The United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Nils Melzer, called on the UK authorities to immediately release the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, or put him under house arrest.
“Mr. Assange is not a criminal convict and does not pose a threat to anyone, therefore his prolonged solitary confinement in a maximum security prison is neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks a legal basis,” says Melzer.
In this context, according to the note, the expert reiterated his call to “release Assange immediately or put him under supervised house arrest.”
Melzer made this appeal because of the spread of the coronavirus in the Belmarsh maximum security prison where Assange is held. According to the data, 65 of almost 160 inmates of this prison tested positive for COVID-19.
“First, alternative non-custodial measures should be extended to those with specific vulnerabilities, such as Mr. Assange, who suffers from a pre-existing respiratory condition,” he said.
The rapporteur, above all, called on the British government not to extradite Assange to the United States “due to serious human rights concerns.”
The WikiLeaks founder has been locked up in the Belmarsh maximum security prison since his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in April 2019.
The US Department of Justice claims Assange for a crime of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” and 17 counts of accessing, obtaining and disclosing secret military and diplomatic documents, between 2010 and 2011.
The hearing to decide whether Assange should be sent to the US resumed on September 7 at London’s Central Criminal Court, after a six-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ruling on Assange’s extradition to the US will be announced in the first instance on January 4.