Nils Melzer: Assange’s Treatment Threatens the ‘Future of Our Democracies’

On 4th February 2020 Mohamed Elmaazi interviews Nils Melzer

Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, says that the governments of the US, Sweden and the UK have shown “bad faith” in failing to address evidence that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been subjected to torture.

Professor Melzer, talks about how his mandate as an independent UN expert has compelled him to speak out, when Britain, the US, and Sweden failed to properly address his concerns in Assange’s case.

. . . 

Sputnik: I’ve been told by someone that there are some people at the UN who believe that you’ve exceeded your mandates. In the case of Julian Assange. That speaking out the way you have, makes you look partisan, and might actually even not assist his case. Can you understand those concerns and how do you respond to them? 

Nils Melzer: Well, I initially was reluctant to get into the case and I was, if anything, I was partial on the other side, against Julian Assange, because I suspected somehow that he wanted to manipulate my mandate. Because I had been poisoned by the same type of public… narrative about him as anyone else has. What I have realised through that investigation is that we have a systematic problem that needs to be addressed.

That there are three ways in which my mandate is affected:

·        Julian Assange has a disclosed, exposed torture that has not been prosecuted systematically;
·        He has been tortured himself; and
·        If extradited to the US he likely to be tortured until the day of his death.

. . . 

Sputnik: When did you decide that you were going to start speaking out in a way that is more irregular compared to how you normally do – to how you normally work as a UN Special Rapporteur?

Nils Melzer: Look, I come from very conservative institutions like the International Committee of the Red Cross. I was a national security advisor for the Swiss government, Swiss [Federal Department of] foreign affairs. I’ve worked for conservative think tanks like the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and that’s exactly how I conducted my mandate. So I stick to my procedures, in good faith, and I submitted my observations and my recommendations to the governments involved in various cases, including now the Assange case.

Obviously, then, if states don’t react in good faith, if they ignore my recommendations, they don’t even, I mean they don’t have to agree with me, but at least have to respond. I mean that’s my function. They mandated me to investigate cases and submit my observations and make recommendations and ask questions in the expectation obviously that they then would respond and we can clarify these issues.

But when I see the government simply ignore my recommendations and refuse to engage in a dialogue then I have to move to different forum, because then there we have bad faith in play and bad faith in the implementation of the prohibition of torture is not a good thing for anyone.

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