To: President Joseph Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland
From: Doctors for Assange: https://doctorsassange.org
Date: July 7, 2021
Doctors for Assange[i] joins politicians, human rights, press freedom, and rule of law advocates across the globe in urging you to end the unwarranted US legal persecution and torture of Julian Assange, by dropping all charges against him now. The Trump administration’s efforts to entrap a publisher in an extradition scheme, for the purpose of subjecting an Australian citizen to the US Espionage Act, have violated judicial due process, international law, press freedom and human rights. We implore you to end the misguided case you have inherited that violates the bedrock principles of our democracy.
Doctors for Assange is alarmed by recent reports that Julian Assange continues to suffer severe psychological abuse in HMP Belmarsh Prison. Having won his case against extradition to the United States on unprecedented Espionage Act charges against him as a publisher, the UK judge nevertheless has been holding Mr. Assange in unjustified indefinite detention pending your appeal of the decision. It has been five months since that verdict, and the UK High Court has only issued its ruling today on whether it will permit your appeal to proceed.
In its ruling today, the High Court has accepted all previous evidence, and the judge’s previous finding, regarding Mr. Assange’s health status. The High Court has also prevented you from appealing any facts relating to Mr. Assange’s clinical condition. As his extradition was denied in January on the grounds that it would be oppressive in light of his medical and psychological history and diagnoses, your avenues for appeal appear limited.
Meanwhile, Mr. Assange continues to suffer serious, life threatening effects of the psychological torture he has been subjected to for more than a decade. His partner, Stella Moris, reports Mr. Assange is having “severe episodes” in prison, and that he is suffering “mental turmoil.” These symptoms, like the psychological trauma and suicidal ideation evidenced during Mr. Assange’s extradition hearing last Fall, are expected consequences of psychological torture, as reported by the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer.
Although the judge decided against extradition based on oppressive conditions in US prisons, which would place Mr. Assange at high risk of suicide, the US appeal of that decision keeps him in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the UK. While detained pending progression of the US appeal, Mr. Assange remains in maximum security conditions, held in the UK’s most punitive and repressive prison despite being a non-violent prisoner who has not been convicted of any crime. His risk of suicide or death from prolonged psychological torture and medical neglect remains high.[ii] Moreover, Mr. Assange remains at high risk of both contracting and suffering the worst outcomes of COVID-19.
In addition, Mr. Assange’s continued pursuit by the Biden Administration calls into question the legitimacy of the United States’ stated commitment to press freedom, civil liberties and human rights. The world’s leading authorities in such matters, including Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders, the Freedom of the Press Foundation and the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute, to name a few, are unequivocally denouncing the US Government’s pursuit of Julian Assange. Cross-party groups of parliamentarians from the UK, Australia, Germany and Italy, have weighed in as well, warning that the extraterritorial reach and unprecedented criminalization of publishing activity threatens journalists and freedom of speech worldwide.
For these reasons, we urge you to drop the appeal and all charges in this case that constitutes an egregious violation of the rule of law, human rights and press freedom. Failing to do so would establish a precedent with permanent, devastating effects on the foundations of our democracy, and irrevocably damage the United States’ reputation in the international community’s eyes. We urge you to put an end to this case before its dire consequences become your personal responsibility.
Dr. Marco Chiesa, MD, FRCPsych, Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor, University College London (United Kingdom)
Dr. C Stephen Frost, BSc, MBChB, Specialist in Diagnostic Radiology (Stockholm, Sweden), United Kingdom and Sweden
Dr. Bob Gill, MBChB, MRCGP, General Medical Practitioner, United Kingdom
Prof William Hogan, MD, Specialist in Internal Medicine; Professor of Biomedical Informatics, United States
Dr. Lissa Johnson, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Australia
Prof. Tony Nelson, Department of Paediatrics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Dr. Anne Noonan, Psychiatrist, SONT, Specialist Outreach Northern Territory, Australia
Prof. Thomas G Schulze, MD, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY; University Hospital, LMU Munich; Member, Executive Committee of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA); Past President of the American Psychopathological Association (APPA) and the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics (ISPG), Germany and United States
Dr. Jill Stein, MD, Internist, Lexington, Massachusetts; Former instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, United States
Dr. Derek Summerfield, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College, University of London; Former Chief Psychiatrist at the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, United Kingdom
Dr. Sue Wareham OAM (Order of Australia), MBBS, General Medical Practitioner (retired); Co-founder of ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (2017 Nobel Peace Prize), Australia
For and on behalf of
[i] Doctors for Assange is a group of over 250 medical professionals from 35 countries formed in October 2019 to voice concerns about the health of Julian Assange and to condemn the violations of his right to health, to doctor-patient confidentiality and to be free from torture. [ii] Doctors for Assange. End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange. Lancet 2020; 395: e44–45. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30383-4