Doctors issue open letter to the Australian government: Julian Assange at risk of death in prison – World Socialist Web Site

Posted: December 17, 2019 at 1:43 am

Doctors issue open letter to the Australian government: Julian Assange at risk of death in prison 17 December 2019

The following open letter has been issued to the Australian government by Doctors4Assange on behalf of more than 100 signatories. The letter and accompanying addendum has been published on Medium and medical doctors can add their name to the current list of signatories by contacting Doctors4Assange@gmail.com

To: Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Marise Payne

CC: Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Penny Wong

Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison

Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Anthony Albanese

16 December 2019

Dear Minister,

RE: MEDICAL EMERGENCYMR JULIAN ASSANGE

We, the undersigned medical doctors, wrote to the UK Home Secretary on 22 November 2019, and to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice on 4 December 2019, expressing our serious and unanimous concerns that an Australian citizen, Mr Julian Assange, is at risk of death due to the conditions of his detention in a UK prison.

Our open letter received worldwide media coverage and we received letters of support from doctors and others around the world. Now, having received no response from the UK Government, we call upon you to intervene as a matter of urgency. As Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, you have an undeniable legal obligation to protect your citizen against the abuse of his fundamental human rights, stemming from US efforts to extradite Mr Assange for journalism and publishing that exposed US war crimes.

The medical imperative to protect Australian citizen Julian Assange cannot be overstated. Our letters to the UK Government have warned of serious consequences if Mr Assange is not transferred immediately from Belmarsh Prison to an appropriate hospital setting, where he can be assessed and treated by a suitably constituted specialist medical team. Mr Assange requires assessment and treatment in an environment that, unlike Belmarsh prison, does not further destabilise his complex and precarious physical and mental state of health.

On 22 November 2019, we warned the UK Home Secretary that if such a transfer were not to take place immediately, there was a real possibility that Mr Assange would die in a UK prison. That assessment of risk was based on publicly available information dating from 2015, provided by medical experts and leading authorities in human rights and international law.

You will recall that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in December 2015 that Mr Assange was being arbitrarily detained by the governments of the UK and Sweden. Crucially, it was made clear at the time that any continued arbitrary detention of Mr Assange would constitute torture. Medical experts have repeatedly advised the UK Government of potentially catastrophic consequences should it fail to facilitate adequate medical care for Mr Assange. As our letters of 22 November 2019 and 4 December 2019 outline, such consequences, including death, would be eminently foreseeable and attributable to the actions and inactions of the UK Government.

On 9 May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Nils Melzer interviewed Mr Assange at Belmarsh Prison, accompanied by a medical team. On 31 May 2019, Mr Melzer published his report and condemned the collective persecution of Mr Assange by the UK, Swedish, Ecuadorian and US governments. Mr Assanges health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years, the expert warned. Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.

The evidence is overwhelming and clear, the UN Special Rapporteur stated. Mr Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.

On 1 November 2019, Professor Melzer was forced to intervene once more: What we have seen from the UK Government is outright contempt for Mr Assanges rights and integrity Despite the medical urgency of my appeal, and the seriousness of the alleged violations, the UK has not undertaken any measures of investigation, prevention and redress required under international law. He concluded: Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr Assanges continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life.

These are extraordinary and unprecedented statements by the worlds foremost authority on torture. The Australian government has shamefully been complicit by its refusal to act, over many years. Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, Minister, did to prevent his death.

Lest there be any misapprehension about the reality of the medical risks facing Mr Assange, important underlying medical facts are outlined in the Addendum to this letter. These facts render Mr Assanges continued detention in Belmarsh Prison medically reckless at best and deliberately harmful at worst.

We therefore urge you to insist upon the immediate transfer of Mr Assange from Belmarsh Prison to an Australian university teaching hospital, on urgent medical grounds, so that he can receive the assessment and treatment that he requires. We are aware of statements by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison that Mr Assange is not going to be given any special treatment and that Australia is unable to intervene in Mr Assanges legal proceedings. However, the most fundamental human rights of an Australian citizen are being denied by the British government.

We demand that you exercise your diplomatic and legal powers to defend the rights of Mr Assange, as you have done previously for other Australian citizens detained abroad, including Melinda Taylor, James Ricketson, David Hicks and Peter Greste.

Further, Mr Assange must not face extradition proceedings for which he may well be medically unfit. At the case management hearing on 21 October 2019, Mr Assange struggled to answer basic questions regarding his name and date of birth, a potentially ominous sign with respect to his cognitive functioning and his state of health.

That we, as doctors, feel ethically compelled to hold governments to account on medical grounds speaks volumes about the gravity of the medical, ethical and human rights travesties that are taking place. It is an extremely serious matter for an Australian citizens survival to be endangered by a foreign government obstructing his human right to health. It is an even more serious matter for that citizens own government to refuse to intervene, against historical precedent and numerous converging lines of medical advice.

We are reliably advised that it is a well-established principle of international lawand of Australian law recognised by its own courtsthat if a countrys citizens face improper treatment, persecution, and human rights violations, they may be the subject of diplomatic action, at that sovereign powers discretion, to protect its citizens abroad. The Australian government must exercise that discretion and request from Britain the safe passage of Mr Assange to Australia, to protect Mr Assange and the rights of all Australian citizens.

We hope that this letter has helped to clarify the reality and urgency of the medical crisis facing your citizen, Mr Assange. We urge you to negotiate Julian Assanges safe passage from Belmarsh Prison to an appropriate hospital setting in Australia before it is too late.

As the present matter is of inherent public interest, copies of this open letter will be distributed to media outlets worldwide.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Mariagiulia Agnoletto MD Specialist in Psychiatry ASST Monza San Gerardo Hospital, Monza (Italy)

Dr Vittorio Agnoletto MD Universit degli Studi di Milano Statale, Milano (Italy)

Dr Sonia Allam MBChB FRCA Consultant in Anaesthesia and Pre-operative Assessment, Forth Valley Royal Hospital, Scotland (UK)

Dr Norbert Andersch MD MRCPsych Consultant Neurologist and Psychiatrist, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (retired); Lecturer in Psychopathology at Sigmund Freud Private University, Vienna-Berlin-Paris (Germany and UK)

Dr Marianne Beaucamp MD Fachrztin (Specialist) in Neurology & Psychiatry Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist (retired), Munich (Germany)

Dr Thed Beaucamp MD Fachrztin (Specialist) in Neurology, Psychiatry & Psychosomatic Medicine Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist (retired), Munich (Germany)

Dr Margaret Beavis MBBS FRACGP MPH General Medical Practitioner (Australia)

Dr David Bell Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst, London (UK)

Mr Patrick John Ramsay Boyd (signed John Boyd) MRCS LRCP MBBS FRCS FEBU Consultant Urologist (retired) (UK)

Dr Hannah Caller MBBS DCH Paediatrician, Homerton University Hospital, London (UK)

Dr Franco Camandona MD Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology E.O. Ospedali Galliera, Genova (Italy)

Dr Sylvia Chandler MBChB MRCGP BA MA General Medical Practitioner (retired) (UK)

Dr Marco Chiesa MD FRCPsych Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor, University College London (UK)

Dr Carla Eleonora Ciccone MD Specialist in Obstetrics & Gynaecology AORN MOSCATI, Avellino (Italy)

Dr Owen Dempsey MBBS BSc MSc PhD General Medical Practitioner (retired) (UK)

Dr H R Dhammika MBBS Medical Officer, Dehiattakandiya Base Hospital, Dehiattakandiya (Sri Lanka)

Dr Tim Dowson MBChB MRCGP MSc MPhil Specialised General Medical Practitioner in Substance Misuse, Leeds (UK)

Miss Kamilia El-Farra MBChB FRCOG MPhil (Medical Law and Ethics) Consultant Gynaecologist, Essex (UK)

Dr Beata Farmanbar MD General Medical Practitioner (Sweden)

Dr Tomasz Fortuna MD RCPsych (affiliated) Forensic Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Adult Psychotherapist and Psychoanalyst, British Psychoanalytical Society and Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, London (UK)

Dr C Stephen Frost BSc MBChB Specialist in Diagnostic Radiology (Stockholm, Sweden) (UK and Sweden)

Dr Peter Garrett MA MD FRCP Independent writer and humanitarian physician; Visiting Lecturer in Nephrology at the University of Ulster (UK)

Dr Rachel Gibbons MBBS BSc MRCPsych. M.Inst.Psychoanal. Mem.Inst.G.A Consultant Psychiatrist (UK)

Dr Bob Gill MBChB MRCGP General Medical Practitioner (UK)

Elizabeth Gordon MS FRCS Consultant Surgeon (retired); Co-founder of Freedom from Torture (UK)

Professor Derek A. Gould MBChB MRCP DMRD FRCR Consultant Interventional Radiologist (retired): BSIR Gold Medal, 2010; over 110 peer-reviewed publications in journals and chapters (UK)

Dr Jenny Grounds MD General Medical Practitioner, Riddells Creek, Victoria; Treasurer, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia (Australia)

Dr Paul Hobday MBBS FRCGP DRCOG DFSRH DPM General Medical Practitioner (retired) (UK)

Mr David Jameson-Evans MBBS FRCS Consultant Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgeon (retired) (UK)

Dr Bob Johnson MRCPsych MRCGP Diploma in Psychotherapy Neurology & Psychiatry (Psychiatric Institute New York) MA (Psychol) PhD (Med Computing) MBCS DPM MRCS Consultant Psychiatrist (retired); Formerly Head of Therapy, Ashworth Maximum Security Hospital, Liverpool; Formally Consultant Psychiatrist, Special Unit, C-Wing, Parkhurst Prison, Isle of Wight (UK)

Dr Lissa Johnson BA BSc(Hons, Psych) MPsych(Clin) PhD Clinical Psychologist (Australia)

Dr Anna Kacperek MRCPsych Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, London (UK)

Dr Jessica Kirker MBChB DipPsychiat MRCPsych FRANZCP MemberBPAS Psychoanalyst and Consultant Medical Psychotherapist (retired) (UK)

Dr Willi Mast MD Facharzt fr Allgemeinmedizin, Gelsenkirchen (Germany)

Dr Janet Menage MA MBChB General Medical Practitioner (retired); qualified Psychological Counsellor; author of published research into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (UK)

Professor Alan Meyers MD MPH Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts (United States)

Dr Salique Miah BSc MBChB FRCEM DTM&H ARCS Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Manchester (UK)

Dr David Morgan DClinPsych MSc Fellow of British Psychoanalytic Society Psychoanalyst, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Consultant Psychotherapist (UK)

Dr Helen Murrell MBChB MRCGP General Medical Practitioner, Gateshead (UK)

Dr Alison Anne Noonan MBBS (Sydney) MD (Rome) MA (Sydney) ANZSJA IAAP AAGP IAP Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Specialist Outreach Northern Territory, Executive Medical Association for Prevention of War (NSW) (Australia)

Dr Alison Payne BSc MBChB DRCOG MRCGP prev FRNZGP General Medical Practitioner, Coventry; special interest in mental health/trauma and refugee health (UK)

Dr Peter Pech MD Specialist in Diagnostic Radiology (sub-specialty Paediatric Radiology), Akademiska Sjukhuset (Uppsala University Hospital), Uppsala (Sweden)

Dr Tomasz Pierscionek MRes MBBS MRCPsych PGDip (UK)

Professor Allyson M Pollock MBChB MSc FFPH FRCGP FRCP (Ed) Professor of Public Health, Newcastle University (UK)

Dr Abdulsatar Ravalia FRCA Consultant Anaesthetist (UK)

Dr. med. Ullrich Raupp MD Specialist in Psychotherapy, Child Psychiatry and Child Neurology; Psychodynamic Supervisor (DGSv) Wesel, Germany (Germany)

Professor Andrew Samuels Professor of Analytical Psychology, University of Essex (recently retired); Honorary/Visiting Professor at Goldsmiths and Roehampton (both London), New York and Macau City Universities; Former Chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy (20092012); Founder Board Member of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy; Founder of Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility (UK)

Mr John H Scurr BSc MBBS FRCS Consultant General and Vascular Surgeon, University College Hospital, London (UK)

Dr Peter Shannon MBBS (UWA) DPM (Melb) FRANZCP Adult Psychiatrist (retired) (Australia)

Dr Gustaw Sikora MD PhD F Inst Psychoanalysis Fellow of British Psychoanalytic Society Specialist Psychiatrist (diploids obtained in Poland and registered in the UK); Psychoanalyst; currently in private practice (UK and Poland)

Dr Wilhelm Skogstad MRCPsych BPAS IPA Psychiatrist & Psychoanalyst, London, United Kingdom (UK and Germany)

Dr John Stace MBBS (UNSW) FRACGP FACRRM FRACMA MHA (UNSW) Country Doctor (retired), Perth (Australia)

Dr Derek Summerfield BSc (Hons) MBBS MRCPsych Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, Kings College London (UK)

Dr Rob Tandy MBBS MRCPsych Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy & Psychoanalyst; Unit Head, Psychoanalytic Treatment Unit, Tavistock and Portman, London; City & Hackney Primary Care Psychotherapy Consultation Service, St Leonards Hospital, London (UK)

Dr Noel Thomas MA MBChB DCH DobsRCOG DTM&H MFHom General Medical Practitioner; homeopath; has assisted on health/education projects in six developing countries Maesteg, Wales (UK)

Dr Philip Thomas MBChB DPM MPhil MD Formerly Professor of Philosophy Diversity & Mental Health, University of Central Lancashire; Formally Consultant Psychiatrist (UK)

Dr Gianni Tognoni MD Istituto Mario Negri, Milano (Italy)

Dr Sebastio Viola Lic Med MRCPsych Consultant Psychiatrist, Cardiff (UK)

Dr Peter Walger MD Consultant, Infectious Disease Specialist, Bonn-Duesseldorf-Berlin (Germany)

Dr Sue Wareham OAM MBBS General Medical Practitioner (retired) (Australia)

Dr Elizabeth Waterston MD General Medical Practitioner (retired), Newcastle upon Tyne (UK)

Dr Eric Windgassen MRCPsych PGDipMBA Consultant Psychiatrist (retired) (UK)

Dr Pam Wortley MBBS MRCGP General Medical Practitioner (retired), Sunderland (UK)

Dr Matthew Yakimoff BOralH (DSc) GDipDent General Dental Practitioner (Australia)

Dr Rosemary Yuille BSc (Hons Anatomy) MBBS (Hons) General Medical Practitioner (retired), Canberra (Australia)

Dr Felicity de Zulueta Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust; Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer in Traumatic Studies, Kings College London (UK)

Dr Paquita de Zulueta MBBChir MA (Cantab) MA (Medical Law & Ethics) MRCP FRCGP PGDipCBT CBT Therapist and Coach; Senior Tutor Medical Ethics; Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Dept of Primary Care & Population Health, Imperial College London (UK)

New signatories added:

Dr Victoria Abdelnur MD Specialist in Integrative Trauma Therapy (Germany and Argentina)

Dr Talal Alrubaie Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist MBChB MSc MD (Austria)

Dr Ernst Berger MD Univ. Prof., Specialist for psychiatry and neurology, Specialist for child psychiatry, Psychotherapist, Former head of Human Right Commission of Austrian Ombudsman Board MUW Klinik f. Kinder- u. Jugendpsychiatrie (Austria)

Dr Brenda Bonnici, B Pharm (Hons), M Pharm (Regulatory Affairs), PhD (Neuropharmacology); Consultant Patient Information (Switzerland)

Dr Stephen Caswell Clinical Psychologist BSc (Hons) MSc PGDip DClinPsych (UK)

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Doctors issue open letter to the Australian government: Julian Assange at risk of death in prison - World Socialist Web Site

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