Australian news, and some related international items

Injustices to Julian Assange in British prison

Julian Assange: Deprivation of Justice and Double Standards in Belmarsh Prison, 21st Century  Wire , AUGUST 28, 2019 BY NINA CROSS 

Alfred de Zayas, former UN Rapporteur, has described the actions of the British authorities in pursuit of Assange as “… contrary to the rule of law and contrary to the spirit of the law.”  What we see on the surface is an illusion of British justice, masking a political agenda behind it.

Britain’s notorious Belmarsh Prison is now being presented as beacon of good governance, indicative of a fair and just society which equitable but firm with perpetrators. After carefully reviewing the case of Julian Assange though, there can be little doubt that placing the award-winning journalist in such a facility is nothing but the latest vehicle for his rendition to the US.

So far, Belmarsh has been fulfilling that state agenda.

Belmarsh as the state’s next weapon of choice

Judge Deborah Taylor sent Assange to category A Belmarsh prison for a bail-skipping offense, even though he’d demonstrated that he had good reason to skip bail.  It is difficult not to conclude that the category A assignment was done so that he would be weak and vulnerable.  In essence, Assange was sent to Belmarsh for 50 weeks for failing to turn up at a police station.  There was no ongoing court case; he had no prior offenses; there were no charges; the Swedish investigation had been dropped.  So skipping police bail was all the British government had. It should also be pointed out that Judge Taylor made a series of mistakes during the sentencing on 1st May, referring to rape charges in Sweden, which Assange corrected and which she then acknowledged were wrong.  This indicates that Judge Taylor went into court at least uninformed, set in her mind that Assange had somewhere, somehow been charged with rape. This would seem to explain some of the reasoning behind Judge Taylor’s cruel sentencing, described by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as ‘disproportionate’ but also as furthering the arbitrary deprivation of Assange’s liberty.  What’s more, it has been pointed out how several thousand people in the UK skip bail each year and are in now way subject to such harsh punishment.

Clearly, Judge Taylor had used narratives provided by the state in order to send Assange to a category A penitentiary, even though these narratives have been thoroughly debunked.  …….

Following his assessment of Assange in May inside Belmarsh prison, Nils Melzer issued a statement detailing the conditions of dentention. Melzer was accompanied by two medical experts who specialize in the examination of possible victims of torture as well as the documentation of symptoms, both physical and psychological.  On examining Assange Melzer observed the following:

Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.

In addition to these concerns, reports also indicate Assange is being medicated.

Melzer has also explained that the piling-up of multiple legal proceedings is adding to Assange’s stress and inability to cope with the demands of preparing for his defence

It is important to note that Assange’s legal preparations in this case have nothing to do with the spurious bail skipping charges for which Assange was initially apprehended and detained by the British government. Rather, his legal defence involves fighting what could become a defining legal precedent for this generation – an US extradition case where a non-US citizen faces charges under Espionage Act of 1917 for his role (as a journalist) in disclosing war crimes and crimes against humanity by the US government – all published by a non-US media outlet. Therefore, it can be rightly argued that by restricting Assange’s access to a proper legal defence in such a high-profile and historic case, the British government is acting against the public interest, not only domestically, but internationally as well.

Despite all this, Belmarsh appears to have ignored or dismissed concerns about Assange’s inability to access the courts for his defence and is denying him “facilities.”

Belmarsh’s restrictions on Assange’s ability to meet his lawyers, and its refusal to allow him to speak to his US lawyers would seem to undermine the very basis of Article 6, which, according to the CoE guide:

“… guarantees the right of an accused to participate effectively in a criminal trial.”

In recognition of Article 6, the UK government website provides guidance on the right of all prisoners to contact their lawyer:

“Prisoners have rights, including … being able to get in contact with a solicitor.”

Prisoners’ rights are also supported by the UK’s own Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), which provides an advisory service to all prisoners.  The following summarises prisoners’ rights in the particular areas where Assange has requested access to justice but has been denied or restricted such access by Belmarsh.  These are as follows (emphasis added):……..

It becomes clear, therefore, that Assange is being denied prisoner rights regarding access to justice.  The result of these restrictions on Assange is that he cannot effectively participate in the legal proceedings against him.  Belmarsh’s current restrictions appear to undermine all of his attempts to access each and every avenue of justice, as well as the means required to participate in his legal defence since the time he entered the prison. Such infringements of rights and denial of access to justice are often blamed on shortages, system problems and inefficiencies, and even justified by security and institutional practice. However, all of the British system’s shortcomings in this case could easily be avoided or corrected by prison officials. ……

The stark contrast between the prison’s treatment of two high-profile figures, Robinson and Assange, is certainly evident. While Robinson is being treated fairly and lawfully, Assange is not.

According to John Pilger, the prison governor had also failed to respond to the letter sent by Assange’s lawyer, Gareth Peirce, on 4th June, roughly three months ago, about restrictions placed on Assange’s legal access entitlements.

All the indications strongly suggest that the British state through Belmarsh, seem to be imposing a lawless regime upon Assange, who finds himself yet again fighting for his basic human rights and due process in Britain.

August 29, 2019 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties

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