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IBA: Assange treatment during extradition hearing ‘reminiscent of Abu Ghraib’ prison scandal

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International Bar Association compares Wikileaks founder’s ‘mistreatment’ to torture of Iraqi detainees

Julian Assange – image via Wikimedia Commons (Cancillería del Ecuador)

An international lawyers’ association has hit out at the treatment of Julian Assange during his ongoing extradition proceedings, comparing it to the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

In a statement last week, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) said that Assange’s “repeated mistreatment” was “reminiscent of the Abu Grahib Prison Scandal”.

Lawyers for Assange, who is wanted in the US for leaking intelligence, say that he has been unnecessarily manhandled by prison staff.

In response, the IBAHRI said that it “concurs with the widespread concern over the ill-treatment of Mr Assange”.

Assange has some legal heavyweights in his corner — just as well, given that he faces 18 US charges relating to the release of classified information. His solicitor is Gareth Peirce, a civil liberties veteran at Birnberg Pierce. On their feet are Edward Fitzgerald QC, co-head of Doughty Chambers Chambers, and extradition specialist Mark Summers QC of Matrix Chambers.

His legal team say that during the early stages of the extradition proceedings, Assange has been handcuffed 11 times, strip-searched twice and had his case files confiscated. The judge at Woolwich Crown Court also refused his request to sit alongside his lawyers rather than in the dock.

The Australian reportedly complained that “I’m unable to guide them [the QCs]” from across the room.

The IBAHRI’s co-chair, former Australian judge Michael Kirby, said that Assange’s “mistreatment” could be a breach of the UN convention against torture. He also hit out at the government for taking “no action to terminate such gross and disproportionate conduct” and presiding judge Vanessa Baraitser for failing to speak up for Assange.

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Kirby added:

“Many countries in the world 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.”

Prisoners at Abu Ghraib were tortured, raped, smeared with human faeces and threatened with dogs in a notorious series of human rights abuses that came to light in 2004.

In a less than startling reveal, the IBAHRI also pointed out that Assange has the right to a fair trial under the Human Rights Act 1998. Its other co-chair, Swedish lawyer Anne Ramberg, said that “with this extradition trial we are witnessing the serious undermining of due process and the rule of law”.

The hearing ran for four days in February 2020 but has now been adjourned until May 2020, when there will be another three weeks of legal argument.

Public sympathy for Assange took a dive after he jumped bail and holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for almost seven years to avoid a rape investigation by the Swedish authorities.

But now that the issue is extradition to the US rather than Sweden, some lawyers take the view that — to quote the US Supreme Court — “the safeguards of liberty have frequently been forged in controversies involving not very nice people”.

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8 Comments

Anonymous

”The judge at Woolwich Crown Court also refused his request to sit alongside his lawyers rather than in the dock.“

What a bizarre complaint. All accused sit in the dock.

Why does Assange think he’s entitled to special treatment?

Also, he has a track record of doing everything possible to frustrate the legal record: namely, hiding in a foreign embassy like a coward and refusing to come out. You can’t blame the authorities for taking no chances.

(16)(7)

Mikael Andersson

Dear Anon. That’s completely untrue, and I wonder how you got such a mistaken impression. Event eh US prosecuting attorney stated that it was conventional practice for accused to sit with their lawyers. The alternative claim is total BS. Fitzgerald QC presented multiple examples of this convention, none of which was contradicted. It is merely the judge’s task to follow the instructions of her superiors and continue the torture of Assange at every moment. This is to ensure that you and i understand the absolute nature of their power, and that we cannot dare to question it. Facts will not defend us. We must be rendered defenceless, stripped of all rights. Please read or widely and inform yourself better before being suckered into such mistaken views in the future.

(4)(11)

Mikael Andersson

Assange was granted asylum by the government of Ecuador after an extensive investigation by competent officials. He “hid” nowhere. Assange actually has a track record of doing everything possible to facilitate legal processes, such as making himself available in Sweden before he was given the all-clear to go to the UK, cooperating with UK authorities, and complying with laws. The law has completely failed him and he is in indefinite solitary confinement without charge. Assange has been given very “special treatment”, without precedent. He has had all his rights destroyed, his reputation destroyed, denied access to has lawyers, strip searched, handcuffed, locked in a glass box, sentenced to 50 weeks for a bail infringement, imprisoned in “Britain’s Guantanamo”, had all his case notes stolen by prison guards, had his trial moved to a terrorist court in Belmash. He certainly has had special treatment, and you will as well if you dare to publish the truth abut US war crimes.

(4)(9)

World's smallest violin

Waaah, wah wah waaaaah, wah wah waaaaaaah.

(10)(5)

John Smith Mayer

I can’t help but feel that my sympathies lie with the soldiers that were put at risk due to his website permitting the leaking of sensitive and classified information. This kind of rubbish is the reason why I cancelled my membership of IBA.

(11)(6)

Mikael Andersson

John, it’s a lie. You must inform yourself better before you involve your “sympathies”. There were no “soldiers” put at risk. The Pentagon admitted at Manning’s trial that nobody was ever hurt as a result of Wikileaks’ publication. There is no argument for withholding information about war crimes committed with your taxes because “soldiers” might get hurt. The actions of your government led to the deaths of a million people in Iraq. Should you feel sympathy for them? The Collateral Murder video showed the USA murdering civilians, reporters and children with a 50 calibre machine gun from a helicopter while its employees gloated. Those lives weren’t “put at risk” John. They were blasted out of existence, and the people who did it have never been tried for murder. Instead, the man who reported the facts is in solitary confinement in Belmarsh. Please reconsider where you place your “sympathies”. I think the families of those murdered by the USA might be a place to start.

(7)(5)

Spooky Hooded Guy

While I am sympathetic to Assange, any comparison to Abu Grahib should not be done lightly. Bad shit went down there.

(12)(0)

MrK

The mindless repetition of the slurs and unsourced claims made by the security services and the prosecution is a sad indictment of who posts on this issue.

Julian Assange has been in legal limbo, created by a conspiracy between the government of the USA, UK, Sweden and Equador.

He should not be in jail at all. He must be released on his own recongizance, immediately.

Right now, Julian Assange is:

1. Tortured psychologically and physically.

He had a bad arm, and he was handcuffed 11 times in one day during his trial; kept sedated; locked in solitary confinement for 9 months, on top of 9 years of confinement to 2 rooms in the Equadorian embassy; continuing denial of medical treatment.

2. Illegally arrested and detained

There was no legal procedure followed to rescind Julian Assange’s political asylum or Equadorian citizenship. The presence of British police in the Equadorian embassy was without any legal basis. His arrest was illegal.

3. Awaiting a hearing for extradition for a crime he cannot be legally extradited for

Julian Assange is charged in the US with the political crime of espionage, specifically 18 USC Chapter 37 titled Espionage And Censorship, par. 793. That’s 17 of the 18. The 18th charge is window dressing, “Conspiracy (1) to commit computer intrusion (2)”. That’s talking about cracking a password. No password was cracked and no computers broken into or compromised – hence the ‘conspiracy’ charge without an actual computer intrusion charge.

So Julian Assange is really being charged with publishing defense information. Which has not been a crime since Daniel Ellsberg was acquitted for leaking the Pentagon Papers and the law didn’t go after the magazines which published it.

Espionage is a crime against the state, and for that reason is considered a political crime.

Julian Assange is being extradited under the UK-UK Extradition Treaty of 2007, which through Article 4 (1) explicitly forbids extradition for political (and military) crimes.

The whole argument of the prosecution is how that protection should not be in force, even though it is guaranteed under the law he is extradited under.

This whole prosecution/persecution was created by the CIA/Stratfor/US State Department, and it has nothing to do with the rule of law, let alone justice.

Julian Assange must be released immediately.

(8)(4)

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