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PACE rapporteur, ending visit to Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison, expresses deep concern for his well-being

The rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on “The detention of Julian Assange and its chilling effects on human rights”, Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), has concluded a two-day fact-finding visit to the United Kingdom, during which she met Julian Assange in Belmarsh Prison and spoke to him in confidence.

The rapporteur expressed her deep concern for the well-being of Mr Assange, who has now begun his sixth year in this high-security prison, awaiting a final decision on his possible extradition to the United States. His indictment includes 17 counts under the Espionage Act related to the release of classified documents, some of which revealed the use of torture and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by the United States and its allies. If extradited, he faces up to 175 years imprisonment.

“As noted in the motion underlying my mandate, Julian Assange’s harsh treatment risks deterring others who wish to report truthful information pertaining to armed conflicts,” said Ms Ævarsdóttir. “Whether or not he is extradited, his prosecution and lengthy detention already risk deterring other whistle-blowers and journalists from reporting on various transgressions of governments or powerful private parties.”

“Considering that Julian Assange cannot speak for himself while in detention, he asked me to convey the following message: ‘I welcome the work of Ms Ævarsdóttir on her report regarding my detention and its chilling effects on human rights in Europe. The Council of Europe is the most important guardian of human rights in Europe and has a long-standing track record of protecting freedom of expression and freedom of the press, which is a core element of human liberty in a democratic society.’”

The rapporteur also met with Mr Assange’s spouse Stella, Jeremy Corbyn (United Kingdom, SOC), the former chairperson of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Professor Mads Andenæs, and the former UN Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, as well as lawyers, journalists, psychiatrists, human rights defenders and civil society representatives involved in Mr Assange’s case.