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Michael Kirby throws support behind Julian Assange

The mistreatment of WikiLeaks founder is “shocking and excessive”, said Michael Kirby on the recent trial that saw Julian Assange stripped naked and handcuffed.

user iconNaomi Neilson 13 March 2020 Big Law
Michael Kirby
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The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), of which Mr Kirby is co-chair, has condemned the UK and the judge presiding over the case for allowing the mistreatment, which it says amounts to a breach of human rights laws.

According to Mr Assange’s lawyers, he was handcuffed 11 times, stripped naked twice and searched, his case files confiscated after the first day of hearings, and his request to sit with his lawyers during the trial – rather than behind bulletproof glass – was denied.

Mr Kirby condemned this: “It is deeply shocking that as a mature democracy in which rule of law and rights of individuals are preserved, the UK government has been silent and has taken no action to terminate such gross and disproportionate conduct.”


The IBAHRI is concerned Mr Assange’s treatment constitutes breaches of his right to a fair trial and the protections that have been enshrined in the United Nations against the Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Mr Kirby added concern over the presiding judge, who has reportedly neither said nor done anything to rebuke the officials and their superiors for the mistreatment, in a case of an accused whose offence “is not one of personal violence”.

“Many countries look to Britain as an example in such matters,” Mr Kirby said. “On this occasion, the example is shocking and excessive. “It is reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal which can happen when prison officials are not trained in basic human rights of the detainees and the Nelson Mandela Rules.”

In accordance with Human Rights Act 1998, which the UK implemented in October 2000, every person tried is entitled to a fair trial and freedom from inhuman or degrading treatment and torture. Additionally, article 10 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds an individual’s right to a fair, unbiased and public hearing.

A recent report from Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and inhumane treatment, presented during the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council argues that the cumulative effects of Mr Assange’s mistreatment over the last 10 years are an example of psychological mistreatment under human rights laws.

The report added that if Mr Assange was recognised as being a victim of psychological torture, his extradition would be illegal under international human rights laws.

IBAHRI co-chair Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc said the institute concurs with all widespread concern over the mistreatment of Mr Assange and said he must be afforded the same equality in access to effective and fair legal representation.

“With this extradition trial, we are witnessing the serious undermining of due processes and the rule of law. It is troubling that Mr Assange has complained that he is unable to hear properly what is being said at his trial, and because he is locked in a glass cage, is prevented from communicating freely with his lawyers,” Ms Ramberg said.

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