The UN special rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, has urged the UK not to extradite Julian Assange to the US owing to the risk of ill-treatment.
In a statement, Edwards called on the UK government to “suspend the imminent extradition” of Assange, which was agreed in principle by London in June 2022. On 20 and 21 February, two UK magistrates will review the London High Court’s decision to deny the WikiLeaks founder permission to appeal his extradition.
Edwards emphasised that Assange has long suffered from periodic depressive disorder and has a potential risk of suicide: “If extradited, he may face prolonged isolation pending trial (…). If found guilty, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.”
She further questioned whether his extended isolation would be compatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations. “The diplomatic assurances provided by the US government regarding his humane treatment do not provide sufficient guarantee”, Edwards asserted. She is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but does not speak on behalf of the organisation.
.@DrAliceJEdwards, @UN_SPExperts exhorte le #RoyaumeUni à suspendre l'éventuelle extradition de Julian #Assange vers les #USA "Julian Assange craint sérieusement que, s’il était extradé, il risque de subir un traitement équivalant à de la torture ou des mauvais traitements" pic.twitter.com/MNtglCmuyg— ONU Genève (@ONUGeneve) February 6, 2024
After the February hearings, Assange will either have “further opportunities to make his case” before the court or will have exhausted all appeals and enter the extradition process, his supporters highlighted in a December statement.
The 52-year-old Australian is pursued in the US for publishing more than 700,000 confidential documents on US military and diplomatic activities, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2010 onwards, and is facing decades in prison.
Arrested by UK police in 2019 after spending seven years in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, Assange has been held at the high-security Belmarsh prison in east London for four years.