A UK court’s refusal to extradite Julian Assange to the US on medical grounds is a blow to journalism since the judge has sided with the US in its justification for prosecuting him, UN rapporteur Nils Melzer told RT.
Melzer became a supporter of the WikiLeaks founder after digging into his situation in his official capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on torture. He said he is happy for Assange personally, but the Monday ruling, which denied his extradition to the US on espionage charges, was still a huge disappointment for him.
“It is certainly a victory in the sense ‘a battle won’ but we also have to be aware that the judgement went very, very far in confirming the basic rationale that underlines the US indictment. It essentially criminalizes investigative journalism,” he told RT.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused the US extradition request because Assange may take his own life if handed over to the US, but rejected all other arguments of the defense in her ruling. Supporters of the 49-year-old Australian say he is a victim of US persecution and that Washington and its allies are targeting him for exposing their embarrassing and criminal acts. Their mistreatment of him is the reason why his current health condition is so poor, Melzer pointed out.
“Julian Assange, from what I have known of him, is a very resilient person. But he has been brought to the breaking point by 10 years of joint prosecution for political reasons by Sweden, by the United Kingdom, by the US, by Ecuador. And none of this is being addressed” in the court ruling, he said.
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The same governments refused to investigate, on Melzer’s request, what had been done to Assange, despite having an obligation to do so, he said.
The ruling served as a face-saving exercise for all the governments involved, and it’s likely that nobody will be held accountable, Melzer said. And thus, the message of intimidation is upheld and maintained, even as Assange is protected for the time being from vanishing into a US supermax prison for the rest of his life.
“I am extremely happy for Julian Assange as a person. But he should not have been brought to a point where he is suicidal,” the UN official stressed. “Now the system is spitting him out … In a sense, the system has succeeded in intimidating the world and passing the message.”
This is what is going to happen to you if ever you have the idea of publishing our dirty secrets.
Melzer noted the irony in the fact that the non-extradition also means his case is likely to be reviewed and tossed out due to gross government misconduct, unlike the cases against Daniel Ellsberg and Tony Russo, the whistleblowers behind the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers. Like Assange, Ellsberg was subjected to invasive surveillance by the US. Judge Baraitser decided that spying on Assange’s conversation with lawyers may have been justified by concerns of US national security.
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