UPDATES: Re Julian Assange in Belmarsh (to 6 Sept 2020)
This file began because many people mentioned that they wanted to hear about Julian’s wellbeing, especially related to his health, and the problems his incarceration conditions are causing him in preparing his defence in the forthcoming US extradition case.
This document provides background links re his health, and pulls together information that has been shared by his visitors since his incarceration in Belmarsh. Public statements by his lawyers and others who have relevant information are listed and linked to source.
Since it began, this file has grown like Topsy. Because of its chronological order, and its “one stop shop” searchability, we hope it is helpful to researchers, historians, writers and journalists, as well as those just wanting to educate themselves. Contents are a survey of events and comments, and should not be taken as exhaustive. Best efforts have been made to transcribe comments accurately, but may contain errors. Check with source records before quoting from this document. See also links to other resource files available.
<< NAVIGATION: Use the ‘Outline’ facility (to the left) if you know the approximate date
&/OR Use the Edit / Find option from the menu (or your browser) to search a keyword Languages referenced as DE (German) ES (Spanish) FR (French) SW (Swedish)
Downloads: You can use the Google tools to download this document as a WORD file or PDF for backup and to use offline. If you do that, your downloaded document will NOT be further updated, so remember to come back for more on a regular basis.
Health - Background
Like everyone, Julian Assange is entitled to adequate healthcare, and to privacy in relation to his health. Not that he has received either. The UK, by stating that they would arrest him if he left the Ecuadorian embassy, made it impossible for him to get some forms of healthcare (eg an MRI or dentistry). As to privacy, the CIA not only spied on him generally in the embassy, but also received live video of his time spent with his doctors, including medical examinations. Now the prison system is in charge of his healthcare.
Health - To 2016
On 2 Mar 2015, In a Swiss TV (RTS) interview, Julian spoke briefly about the difficulty in getting medical and dental care inside the embassy.
“They say their insurance doesn’t cover Ecuador, if they're British doctors.”
On 14 Sep 2016 Wikileaks released confidential medical and psychological reports concerning Julian Assange's situation:
* a 27 page psycho-social and medical assessment from 10 November 2015,
* a report from Mr. Assange's physician from 8 December 2015, and
* a dentist's report from 31 July 2015.
At that point, as well as mental and physical health deterioration due to the “extremely restrictive conditions of his confinement” (including lack of sunlight, adequate exercise and freedom of association), specific physical concerns were a need for dentistry (a root canal in a broken tooth) and an MRI (shoulder problems). In relation the shoulder problem his physician noted that, while An MRI scan would be necessary to provide a proper diagnosis:
“He experiences constant pain at rest [made worse] by all movement at the shoulder joint. [...] It is likely that this is a chronic prgressive condition [which is] likely to worsen without treatment.”
The healthcare needs addressed in these reports were not met. A request to the UK government from the government of Ecuador for safe passage for Assange to and from a hospital had already been refused (15 Oct 2015).
Health - 2018
In a public statement 24 January 2018 Drs Sondra S Crosby, Brock Chisholm and Sean Love explained that they had “recently spent 20 hours, over three days, performing a comprehensive physical and psychological evaluation of Mr Assange.”
They called on the “British Medical Association and colleagues in the UK to demand safe access to medical care for Mr Assange and to oppose openly the ongoing violations of his human right to healthcare.”
Jennifer Robinson reported on Julian’s inability to access healthcare at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva on 18 June 2018.
On 22 June 2018 Dr Love made another statement about Julian’’s health and his right to adequate care, concluding that “Assange’s detention continues to cause a precipitous deterioration in his overall condition and amounts to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.”
On 8 April 2019, Dr Sondra Crosby wrote a letter to former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (and others) about the health implications for Assange of his continued confinement in the embassy, reporting on four evaluations she made of his health between October 2017 and February 2019. She “wrote that the conditions of Assange’s confinement had become observably worse since [her] initial visit.”
She also noted that her confidential medical notes had been removed (and presumably read) by embassy surveillance staff, and that “Mr Assange’s fundamental right to doctor-patient confidentiality had been violated.”
Further, she stated that “the severe daily pain endured by Mr Assange from this dental condition is inhumane, notwithstanding that the situation could be life threatening if left untreated.”
“It is my professional opinion that the synergistic and cumulative severity of the pain and suffering inflicted on Mr Assange - both physical and psychological - is in violation of the 1984 Convention against Torture Article 1 And Article 16. I believe the psychological, physical, and social sequelae will be long lasting and severe.””
Health - 2019 - post arrest
On 8 May 2019 Dr Love gave an interview on Telesur.
On October 2019 Dr Love again spoke out (at Brown University):
“Much of this information is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality. What I can say is that Assange is resilient, but his suffering and the psychological toll of his circumstances were apparent. Compounding these injuries was that, for nearly seven years, Assange had been unable to receive proper medical care.
Within the embassy, he had difficulty obtaining treatment, as most physicians refused to visit him for fear of associating themselves or their medical practice with him, his political views, or his publishing activities.”
On 5 April 2019 the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Nils Melzer announced his intention to visit Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy.
On 9 May 2019 Nils Melzer visited Julain Assange in Belmarsh prison, accompanied by two medical experts specialised in examining potential victims of torture and other ill-treatment.
On 31 May 2019 Nils Melzer issued a statement. Among other things, he stated:
“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” the expert said. “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 expert said. “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.
“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate, concerted and sustained nature of the abuse inflicted on Mr. Assange and seriously deplore the consistent failure of all involved governments to take measures for the protection of his most fundamental human rights and dignity,” the expert said. “By displaying an attitude of complacency at best, and of complicity at worst, these governments have created an atmosphere of impunity encouraging Mr. Assange’s uninhibited vilification and abuse.”
Nils Melzer followed up this statement with multiple interviews (reported in written articles, audio and video files).
26 Jun 2019 “On the occasion of the International Day in Support of Torture Victims” he published “Demasking the Torture of Julian Assange” [Website]
14 Oct 2019 Nils Melzer reported the situation to the UN General Assembly. [Press Conf]
Recently he made another official statement (1 Nov 2019):
“The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has expressed alarm at the continued deterioration of Julian Assange’s health since his arrest and detention earlier this year, saying his life was now at risk”
23 Nov 2019 Doctors’ Petition - Open letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and UK Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott [Consortium News]
Signed by 67 doctors [See Excerpts in main timeline below]
21 Jan 2020 (EST) Doctors For Assange live event [Video]
See more details in updates section..
24 January 2020 Julian shifted out of ‘solitary confinement’’ in the hospital wing to a wing with 40 occupants. [DEA Tweet video - Joseph Farrell]
26 Jan 2020 See discussion of health implications of solitary confinement. [C21Wire]
Health - What has changed in Belmarsh?
After the first week or two at Belmarsh, Julian was moved to the “healthcare wing” of the prison. It is unclear what this means in practical terms as none of his visitors can see him there. Evidently he has a single cell in which he must stay up to 22 or 23 hours a day, with all other prisoners moved away whenever he leaves it (eg to see visitors).
* General health condition
On 1 May 2019 Jennifer Robinson noted that Julian was “having a difficult time in prison. His health has suffered significantly as a result of the long period of time confined inside the embassy. He’s getting medical treatment but we are very concerned about him.”
On 28 May 2019 Swedish defence lawyer Per E Samuelson told Reuters he had visited Assange in British custody on Friday after which he had sought to have the hearing postpo