Press Release Doctors for Assange – Reply to Minister Payne (18/03/20)


Doctors warn that Julian Assange is at increased risk from coronavirus; refute Australian Government’s reply to their letters.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne denies human rights violations against Julian Assange, defying growing calls by medical and human rights experts to save life of Australian citizen.

Nearly 200 medical doctors from around the world—including the UK, Australia, Sweden and the United States—have today rejected claims by the Australian government that imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is receiving fair treatment and a fair trial in the UK.

In a letter to Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne published today, Doctors for Assange says the Australian government must heed growing calls by medical, legal and human rights authorities that it intervene to secure freedom and protect the life of the multi-award-winning Australian journalist.

Given the spread of COVID-19 the doctors write, “with the president of the Prison Governor’s Association warning that prisons provide ‘fertile breeding grounds’ for coronavirus, Julian Assange’s life and health are at heightened risk due to his arbitrary detention during this global pandemic.”

Doctors for Assange stresses the Australian Government’s duty to both object to Julian Assange’s arbitrary detention and respond to what the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute has called the “shocking and excessive” mistreatment of Assange at his February extradition hearing.

Last month, the Australian government replied to a December 15, 2019 letter by more than 100 medical doctors which had warned, even before the coronavirus outbreak, that Assange’s life is threatened as a result of nearly a decade of illegal and arbitrary detention in the UK. “That threat will only grow as the coronavirus spreads” they wrote.

The doctors reject as a “red herring” claims by the Australian government that its hands are tied because Assange has reportedly declined Australian consular assistance.

“In the case that an Australian citizen’s human rights are being abused, including his human right to health, his right to be free from torture and arbitrary detention, his right to a fair trial, his right to lawyer-client confidentiality and his right to prepare a defence, we are reliably advised that, consular assistance aside, government minsters can advocate for due legal process, and raise concerns about gross violations of rights with their overseas counterparts.

“In Julian Assange’s case, all of the above human rights have been violated, in a manner that endangers his health and contributes his prolonged psychological torture as assessed by the UN Rapporteur on Torture and two medical experts specialised in the assessment and documentation of torture. These surely are matters in which Government ministers have not only the ability but the obligation to raise concerns about gross violations of rights with their UK counterparts.”

Matt Kimberley, Assistant Secretary for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, wrote to Doctors for Assange on February 18 that, “We are confident Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the UK and we are likewise confident that he would receive due process should he face legal proceedings in the US.”

The doctors have today stated that the Australian government’s position is at odds with a growing body of expert legal and medical opinion.

“[W]e at Doctors for Assange, and the UN Rapporteur on Torture, are not the only groups and authorities concerned about gross violation of Julian Assange’s rights. Grave concerns have been raised by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Reporters Without Borders, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI).”

The doctors cite the IBAHRI’s March 10 statement which condemns “gross and disproportionate conduct by Crown officials” in Assange’s case. “With this extradition trial we are witnessing the serious undermining of due process and the rule of law.”

In a statement denouncing Chelsea Manning’s torture and imprisonment after her release from federal prison on Friday, Doctors for Assange joined leading legal and human rights authorities in calling for the denial of the US extradition request, with its prospect of further torture in the US, including under Special Administrative Measures.

Julian Assange faces extradition to the United States under the Espionage Act over WikiLeaks publications exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. If convicted, he faces 175-years in a US federal prison—effectively a death sentence. Extradition hearings against Assange began last month and resume on May 18.

Contact:  Website:

Australian Government February 18 reply to Doctors for Assange:

Australian Government reply to Doctors for Assange – February 2020

Doctors for Assange March 18 reply to the Australian Government:

Doctors for Assange reply to Australian Government – March 2020

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