Shocking new claims from the mother of Julian Assange have suggested that her son has been denied both access to his lawyer and medical treatment during his ongoing incarceration at Belmarsh Prison in London.
Writing on Twitter, Christine Assange says that the former Wikileaks editor has been denied his rights, being barred from visitors and medical treatement.
Looking in poor health during the shocking moments that he was dragged from the Venezuelan embassy, there was an assumption that Assange would be given the medical treatment that he obviously needed, the United Nations stating that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental human right of every human being without discrimination.”
The British government’s own website states clearly that “prisoners get the same healthcare and treatment as anyone outside of prison. Treatment is free but has to be approved by a prison doctor or member of the healthcare team.” They add that any problems which cannot be dealt with by said healthcare team will either result in experts visiting the prison or treatment in an outside hospital.
British law entitled prisoners to at least two 1-hour visits every 4 weeks, with prisoners entitled to be able to get in touch with legal representation. However, prisoners can be denied free visits and placed on a system of closed visits or even banned from having visitors at all.
The case of Golder v The United Kingdom: ECHR 21 Feb 1975, set a precedent for access to legal representation when a prisoner “G” was refused permission by the Home Secretary to consult a solicitor to seek advice about his potential maltreatment. The prisoner claimed that his right to a fair trial (art. 6 ECHR) had been infringed, the courts found in his favour.
For the record, art. 6 ECHR states that
- In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law. Judgment shall be pronounced publicly but the press and public may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interest of morals, public order or national security in a democratic society, where the interests of juveniles or the protection of the private life of the parties so require, or the extent strictly necessary in the opinion of the court in special circumstances where publicity would prejudice the interests of justice.
- Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law.
- Everyone charged with a criminal offence has the following minimum rights:
- to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him;
- to have adequate time and the facilities for the preparation of his defence;
- to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing or, if he has not sufficient means to pay for legal assistance, to be given it free when the interests of justice so require;
- to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him;
- to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
Key here is the fact that Assange while serving time for breaching his bail conditions, must also conduct his defence in impending extradition proceedings and toward the charge imposed upon him by the United States. It is unacceptable that he has no face to face legal representation for these life-altering proceedings.
After six years in cramped conditions inside the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange was already said to be in dire need of medical treatment even prior to Ecuador revoking his asylum. Christine Assange says that doctors who examined her son were of the opinion he needed immediate transfer to a medical facility.
The minimum rules for the protection of prisoners (SMR) were set as long ago as 1955 and laid out principles for the provision of health care in custody. The 94 rules were approved by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. They have been supplemented over the years and in 1984 the United Nations adopted the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In 1988 and 1990, respectively, the United Nations adopted the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under any form of Detention or Imprisonment and the Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Should the British government deny health care to Assange, they would likely be in breach of a swath of international law, not least the European Prison Rules and the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.