Open Letter: Concern for Julian Assange, founder of the platform Wikileaks

BERLIN, 03.05.2022. Dear honourable Members of Parliament, Esteemed colleagues in the United Kingdom,

As a cross-party group of parliamentarians of the German Bundestag, we have the honour to reach out to you, and to ask for your attention in a case that is currently of great concern to us, knowing that we share a mutual concern for the protection as well as the implementation of internationally recognized human rights. We have closely followed the fate of Julian Assange in the past; however, the current developments in his case arouse our concern all the more.

Mr Assange, founder of the platform Wikileaks, has not been granted to live in freedom for more than eleven years. Since April 2019 he has been imprisoned at HMP Belmarsh where he is waiting for the United Kingdom’s decision on his extradition requested by the United States of America. Because of his investigative journalistic work, including exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, he faces charges of up to 175 years in prison in the United States.

A free press, to which both the United Kingdom and Germany have committed, is a basic prerequisite for healthy democracies and a functioning rule of law. In line with several renowned human rights organisations, we are very concerned about the deterring effect that an extradition to and the persecution of Mr Assange in the United States might have on freedom of the press, investigative journalism, and freedom of expression worldwide. As elected representatives in the German Bundestag we consider an extradition as a fatal symbol for journalists and media publishers all over the world. Thus, we respectfully request you to use the means at your disposal to ensure that these potentially serious implications are taken into account in the final decision-making that now lies with the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Rt Hon Priti Patel.

Additionally, we fear for Mr Assange’s health as he currently remains and likely will remain in detention and prolonged isolation. The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Professor Nils Melzer, has long warned that Julian Assange is showing symptoms of „psychological torture“ and must therefore be released immediately. Mr Assange’s poor state of health was indeed the main argument of the British judiciary in its judgement of January 4, 2021, which prohibited extradition to an unforeseeably long U.S. custody. Yet, Mr Assange remains in solitary confinement in HMP Belmarsh, because the U.S. government insists on the extradition to which the London High Court eventually agreed on December 10, 2021 neglecting the ongoing concerns for his health. The renewed appeal by Mr Assange’s lawyers was not accepted.

We therefore kindly request you to ensure that the consequences an extradition might entail for Mr Assange’s life and health continue to be carefully taken into account. Human rights and hence the obligations according to the European Convention on Human Right to which the United Kingdom has committed must lie at the core of the final decision.

Esteemed Members of Parliament, in acknowledgement of the Resolution 2317 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and in the mutual recognition of our partnership and the bond of our shared values, we sincerely hope you will help building bridges in Julian Assange’s case. In your House and especially in your communication with the Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Rt Hon Priti Patel, we kindly ask you to underline the consequences – for Mr Assange’s health as well as for freedom of the press worldwide – an extradition of Mr Assange would have.

We are looking forward to engaging in a conversation with you on this matter.

Respectfully yours,

Misbah Khan, Max Lucks, Derya Türk-Nachbaur, Peter Heidt, Frank Schwabe, Sevim Dağdelen, Jürgen Trittin, Julian Pahlke, Manuel Höferlin, Fabian Funke, Dr. Gregor Gysi, Deborah Düring, Boris Mijatovic, Erhard Grundl, Janine Wissler, Amira Mohamed, Tabea Rößner, Axel Schäfer, Canan Bayram, Dr. André Hahn, Matthias W. Birkwald, Merle Spellerberg, Helge Lindh, Christian Görke, Andrej Hunko, Susanne Menge, Anke Domscheit-Berg, Dr. Jan-Niclas Gesenhues, Ates Gürpinar, Johannes Wagner, Thomas Lutze, Kai Gehring, Sören Pellmann, Tobias Bacherle, Dr. Petra Sitte, Nyke Slawik,