New Zealand Law Society - IBA condemns British treatment of Julian Assange in extradition trial

IBA condemns British treatment of Julian Assange in extradition trial

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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) has condemned the reported mistreatment of journalist Julian Assange during his United States extradition trial, and is urging the British government to take action to protect him.

IBAHRI says, according to his lawyers, Mr Assange was handcuffed 11 times; stripped naked twice and searched; his case files confiscated after the first day of the hearing; and he had his request to sit with his lawyers during the trial denied, and was instead in a dock surrounded by bulletproof glass.

The hearing, which began on 24 February at Woolwich Crown Court in London, will decide whether the WikiLeaks founder will be extradited to the US, where he is wanted on 18 charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the 1917 Espionage Act. He faces allegations of collaborating with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak classified documents, including exposing alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. The hearing was adjourned after four days, with proceedings set to resume on 18 May.

“IBAHRI is concerned that the mistreatment of Julian Assange constitutes breaches of his right to a fair trial and protections enshrined in the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which the UK is party,” says IBAHRI Co-Chair, Michael Kirby.

“It is deeply shocking that as a mature democracy in which the rule of law and the rights of individuals are preserved, the UK Government has been silent and has taken no action to terminate such gross and disproportionate conduct by Crown officials.

“Many countries look to Britain as an example in such matters. On this occasion, the example is shocking and excessive. It is reminiscent of the Abu Grahib Prison Scandal which can happen when prison officials are not trained in the basic human rights of detainees and the Nelson Mandela Rules.”

IBAHRI says, in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998 every person tried in the UK is entitled to a fair trial (Article 6) and freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3). Similarly, Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds an individual’s right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

A recent report from Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Inhumane Treatment says the cumulative effects of Mr Assange’s mistreatment over the past decade amount to psychological torture.