If Julian Assange leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy, he’ll be arrested, tortured, and may be executed. A UN panel has found that Assange is being effectively detained in the embassy through the threat of formal imprisonment. And the Trump administration, ironically with the support of the same Democrats who warn about Trump’s attacks on the free press, is prepared to seek charges against Assange so that they can arrest him right after he’s ejected from the embassy.
He isn’t staying in the embassy out of “pride,” as some have accused him of doing, but out of physical self-preservation; if the UK extradites him to the U.S, he’ll very likely be tortured in prison, like he was tortured during his experience with solitary confinement in 2010. The U.S. will no doubt try to prevent him from having a fair trial, and it’s possible that he’ll be executed if or when he’s convicted.
In the meantime, he’s effectively being tortured every day. Assange’s isolation in the embassy has qualified as solitary confinement, a punishment that human rights officials have repeatedly classified as torture. And after over six years of not stepping outside, Assange’s physical and mental health have become seriously damaged. In January, three doctors assessed that Assange “badly needs care.” As the doctors wrote in their column, he’s also “unable to avail himself of his right to access medical institutions due to the threat of imminent arrest should he step outside the embassy, even for a medical emergency.”
Shortly after that medical assessment was made, the journalist observed about Assange’s health that:
“After more than half a decade without fresh air to breathe, he coughs and clears his throat constantly. He struggles to maintain cognitive flow — breaking and reforming his thoughts, soldiering on in a concerted effort to express his ideas. It is obvious to any viewer that his vision has been affected. Our eyes need regular exposure to both short and long distances, as well as natural light changes, to maintain their health. With only four close walls to look at, Assange faces partial blindness, as well as a host of other negative effects from his unjust confinement.”
What crimes has he committed that have put him in this situation? As far as the evidence tells us, no crimes at all. His sexual misconduct charges have been dropped and disproven, WikiLeaks has only engaged in the completely legal journalistic activity of publishing leaks, and there is still no evidence that he’s worked with the Russian government. The people in power only hate him because he’s holding them accountable.
So, why do Assange’s detractors frequently assert that Assange can “leave whenever he wants?” They seem to use this argument because it appears to make sense on the surface and because it shifts all of the blame for Assange’s suffering onto Assange himself.
And, if we all admitted that Assange is a victim, we would all have to admit that our leaders are not in the right. Obama supporters would have to admit that their leader forced Assange into torture only because Assange practiced journalism. Trump supporters would have to admit that their leader is now trying to persecute Assange in the same way. And, everyone would have to see that the West’s ruling institutions, despite their claims of being morally superior, are carrying out the slow-motion murder of a political dissident in front of the world’s eyes. Click To Tweet