(Photo : demonstration for Julian Assange at Belmarsh prison)
Assange Faces Time in ‘Britain’s Guantanamo’ After Years in Embassy
By Will Mathis 12 avril 2019. SOURCE
Without consistent internet access, medical attention or the ability to go outside, Julian Assange complained that his almost seven-year stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London was uncomfortable. The WikiLeaks founder’s living conditions may now be a lot worse.
After a London court processed Assange, he headed to Belmarsh Prison, according to his friend Vaughan Smith, who was one of the last people to visit the Australian in his room at the embassy before his arrest Thursday.
Once referred to as Britain’s Guantanamo Bay, Belmarsh, in southeast London, has held high-profile inmates such as Abu Qatada, once described by a Spanish judge as al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, and four men who attempted a suicide attack on London’s public-transport system. The location may be an indication of the British authorities’ strict approach to the 47-year-old’s detention while he fights extradition to the U.S. over disclosure of government secrets.
Belmarsh does have a range of inmates, from low-risk offenders to a unit that holds some of the highest-risk prisoners in the country, according to an inspectors’ report last year. The jail also has a small number of prisoners who require specific management arrangements because of their public profiles.
The surroundings won’t be entirely foreign to Assange. He was in another London facility, Wandsworth Prison, for nine days in 2010 related to an extradition request from Sweden. When Assange was released on bail, his lawyer at the time called the conditions “Dickensian” and vowed that his client would never return. Assange himself considered that sojourn an opportunity to think.
“During my time in a Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me,” Assange said at the time.
One small prison benefit for Assange could be long overdue health-care treatment.
He’s been unable to receive treatment for the past seven years, his attorney, Jen Robinson, told reporters outside a London court Thursday. While many prisoners at Belmarsh say it’s difficult to see a doctor or a nurse, these services are available at the facility.
A spokesman for Assange confirmed that he’s in Belmarsh. Robinson and another of his lawyers, Ben Cooper, didn’t return emails seeking comment. Spokesmen for the justice ministry and prosecutors declined to comment.
Assange, who had grown out his white hair and beard, was bundled from the embassy in London’s upscale Knightsbridge neighbourhood Thursday morning by British police.
His living conditions in the Ecuadorian office were basic. He was confined to a room with a bed and a table, a donated treadmill, and no natural light, according to media reports.
After being cooped up in the embassy, he won’t get much opportunity to stretch out in Belmarsh, a prison opened in 1991 and situated south of the Thames about 5 miles east of Greenwich.
Time away from the cell is limited. Almost half of prisoners said they usually spend less than two hours out of their cells in a typical week, according to the inspector’s report.
If Assange is kept in the high-security unit, things may be tougher. The inspector’s report described the conditions as “extremely claustrophobic,” and access to the gym and library is more restricted.
Julian Assange aurait été placé dans une prison qualifiée de «Guantanamo britannique»
© AFP 2019 JUSTIN TALLIS 13.04.2019 SOURCE
L’un des amis de Julian Assange a affirmé que le fondateur de WikiLeaks avait été transféré dans le «Guantanamo britannique», a indiqué Bloomberg, précisant que l’établissement avait accueilli le bras droit de ben Laden.
Le fondateur de WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, a été placé en détention dans la prison de Belmarsh, dans le sud-est de Londres, qualifiée de Guantanamo britannique. La nouvelle a été annoncée le 12 avril par l’agence Bloomberg, se référant à Vaughan Smith, un ami de l’Australien.
Vaughan Smith est l’une des dernières personnes à avoir rendu visite à Julian Assange à l’ambassade d’Équateur avant son arrestation jeudi par la police britannique.
Belmarsh est une prison de haute sécurité qui a abrité des détenus à haut risque, notamment Abu Qatada, décrit par un juge espagnol comme le bras droit du leader d’al-Qaida en Europe, a précisé Bloomberg.
Julian Assange a été arrêté le 11 avril. Selon Wikileaks, l’ambassadeur équatorien a «invité» la police pour l’arrêter. S’il est extradé vers les États-Unis, Julian Assange pourrait être condamné à la peine de mort pour la publication de documents secrets, estiment certains experts. Toutefois, selon le ministère américain de la Justice, il n’encourt que jusqu’à 5 ans de prison.
Le Président équatorien, Lenin Moreno, a déclaré que Londres lui avait garanti que Julian Assange ne serait pas extradé vers les États-Unis où il pourrait être exposé à la torture, voire même être condamné à la peine capitale.
Belmarsh prison – Britain’s Guantanamo-lite
Tony Blair’s government has belatedly discovered an enthusiasm for due process where Camp Delta is concerned. So why isn’t it minding its own back yard, asks Steve Crawshaw of Human Rights Watch
Sun 4 Jul 2004 The Guardian SOURCE
Last week’s landmark decision by the US Supreme Court embarrassed the Bush administration by making clear that Guantanamo cannot simply be treated as a legal black hole. The decision rightly gained international headlines. Almost on the eve of the court judgement Tony Blair and his government suddenly discovered that they, too, believed that there could be “no compromise” on the issue of due process for detainees at the US base.
The change of heart in Downing Street was welcome, even though it was absurdly late in the day – and, by concentrating on the need to bring Britons home, failed to address the situation of hundreds of non-UK citizens still marooned in Camp Delta.
The spotlight on the trampling of due process by the world’s most powerful government, including the attempt to exclude independent appeal courts entirely, is appropriate. Meanwhile, however, the British government still seems determined not to address the legal problems of its own creation. The situation of the foreign detainees held at Belmarsh prison in south-east London and other maximum-security facilities can be described as Guantanamo-lite. On this subject, there is no sign of any British willingness to compromise. Nor, inexplicably, have these failures had much impact in the UK, by comparison with the acres of comment that we have seen on Guantanamo.
As at Camp Delta, some detainees have been held for more than two years, with no prospect of release unless they choose to be deported to their countries of origin. Even the government admits that they would be likely to face torture or death, if they choose that option. Unlike at Guantanamo, the British do not even seem to regard their detainees as valuable sources of intelligence. M, the 38-year-old Libyan who was released in March after sixteen months in Belmarsh, said he was not interviewed by police or security services on a single occasion. Home Office minister Paul Goggins insists that this is “not extraordinary”. What a remarkable legal world Mr Goggins lives in, where keeping a man locked up for sixteen months without charge or questioning is “not extraordinary”. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which has clearance to review classified material, concluded that the evidence against M was unreliable, inaccurate and “clearly misleading”.
We live in an age of terror. It is possible (probable, many would say) that one day soon there will be an atrocity somewhere in Britain – a bomb in a department store, in the underground, at a tourist attraction or somewhere that none of us has yet thought of. Large numbers of civilians could die in a contemptible and senseless act of mass murder, as they have already done in New York, Bali and Madrid.
In those circumstances, where all of us have reason to be afraid, it may seem unsurprising if some persuade themselves that hard-won civil liberties must be relegated to second, third or bottom place. Unsurprising, but wrong. “Whose human rights – ours, or theirs?” is a question that can be heard with depressing frequency – including from inside Downing Street.
There is, however, little evidence that locking people up indefinitely makes Britain a safer place. The Newton Committee – comprising senior MPs, peers, and an eminent law lord, all privy counsellors with clearance for high-level security materials – was sharply critical of the Belmarsh system, and noted: “It is the arguments of limited efficacy in addressing the terrorist threat that weigh most heavily with us.” The committee, consisting of representatives from all the main parties and chaired by Lord Newton, a Conservative, urged: “Powers which allow foreign nationals to be detained potentially indefinitely should be replaced as a matter of urgency.” The government said that it had an “open mind” – and went on to reject the committee’s closely-argued findings.
The government suggests that a certain neglect for legal niceties (holding people without charge, say) is essential in the current climate. In reality, it is far from clear that the government’s tactics do anything to make Britain a safer place – on the contrary, perhaps. Only non-British nationals can be detained indefinitely at Belmarsh. Even the government has (so far) drawn the line at tearing up the rights of British citizens in this way. And yet, as the arrest in March of eight UK nationals in connection with an alleged bomb plot reminds us, British citizens are as likely to be terrorist suspects as are foreigners. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission argues that it is impossible to see how the separate treatment of foreigners, following a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights, “can be regarded as other than discriminatory on the grounds of national origin.”
The Newton Committee talks of “understandable disquiet among some parts of the Muslim population” because of the indefinite detentions. In the words of the Commission for Racial Equality: “The [Muslim] community has the responsibility to co-operate with security agencies to ensure our own safety – but the way to get that co-operation is not by terrorising people.” Downing Street seems determined to remain deaf to all these voices of reason.
Despite his belated readiness to confront President Bush on Guantanamo, and despite his own legal background, the Prime Minister remains unwilling to accept that due process is designed for the benefit of all. Democratic governments offer the full protections of due process not as an act of selfless generosity, but to make society more just, and thus safer. Some of the detainees at Belmarsh may have committed serious crimes. If so, they should be charged. If there is insufficient evidence to convict them, the dozen men (a small number, but a large breach) should be released – and kept under surveillance if need be, as happened on countless occasions with known sympathisers of terror groups in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
To argue that basic rights can be dispensed with for political convenience makes it easier to lose not just the battle but the war. If an act of terrorist mass murder shakes the UK tomorrow, that will be more true, not less. Rights matter. It is regrettable that the Government is so reluctant to acknowledge this important truth.
· Steve Crawshaw is London director of Human Rights Watch. “Neither Just nor Effective”, an HRW briefing paper, is available at www.hrw.org