UN expert claims Julian Assange has been a victim of torture at the hands of various nations. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP
UN expert claims Julian Assange has been a victim of torture at the hands of various nations. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP

Australia blamed for torturing Assange

A United Nations expert has pointed an accusatory finger directly at Britain, Sweden and the United States for "ganging up" on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In a report condemning their actions, the UN torture expert also highlighted Australia's inaction as a damaging force.

"In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law," said UN special rapporteur Nils Melzer.

He also noted Australia's failure to assist. "Australia is a glaring absence in this case. They're just not around, as if Assange was not an Australian citizen," Mr Melzer told The Sydney Morning Herald. "That is not the correct way of dealing with that."

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade adamantly denied the claims. "We reject any suggestion by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Australian Government is complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support for Mr Assange".

"The Special Rapporteur has not been in contact with the Australian Government to raise these concerns directly."

The Department insists that consular officers from the Australian High Commission in London have already visited Mr Assange twice this year - on April 12 and May 17.

While DFAT are "confident that Mr Assange is being treated the same as other prisoners in Belmarsh", a recent examination found alarming deteriorations in his mental and physical health, impacting his ability to front court.

Assange's lawyer Gareth Pierce said the WikiLeaks founder was "far from well", as he failed to appear yesterday via video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court as expected.

The Australian computer programmer was arrested at London's Ecuadorean embassy in April, after spending seven years holed up there to avoid charges against him. WikiLeaks said his health "significantly deteriorated" during this time, "under conditions that were incompatible with basic human rights."

Still, Mr Melzer is convinced Julian Assange a victim of "psychological torture."

"The evidence is overwhelming and clear," he said. "Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture."

Mr Melzer said he had initially been sceptical about Mr. Assange's case, turning down a request from Mr. Assange's lawyers back in December to investigate. But he said that what he found after having accepted a second request from the lawyers in March, changed his mind.

"Wherever I delved into the case, I found a lot of dirty stuff," he told The New York Times.

Following media reports of Assange's ill health yesterday, the Australian Government has reportedly made further inquiries with Belmarsh Prison authorities as to Mr Assange's current health situation.

A DFAT spokesman confirmed: "We will continue to visit Mr Assange in prison, monitor and advocate for his health, welfare and equitable treatment, and closely follow his legal proceedings."


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