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Germany urges UK to uphold human rights in Assange case

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
December 30, 2020

Germany's human rights commissioner has expressed "concern" over Assange's extradition proceedings. Berlin said the UK must consider Assange's physical and mental health when deciding on whether to extradite him.

Protesters in Berlin hold signs: "Prevent the extradition of Julian Assange to the US!"
Human rights "must not be overlooked," Germany saysImage: Reuters/F. Bensch

The German government on Wednesday urged the UK to adhere to human rights and fulfil humanitarian obligations in the extradition process of whistleblower and  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Germany's Human Rights Commissioner Bärbel Kofler said she was "following with concern" the UK's extradition proceedings against Assange.

"Human rights and humanitarian aspects of a possible extradition must not be overlooked. It is imperative that Julian Assange's physical and mental state be taken into account when deciding whether to extradite him to the US," she said, adding that she would continue to monitor the case.

"The UK is bound by the European Convention on Human Rights in this regard, also with regard to the possible sentence and the conditions of imprisonment," Kofler stressed.

'Just because he practiced journalism'

Washington is demanding the extradition of Assange on the basis of the US-UK extradition treaty. He is being prosecuted by the US for espionage.

Assange has been held in custody at London's Belmarsh maximum security prison since September 2019.  Judge Vanessa Baraitser is scheduled to deliver the verdict  in a London court on January 4. If extradited, Assange faces multiple life sentences, according to the indictment.

UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has condemned the case  as politically charged and a travesty of justice, saying the US was targeting him "just because he practiced investigative journalism."

"The legal proceeding {against Assange} in itself is not respecting the basic standards of human rights, of due process and the rule of law. Already, the motivation behind the extradition request is not in compliance with basic legal standards, with the protections of freedom of the press and so on," Melzer told DW.

If the UK court decides to extradite him, Assange has the option of fighting the decision before the Court of Appeal within 28 days of the judgment and take the case to the UK Supreme Court. The case may then be referred to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

According to the German foreign ministry, Berlin "has no knowledge of its own regarding the conditions of Assange's detention and state of health."

As an Australian citizen, Assange is under the exclusive consular care of him country in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the ministry said.