Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Nils Melzer, the top United Nations anti-torture official, is urging President Donald Trump to pardon Julian Assange. (Photo: Prachatai/Flickr Creative Commons)

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer has appealed to President Donald Trump to pardon WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange. (Photo: Prachatai/Flickr/cc)

Top UN Anti-Torture Official Urges Trump to Send Message of 'Justice, Truth, and Humanity' by Pardoning Julian Assange

"WikiLeaks fights secrecy and corruption throughout the world and, therefore, acts in the public interest both of the American people and of humanity as a whole."

Brett Wilkins

Echoing calls from global grassroots campaigners, the top United Nations anti-torture official on Tuesday asked President Donald Trump to pardon jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is languishing in London's notorious Belmarsh prison as he awaits his fate regarding possible extradition to the United States to stand trial for what critics say are unwarranted espionage charges. 

"Prosecuting Mr. Assange for publishing true information about serious official misconduct... would amount to 'shooting the messenger' rather than correcting the problem he exposed."
—U.N. special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer

In a letter to the outgoing American president, Nils Melzer, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, noted that "Assange has been arbitrarily deprived of his liberty for the past 10 years," a "high price to pay for the courage to publish true information about government misconduct throughout the world."

"I visited Mr. Assange in Belmarsh," wrote Melzer, "and I can attest to the fact that his health has seriously deteriorated, to the point where his life is now in danger. Critically, Mr. Assange suffers from a documented respiratory condition which renders him extremely vulnerable to the Covid-19 pandemic that has recently broken out in the prison where he is being held."

Melzer continued:

I ask you to pardon Mr. Assange, because he is not, and has never been, an enemy of the American people. His organization, WikiLeaks, fights secrecy and corruption throughout the world and, therefore, acts in the public interest both of the American people and of humanity as a whole... Mr. Assange has never published false information.

The cause for any reputational harm that may have resulted from his publications is not to be found in any misconduct on his part, but in the very misconduct which he exposed... Prosecuting Mr. Assange for publishing true information about serious official misconduct, whether in America or elsewhere, would amount to "shooting the messenger" rather than correcting the problem he exposed. This would be incompatible with the core values of justice, rule of law, and press freedom, as reflected in the American Constitution and international human rights instruments ratified by the United States. 

Melzer appealed to Trump's campaign promise to "pursue an agenda of fighting government corruption and misconduct," writing that "because allowing the prosecution of Mr. Assange to continue would mean that, under your legacy, telling the truth about such corruption and misconduct has become a crime."

"In pardoning Mr Assange," he added, "you would send a clear message of justice, truth, and humanity to the American people and to the world. You would rehabilitate a courageous man who has suffered injustice, persecution, and humiliation for more than a decade, simply for telling the truth."

"Last but not least, you would give back to Mr. Assange's two young sons the loving father they need and look up to," Melzer wrote. 

"I believe that, after a decade of persecution, this man's unjust suffering must end now."

"For these reasons, I respectfully appeal to you to pardon Julian Assange," he concluded. "I believe that, after a decade of persecution, this man's unjust suffering must end now."

According to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the 49-year-old Australian has been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom since his arrest on December 7, 2010. Since then he has been subjected to house arrest, imprisonment in Britain, and seven years in political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. 

While none of the people implicated in war crimes and other misdeeds revealed by WikiLeaks in the Afghan War Diary, Iraq War Logs, Guantánamo Files, the "Collateral Murder" viedo, and other leaks have been seriously punished, Assange and Chelsea Manning—the U.S. Army whistleblower who provided much of the published material—have faced the full fury of the U.S. government. 

Assange is due back in court on January 4, when he will likely learn whether he will be extradited. If found guilty in the U.S. of violating the 1917 Espionage Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Assange could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars, most likely in a Colorado supermax prison, which a former warden called "a fate worse than death." 

In recent months there have been growing calls from activists and public figures around the world for Trump to pardon Assange before leaving office next month. In addition to Melzer, former National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, filmmaker Oliver Stone, actress and activist Pamela Anderson, and other leading press freedom advocates are among those urging Trump to act. 

There is also a bipartisan push for Trump to pardon for Snowden, who is living in exile in Russia as a result of releasing classified documents regarding the U.S. government's global mass surveillance program. 

Trump is reportedly considering pardons for both Assange and Snowden. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·

As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·

Progressives Issue Dire Warning as House Bill to Extend Eviction Moratorium Dies

"If Congress does not act now, the fallout of the eviction crisis will undoubtedly set us backwards as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to ravish our communities, needlessly contributing to more death and destruction."

Brett Wilkins ·

Citing Donziger Case, Dems Raise Alarm About Use of Private Prosecutors in Federal Court

Private prosecutions of criminal contempt charges, said a pair of senators, "are highly unusual and can raise concerning questions of fundamental fairness in our criminal justice system."

Jessica Corbett ·

'About Damn Time': DOJ Says Treasury Department Must Give Trump's Tax Returns to Congress

"This case is now bigger even than Donald Trump's crimes. Neither the courts, nor the machinery of our government, exist to bodyguard a corrupt private citizen from transparency."

Jake Johnson ·