DW: Mr. Melzer, you are since almost four years, the special Rapporteur on torture at the United Nations. What are the developments in terms of torture currently give the biggest Concerns?
Nils Melzer: most of the global Erosion of human rights concerned me. Of all the regions: From China, Hong Kong and the Uighurs, over Russia up to the police violence in the US, and their attacks on the International criminal court. And from Syria, Brazil, to the global migration crisis. Everywhere, human rights are reduced - you can make an arbitrarily long list. It makes me very Worried, because since the foundations of today's world order is shaken.
you mentioned Syria: In Germany, people convicted of crimes against humanity in Koblenz for two months in the world for the first time in court, because they should have been involved in the Syrian torture system. The Signal which because of this process and is this Signal at all?
It is incredibly important that this process takes place. Syria has a notorious torture system. I've been 20 years ago, when I worked in the area, even prisoners from Syrian prisons followed, and I was shocked already.
The reports have got worse since then. It is very important to bring this atrocious System to the light of day - regardless of the individual issue of debt of the individual persons. Because the Assad Regime is a torture System and the cruellest of all methods, which is beyond doubt and must be made public.
but We also have other signals in the world. For example, the Signal that the United States is threatening the staff of the International criminal court in The Hague, with penalties, if determined against US soldiers. A corresponding decree signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in front of a good two weeks. What sort of message is that?
This is, of course, a catastrophic Signal, in particular, because the US is in economic, political, and military respects the most influential country in the world. The USA initiated after the Second world war, the Nuremberg trials, the Tokyo-based processes. They were met with a pioneer in the international law of war and international law. And if this country of all countries is now not willing to be held accountable for war crimes, for which there is evidence are not even questionable, then we have a big Problem!
we see with the refusal of the United States, to pursue the systematic practice of torture by the CIA, which even from its own Senate examined and it was confirmed. We see this in the refusal to allow American war crimes to pursue, if necessary, of international institutions. This has a very bad role model: We see that Israel, or the UK - so the traditional allies of the United States - immediately go in the same direction and try to protect their own army members, but also from prosecution for torture crimes.
When we talk about war crimes of the United States, it is very fast also in the case of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. It's been about 10 years since Wikileaks released the "Collateral Murder" Video. It shows how a US helicopter out of the unarmed Wounded and emergency responders in Baghdad of two Reuters journalists are killed, including. For the perpetrators, the Shooters and their supervisors that was previously without consequence. For Julian Assange, however, is not. What does this mean?
You have to consider: What is the moral legitimacy of a state that is not pursuing its own war criminals? Although this war crime captured on Film: We see in the Film the Wounded to be massacred, and we hear the soldiers talk about it, they shoot all the Wounded deliberately. This is without any doubt a war crime! If we have it on Film, and the States do not keep track of that, but those draconian punish - we speak of the grotesque 175 years in prison - the war crimes to the Public, then we have a fundamental Problem. Then you have to ask yourself really is whether we can speak in the USA at all, nor of a state of law.
no, unfortunately not! This is something that shocked me, because I am a Professor at a British University in Glasgow and have always had great respect for the British justice system. But in the case of Julian Assange, the rule of law is undermined simply, Assange had no opportunity to make his defence to adequately prepare. Of course, the also were the worst war criminals, for example, in Koblenz or in The Hague, which are not granted to the Assange: He has no contact to his American lawyers, has very limited contact with his British lawyers, and almost no access to legal documents. The extremely severe procedures are injuries, for which there is no necessity or justification.
you have spoken in the case of Assange from torture. What exactly in your opinion is this torture?
of Course you can't compare a Syrian prison with a British prison. This must be said very clearly. Only: torture is a broad term that refers not only to physical torture but also mental torture includes. We have investigated Julian Assange with two on the investigation of torture victims to specialist Doctors, and came to the conclusion that he shows all the symptoms that are typical for long-term psychological torture. The are traumatic, chronic anxiety and stress conditions, as well as kongitive and neurological consequences of a combination of strong Isolation, and the constant arbitrariness, humiliation and threat. We must not forget that U.S. politicians have classified him as a "terrorist" and part of his murder demanded. Assange also fears to law, the conditions of detention in the U.S. high-security prisons, which are cruel and degrading to be known.
The enormous pressure under which this man stands, his strong Isolation, because he's been pushed as a single person in the corner, and the arbitrary way in each legal proceedings against him, whether in Sweden, the UK, Ecuador or the USA: All of this has a cumulative effect, which brings the same symptoms as targeted psychological torture.
you have just spoken of that with all the Bad, what is being done to Julian Assange, it is not at all comparable to, for example, with a Syrian torture basement. Why are you so much for the individual Julian Assange, when in many places of the world are very much worse things happen?
I am, of course, for the hundreds of victims of Torture each year. And clearly, I'm all for Julian Assange as an individual. But that's not the main reason for my commitment. In the "Assange case" is not only the Person of Julian Assange, but it is primarily about the crimes of his persecutors, of the States: That they undermine the rule of law institutions; that they refuse to pull their war criminals and torturers to account, and that you will set the world an example of what everyone as a spy can be convicted that informs the Public about government war crimes. With the persecution of Assange, we are about to establish a Standard that States their own crimes in secret may hold and no longer can be held accountable. We need to be aware of: If this is set once, then it is really only a small step from the rule of law in a tyranny.
The Swiss international law expert Nils Melzer has since 2016, the UN special Rapporteur for torture. Previously, Melzer was twelve years at the International Committee of the Red cross in a number of areas of major crisis.
The interview was conducted by Matthias von Hein.
author: Matthias von Hein
*The contribution of "Nils Melzer: "the Global Erosion of human rights"" published by Deutsche Welle. Contact with the executives here.Deutsche Welle Updated Date: 25 June 2020, 12:26