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UN Special Rapporteur On Torture Urges UK Government To Halt Imminent Extradition Of Julian Assange

GENEVA (6 February 2024) – The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, today urged the Government of the United Kingdom (UK) to halt the possible extradition of Julian Assange to the United States of America.

She called on British authorities to consider Julian Assange’s appeal based on substantial fears that, if extradited, he would be at risk of treatment amounting to torture or other forms of ill-treatment or punishment.

“Julian Assange suffers from a long standing and recurrent depressive disorder. He is assessed as being at risk of committing suicide. 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. If extradited, he could be detained in prolonged isolation while awaiting trial, or as an inmate. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison,” Edwards said.

“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 United Kingdom’s international human rights obligations, particularly under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as respective articles 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights,” the Special Rapporteur said.

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“Diplomatic assurances of humane treatment provided by the Government of the United States are not a sufficient guarantee to protect Mr. Assange against such risk,” Edwards said. “They are not legally binding, are limited in their scope, and the person the assurances aim to protect may have no recourse if they are violated.”

“I call on the Government of the United Kingdom to carefully review Mr. Assange’s extradition order with a view to ensuring full compliance with the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of refoulement to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and to take all the necessary measures to safeguard Mr. Assange’s physical and mental health,” the expert said.

A final domestic appeal after a long-running legal battle on Assange’s extradition is scheduled to take place before the High Court in London on 20-21 February.

Julian Assange faces 18 criminal counts in the United States for his alleged role in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to national defence, including evidence exposing alleged war crimes. He has been detained in the UK since 2019, where he is currently being held at Belmarsh prison.

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