Quietly Killing Julian Assange

Conflict In Context - Field Notes

The sculptured tableaux of Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning – crusaders of transparency and free speech – are true to life… their silence is ironic.

Where are the voices for Julian Assange?

While Manning is serving her own jail sentence and Snowden lives in exile, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains locked up in Her Majesty’s Prison at London’s Belmarsh prison, where the US and UK are quietly killing him. Former MP George Galloway calls the facility “Britain’s Guantanamo”.

Assange won notoriety in 2010 when his non-profit organisation, Wikileaks, released video footage revealing the crew of a U.S. Apache helicopter gunning down civilians in Iraq.

The activist had been holed up for seven years at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, facing allegations in the United States that he conspired to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010.

When Ecuador’s leadership changed recently, its new neoliberal president, Lenin Moreno, revoked Assange’s asylum, citing, among other things, the activist’s poor hygiene. Soon after being booted out, the 47-year old Australian was found guilty of breaching the Bail Act when he sought asylum from Ecuador in June of 2012.

London’s Metropolitan Police reportedly said they arrested Assange on behalf of the United States.

The psychological torture began even before police hauled Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy. Images of Assange as a frail bearded old man belying his 47 years. A Spanish firm, Undercover Global, had reportedly been spying on Assange on behalf of the CIA in the months leading up to his expulsion from the Ecuadorean embassy. Images of Assange skateboarding in the confines of the embassy were soon leaked.

U.N. Special Rapporteur, Nils Melzer, visited Assange in Belmarsh prison last spring and, along with two medical experts, concluded that Assange had been subjected to psychological torture. The independent UN rights expert said Assange’s “continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life”.

At Belmarsh Assange is being kept in complete isolation for 23 hours a day, and allowed 45 minutes exercise. When he has to be moved, guards clear the corridors and lock all cells to ensure that he has no contact with any other prisoner outside the exercise period. He’s being deprived of medical care, proper nutrition, moral support, legal documents, and news.

Assange reportedly muttered, stuttered, and grappled to say his own name and date of birth when he appeared in court on October 21.

It is likely the CIA and MI6 are employing the method called “Induced Helplessness”, which comes straight out of the U.S. Army’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE) program.

The US and UK are stripping him of his individuality – everything that made him powerful icon of free speech. In the end their treatment in prison will kill him.

Learned helplessness is a psychological state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change a situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available. They have given up.

The technique was developed by Dr. Martin Seligman in the 1960s. His work consisted of psychologically destroying caged dogs by subjecting them to repeated electric shocks with no hope of escape.

Seligman’s work eventually formed the underpinnings of the Bush administration’s torture program. In 2010 the U.S. Army gave a $31 million no bid contract to Martin Seligman,

In Belmarsh Assange is totally isolated. He’s reportedly deprived of medical care, sleep, human contact, food, moral support, legal documents, and news. He will likely no longer have the capacity, means or will to improve his situation.

The moral of the story seems to be that you’ll have hell to pay if you expose U.S. war crimes.

Why are the voices for Assange silent? Because the public can no longer see or hear him. All that remains is the lingering images of a silver-haired loony skateboarding in a tiny space, and, later, in a police van resembling some Hobbit-like creature.

Another leader who recently wasted away in prison was Egypt’s democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi. The former president was in such poor health after years of abuse in prison that he collapsed during a court hearing in June 2019, and died. He was 67.

“Dr. Morsi was held in conditions that can only be described as brutal, particularly during his five-year detentions in the Tora prison complex”, said Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, together with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“Dr. Morsi’s death after enduring those conditions could amount to a State-sanctioned arbitrary killing”, they added in a press release.