so that he could get access to classified information inside a Department of Defense computer and make US military secrets public.

CIA plan to assassinate Assange

A report published in 2021 revealed how the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of Donald Trump’s presidency plotted to kidnap and potentially assassinate the WikiLeaks founder.

The report detailed how the CIA conceived of ways in which they could kidnap and assassinate Assange and how the agency conducted research as to whether or not such an operation would be legal.

The plan was supposedly headed by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who sources say was enraged after WikiLeaks had released files from the CIA’s hacking project, Vault 7, in 2017.

Those who continue to stand behind Assange state that he was a whistleblower who is responsible for uncovering alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and other human rights violations.

His organization, WikiLeaks, published American military video footage back in 2010 which showed a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed twelve individuals. Subsequently, the organization published reams of secret military documents and diplomatic cables.

He has been detained in the UK since 2019 and is currently held at Belmarsh prison.

Related: Is Press Freedom in Danger after Assange Ruling?

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