Though he is not convicted of any offence under UK law, Julian Assange continues to be held as a prisoner in the same conditions as convicted murderers. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised.
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Australian Government to bring home Julian Assange and exert its diplomatic influence to end his unjust prosecution.
Similar letters were sent to the Leader of the Opposition and the Parliamentary Friends of the Bring Julian Assange Home Group.
31 May 2021
The Hon Scott Morrison MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister
INTERVENTION ON BEHALF OF AUSTRALIAN CITIZEN JULIAN ASSANGE
The NSW Council for Civil Liberties (NSWCCL) calls on the Australian Government to bring home Julian Assange and again urges it to exert its diplomatic influence to end his unjust prosecution.
Bring him home
Julian Assange remains inside Belmarsh Prison in the UK in his third year of pre-trial imprisonment, awaiting the outcome of the US Government’s appeal from the Magistrates’ Court’s decision not to extradite him.
Though he is not convicted of any offence under UK law, he continues to be held as a prisoner in the same conditions as convicted murderers. His mental and physical health have been seriously compromised. Indeed, the Magistrates’ Court ordered his discharge in January 2021 precisely because it found that his physical and mental condition is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer has said “the suffering inflicted on Mr Assange, as a result of his prolonged solitary confinement, amounts not only to arbitrary detention, but also to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Mr Melzer noted “Mr Assange is not a criminal convict and poses no threat to anyone, so his prolonged solitary confinement in a high security prison is neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks any legal basis.”
Enough is enough.
For the remainder of the prolonged legal process, there is no reason why Mr Assange cannot be released to be with his long-suffering family in Australia. The Australian Government must now commence making overtures to the UK government with the aim of allowing Mr Assange to come home.
He must be allowed to live a normal family, social and professional life, to recover his health and to adequately prepare his defence against any further legal proceedings should they continue.
End the injustice
It is a crucial fact that Julian Assange is not charged with any offence in the UK. The case that has been brought against him by the Unites States has been condemned by every credible international legal and press freedom organisation.
The United States is seeking to use domestic espionage laws against an Australian citizen, a person with no allegiance to the United States. It pursues Mr Assange because of his involvement in a courageous act of public interest journalism involving brave whistle-blowers and mainstream media organisations around the world. The actions of Wikileaks and Mr Assange that provoked the US indictments shed much-needed light on crimes of the gravest nature, strengthened the public’s right to know and should be regarded as essential in any liberal, democratic society.
If he is extradited to the United States, Mr Assange will face charges which will cumulatively expose him to 175 years imprisonment.
The Australian Government needs to carefully consider the consequences of a successful prosecution of Mr Assange. If he can be successfully prosecuted for these alleged offences related to the Wikileaks releases, it dramatically increases the prospects of similar prosecutions against any journalist or publisher inside or outside the United States for similar public interest journalism, especially if the material is related to security matters.
If the United States can succeed in extending the reach of its national security laws so far, what is to stop other governments, perhaps authoritarian ones, arrogating such power to themselves? How many more Australian journalists and truth-tellers could be at risk?
It is a great shame to this nation that successive Australian governments have been unwilling to do more to stop the severe mistreatment of one of its citizens, especially when such high principle is at stake. If Australia continues to do nothing, this is unprincipled and self-defeating.
Since 1963 NSWCCL has advocated for strong and effective protection for public interest whistle-blowers and journalists as fundamental to a healthy democracy.
The Australian Government should immediately do all it can to end Mr Assange’s prosecution, including initiating discussions with the Biden Administration with the ultimate aim of ensuring that charges are dropped, or a pardon is given. The Australian Government should also publicly rule out Mr Assange’s extradition from Australia to the United States should he return home.
Today we again call for you, Prime Minister, to end this injustice against an Australian. This is a public letter and will be copied to members of parliament and others.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties