the rising tempo of julian assange’s murder in belmarsh gitmo
‘Slow, cruel assassination’: Mother blasts US & UK for treatment of Assange’, 11 Aug, 2019, RT.com
“My son Julian Assange is being slowly, cruelly & unlawfully assassinated by the US and UK Governments, for multi-award winning journalism revealing war crimes & corruption!” she wrote.
She also tweeted a link to a report from a United Nations expert who called for a stop to the “collective persecution” of the journalist.
Assange is currently incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison after being arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in April. His visitors have repeatedly raised concerns about his health. As recently as last Wednesday, journalist John Pilger said his condition was “deteriorating” and that he was being treated “worse than a murderer.”
I spoke to Julian #Assange at the weekend. His psychological torture is unabated. He remains isolated in his small cell, mostly 23 hours a day, denied proper exercise. He has lost more weight. Although 'approved', phone calls to his parents are still not possible. Britain 2019.
— John Pilger (@johnpilger) August 28, 2019
‘Julian Assange: Deprivation of Justice and Double Standards in Belmarsh Prison, August 28, 2019, Nina Cross, 21stcenturywire.com
“On cue, HM Belmarsh Prison’s high security regime has so far proved crippling for Assange’s hopes of mounting a legal defence. It is now public knowledge that government officials at Belmarsh have imposed restrictions which effectively deny Assange sufficient legal visits, deny him the ability to speak to his US lawyers, deny him access to and possession of legal documents, and deny him the basic means through which to prepare for his legal defence, namely, a laptop computer.
For those readers who may not be versed in legalese, the following points passages will demonstrate how one can measure Belmarsh’s treatment of Assange against recognised protections and guidelines, such as:
Article 6.3 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which is of particular significance for prisoners (Assange clearly qualifies a political prisoner) and states that detainees must:
“… have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence…”
The Council of Europe (CoE) has produced a definition of what this means in a guide on Article 6 of the ECHR:
- The “facilities” which everyone charged with a criminal offence should enjoy include the opportunity to acquaint himself, for the purposes of preparing his defence, with the results of investigations carried out throughout the proceedings.
- In order to facilitate the conduct of the defence, the accused must not be hindered in obtaining copies of relevant documents from the case file and compiling and using any notes taken
NOTE: During Assange’s US extradition court hearing in June, Assange himself was adamant that he had not even received the text of the US indictment against him and said that he had to have essential legal documents posted to him. His legal team also reiterated that preparation for his defense was being impeded and that access to their client was being restricted by the British government. It is difficult to argue that this strategy is not intentional.” [long legalese snip]
“If we believe that barriers to Assange’s ability to defend himself against extradition are justified on the criteria given by a ‘overstretched and underfunded’ high-security prison system, then we are merely consenting to the erosion of law and accepting in its place rules imposed by the administrators of the state’s institutions – at the expense of an individual’s liberty. These justifications for denying Assange his basic legal right to justice are convenient pretexts for Belmarsh which, on cue, has been co-opted by a political agenda which seeks to enable his rendition to the US.
Double Standards: the Belmarsh ‘prison experience’ according to the governor”
I’ll let you read from that point, as I’d like to include some major excerpts from the following heart-piercing & enraging interview (I’ve received permission from the site to use as much content as I choose):
‘Clinical psychologist Lissa Johnson: They are trying to break Assange “physically and psychologically”, Oscar Grenfell, 28 August 2019, wsws.org
“Earlier this year, Johnson wrote an extensive five–part investigative series titled “The Psychology of Getting Julian Assange,” published on the New Matilda website. Johnson provided the following responses to a series of questions from the World Socialist Web Site earlier this week.
WSWS: John Shipton and John Pilger have recently detailed the punitive conditions of Assange’s detention in Belmarsh Prison. Could you speak about the way in which his isolation, and the denial of his right to access computers/legal documents is aimed at stymieing his defence against the US extradition request and increasing the psychological pressures upon him?
Lissa Johnson: If anyone takes a moment to imagine what it must be like to face the prospect of 175 years in a US prison, having already been subjected to nearly a decade of arbitrary detention and judicial harassment, knowing that you have no chance of a fair trial in the US, having been smeared in the media and branded a “terrorist” and enemy of the state, then that gives you an inkling of what Julian Assange was dealing with even before being placed under lockdown in Belmarsh prison. If you add to that having read hundreds of documents from Guantanamo Bay and knowing, in intimate detail, what the United States does to those it brands terrorists and enemies of the state, then Julian Assange’s reality becomes even clearer.
Now, with the full force of the US national security state bearing down on him, Julian Assange has been stripped of his most basic abilities to protect himself. He is denied even the ability to view the documents in his case, in order to inspect and understand the evidence against him. He is denied regular contact with his lawyers, and access to a computer. In other words, he is forced, day and night, do nothing but wait, helplessly, for whatever wrath the US government intends to unleash upon him.
This is beyond barbarically psychologically cruel. Emotionally, it is akin to holding someone bound and gagged in the basement while their assailant stands outside sharpening their knives.
As if all of this weren’t enough, Julian Assange is also being deprived of one of the most fundamental human psychological needs, which is human contact. Even without the threat of US extradition, the kind of isolation that Julian is suffering is deeply damaging to human beings. We are social animals and need social connection.
For that reason, prolonged solitary confinement of more than 15 days has been defined by the United Nations as torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Beyond 15 days, solitary confinement is considered “prolonged” because some of the adverse psychological effects can become permanent.
As well as causing a wide range of serious psychological disturbances and physical health problems, the reduced stimulation of solitary confinement can cause decreased brain activity, which may become irreversible after just seven days. Concentration and memory impairments can also occur, and can persist after solitary confinement ends.
The implication is that subjecting Julian Assange to social isolation is not only cruel and inhuman, it may well be damaging his cognitive capacity to engage in his own defence and fight his cause going forward.
Inflicting conditions with the potential to weaken and destroy one of the great minds of our time in this way, thereby turning him into an easy target, is reprehensible.
WSWS: As a clinical psychologist, can you comment on the treatment that Assange should be receiving?
LJ: Julian Assange is suffering because he is being abused. The intervention required to ameliorate his deterioration is to cease his abuse.” [snip]
“A simple and imperative starting point would be to grant him access to social contact, including regular visitors of his choosing, both personal and professional, including legal and health professionals and friends, family and colleagues. This would alleviate the isolation that will inevitably seriously adversely affect both his physical and mental health, now and into the future.
An equally simple and immediate intervention would be respecting his human right to prepare his defence. This would involve granting him access to lawyers, documents, the internet and a computer. That would at least reduce the sense of helplessness he must be experiencing, and restore some sense of efficacy, control and agency, which are psychologically essential factors in coping with threat and danger.” [a long snip discussing Nils Melzler’s findings]
WSWS: You have previously written about the way in which the persecution of Assange has drawn upon methods of psychological warfare employed by the intelligence agencies. Could you elaborate?
LJ: In counterintelligence, which has been deployed against WikiLeaks since 2008 according to leaked documents, a key tactic is to exploit adversary vulnerabilities. A maxim in psychological operations is also that an adversary is more hurt by desertion than by slaughter.”
Next there’s a form to fill out for emails concerning Julian Assange and Chelsea Mannnig. This portion on media psyops is epic:
“With this in mind, I wrote a series of articles about the ways in which the psychological vulnerabilities in the human reality-processing system have been exploited over many years in order to smear Julian Assange, and drive desertion from WikiLeaks. I placed this in the context of a 2008 Defence Department cyber-counterintelligence document that outlined a plan to destroy the “trust” at WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity.”
Put briefly, the human reality-processing system is vulnerable to exploitation in that it is driven powerfully by emotion. Unless human beings are particularly motivated to be accurate, emotion tends to unconsciously direct our thinking much of the time, such that we accept versions of reality that “feel” true. So pervasive is this tendency that one scholar of cognition has described reason as a “gun for hire” in service of emotion.
In the case of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, this human vulnerability has been relentlessly exploited by pairing Julian Assange’s name and face with negative associations and emotions, thereby pinning an emotional bullseye to his head, causing negative information to stick. Using such methods, including via Russiagate, every effort has been made to turn reality on its head such that peace is bad, war is good, truth is dangerous and censorship will set us free. The ultimate goal has been gaining public consent not only to persecute Julian Assange and “take down” WikiLeaks, but to treat public interest journalism as public enemy number one.
WSWS: What has been the role of the media in this campaign?
LJ: The establishment media has provided the vehicle by which this campaign has been waged. Outlets such as the Guardian, the New York Times, cable news channels, the ABC and tabloid media, have faithfully paired Julian Assange’s name and face with selected negative terms, concepts and emotions, over and over and over again, priming automatic unconscious negative emotional responses to Julian Assange.”
See for instance, wsws.org’s ‘The ABC documentary “Hero or Villain”: Undermining the defence of Julian Assange’, August 12, 2019 [neon-yellow ‘journalism’ with a lengthy description, as well as any number of smears against against Julian by the Intercept]
“This has served to foster emotional receptivity to demonising, misleading, counter-factual narratives on Julian Assange, along with narratives that rationalise and minimise his persecution, all of which have been woven from distortion, omission and outright fabrication. The scale of the censorship by omission, including media blackouts on critical pieces of information that undermine official narratives, has been staggering.
In the context of collective violence and atrocity, media that smear targets in this way function as instigators. Their role is to incite passive by-standing by creating what psychologists call an “atrocity generating situation.” In atrocity-generating situations, brutality is normalised and victims are demonised, dehumanised and debased, causing the public to morally and emotionally disengage from their abuse.” [snip]
WSWS: You have spoken before about the role of WikiLeaks in exposing the torture techniques employed in Guantanamo Bay, and how this was a significant contribution to our understanding of the misuse of psychological techniques. Could you explain?
LJ: WikiLeaks’ Guantanamo Files contained not only several hundred classified reports, but also the full Standard Operating Procedures Manual for Guantanamo. Together, along with exposing torture and the detention of innocent men, these files revealed the involvement of Behavioural Science Consultation Teams, including psychologists, in designing the abusive tactics used at Guantanamo.
That evidence, as revealed by WikiLeaks, helped a group of psychologists in the United States known as Psychologists for Social Responsibility to hold the American Psychological Association accountable over its unethical collusion with the Department of Defence and the CIA, including psychologists’ participation in horrors at Guantanamo. For this reason, the psychology profession owes WikiLeaks and Julian Assange a great debt of gratitude. WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have helped us to defend the ethics and integrity of our profession.
I wish more psychologists understood this, and felt a sense of responsibility to do the ethical thing in return, by standing up for Julian Assange now that he is suffering the very same unethical psychological tactics that he helped to expose and combat.”
To further the cause of Julian Assange’s freedom, do anything that is legal and within your power to do: attend rallies, write to your politicians, call your politicians, then call them and write to them again, sign petitions, be informed, share accurate information on social media, correct misinformation, talk to family and friends, find out what actions and initiatives already exist in your area and join them. Searching the #FreeAssange or #FreeAssangeRally hashtag on Twitter is one way to learn about events, which are rarely if ever reported in the establishment press.
In short, exercise to the fullest the democratic rights and freedoms that Julian Assange is fighting to defend, while you still can.”
“It is the journalists from The Guardian and New York Times who should be in jail, not Julian Assange, said Mark Davis last week. The veteran Australian investigative journalist, who has been intimately involved in the Wikileaks drama, has turned the Assange narrative on its head. The smears are falling away. The mainstream media, which has so ruthlessly made Julian Assange a scapegoat, is silent in response.
Greg Bean likens the revolutionary work of Julian Assange to that of Johannes Gutenberg who invented the printing press. Government reaction, 580 years later, is similarly savage.”
It’s long, and includes this 20 minute Consortium News video:
(cross-posted from Café Babylon)