Our Email to all Federal Parliamentarians

On the 16th April 2020, The Australian Assange Campaign sent this email to every Member and every Senator in Federal Parliament

Subject: That Julian Assange be Treated Humanely and in Accordance with International Standards 

I am writing on behalf of the Australian Assange Campaign. On March 25, Mr Assange’s bail application citing COVID-19 risks was rejected. I fear that Julian Assange may not survive the COVID-19 outbreak now spreading rapidly through the UK prison systems. 

With the unfolding of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister publicly offered support for Australians overseas. I ask you to ensure that Australia urgently makes good on these promises from our foremost Parliamentary representatives. 

As a nation, we need to ensure urgent high-level, strong diplomatic representations for the release of Mr Assange from Belmarsh Prison to monitored home detention as he fits all of the grounds noted for such early release by leading organisations such as the World Health Organisation, Amnesty International, the United nations and the UK Prison Officers Association. These organisations have been unanimous in calling for the release of all non-violent detainees. For consideration: 

  • Mr Assange is a non-violent remand detainee with no history of harm to the community. He is not convicted and is thus entitled to the presumption of innocence. 
  • Doctors of Mr Assange warn he is at high risk from dying if he contracts COVID-19 as he has a pre-existing chronic lung condition. 
  • There are multiple reports that COVID-19 is rapidly spreading throughout UK prisons. There are infections and a reported COVID-19 death in Belmarsh Prison [15]. 
  • There are reports that the prison is short-staffed and normal activity regimes are suspended. 
  • Mr Assange is in poor mental health due to spending much time in solitary confinement over recent years and prison COVID-19 lockdown measures are further exacerbating his mental health. 

As a nation, we need to ensure that the UK justice systems urgently give further consideration to the very reasonable request by Mr Assange’s lawyers that this non-violent Australian detainee be released into home detention with a GPS monitored curfew and with security monitored by a private security firm answerable directly to the court.

And this is not a big ask, I am just asking you make enquiries to ensure Julian Assange is offered the same rights as other Australian citizens and is treated humanely and in accordance with international standards 

Thank you for your time, 

Matthew Bretherton 

Secretary Assange Campaign Inc 



Background Notes And Reading: 

  • Prime Minister’s Statement

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has advised 
No Australian will have to go through this (the pandemic) alone
and this has been tweeted by the Australian High Commissioner to the UK, George Brandis [1] (27thMarch) 

Assange supporters have sent over 900 emails to His Excellency Georg Brandis QC urging support for Julian Assange. 
The Australian Assange Campaign is not aware of any being answered,. 

  • Foreign Minister’s Statement

Senator the Hon Marise Payne issued a DFAT advisory (24 March) [2] 

Australians unjustly detained overseas

‘… Prison conditions in the context of the pandemic are of concern to Australia. My Department and I have made multiple, high-level, strong diplomatic representations on such cases … 

I am also concerned in particular for the health, safety and wellbeing of Australians unjustly detained overseas and those who continue to be held in detention despite a compelling humanitarian case for furlough or the remission of their sentences.

We will continue to advocate strongly for them, and others in unjust detention or with humanitarian cases for clemency, and to ensure they are treated humanely and in accordance with international standards.’

In the last few weeks, the senator has been carbon copied on over 3,500 emails from Assange supporters addressed to various key players in the UK, for example, the Chair of the NHS who has ultimate medical responsibility in a UK prison. These emails express growing distress and disbelieve at the management of the COVID-19 risks in UK prisons.

  • COVID-19 in the UK 

Over Easter the United Kingdom overtook both Iran and China to become the 6thmost infected country in the world on the John Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard [19]. They have now reported over 10,000 deaths due to the virus and reported over 90,000 infections. 
Social distancing restrictions seem to have broken the initial geometric growth cycle and it is settling at a linear growth of around 5,000 new infections reported per day. 
With over 20,000 new infections reported over Easter it is suspected that contact tracing, which has been so successful in Australia, is no longer an effective containment mechanism in the UK. 

  • References

1. ‘No Australian will have to go through this alone’ 

2.Australians unjustly detained overseas


3. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet 

Urgent action needed to prevent COVID-19 ‘rampaging through places of detention


4. British prisoners ‘will die’ from coronavirus


5. London hospitals facing ‘tsunami’ of patients (Chris Hopson) 


6. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns UK treatment of Julian Assange in US extradition trial

According to his lawyers, Mr Assange was handcuffed 11 times; stripped naked twice and searched; his case files confiscated after the first day of the hearing; and had his request to sit with his lawyers during the trial, rather than in a dock surrounded by bulletproof glass, denied.


7. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe released from Iran prison


8. WHO -Prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention

The rights of all people affected by the COVID-19 outbreak must be upheld, and all public health measures must be carried out without discrimination of any kind. According to international human rights law, it is the responsibility of the State to ensure that people in prisons and other places of detention enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the outside community, without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status


9. Doctors For Assange

Covid-19 warning in Reply to Australian Government


Statement on Assange Bail Hearing over Coronavirus Risk

10. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

UN expert on torture sounds alarm again that Julian Assange’s life may be at risk


Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange


11. Amnesty International – Assange bail application highlights COVID-19 risk 


12. Craig Murray: Beyond Words 8thApril 

The prisons are now practising ‘cohorting’ across the estate, although decisions currently lie with individual governors. Prisoners who have a cough “any cough“ are being put together in segregated blocks. The consequences of this are of course potentially unthinkable. 

13. Express Star 27thMarch 

27 inmates test positive for Covid-19 in 14 different prisons


14. Express Star 7thApril 

A total of nine prisoners have now died after contracting Covid-19 (one in Belmarsh) 
Some 107 prisoners had tested positive for Covid-19 in 38 jails. 
There are 19 prison staff in 12 jails who have contracted the virus as well as four prison escort and custody services staff. 


15. News Shopper 7thApril 

Multiple cases of coronavirus have been confirmed inside Belmarsh Prison, and one inmate has died after contracting the virus. 


16. The Guardian 7thApril 

Coronavirus will thrive in British jails: prisoners face a death sentence


17. Daily Mail 7thApril 

Calls for 15,000 prisoners to be freed from UK jails to ease coronavirus crisis 


18. RT News 30thMarch 

‘ONE IN FOUR’ UK doctors forced off work as Covid-19 pandemic causes severe headache for healthcare system


19. John Hopkins Covis-19 Dashboard