An American doctor who conducted several medical and mental health evaluations of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London over the last two years says that she believes she was spied on and that the confidentiality of her doctor-patient relationship with Assange was violated.
Dr. Sondra Crosby, an associate professor of medicine and public health at Boston University and an expert on the physical and psychological impact of torture, has evaluated detainees held by the United States, including at its prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. She quietly began meeting with and evaluating Assange in 2017 inside the embassy where he had sought refuge.
During her last session with Assange on February 23, Crosby says that her confidential medical notes were removed when she briefly left the embassy to get food to bring back to Assange who, she wrote, “had not eaten.” The notes were taken from where she had been evaluating Assange and only later discovered in another space used by the embassy’s surveillance staff.
“Mr. Assange’s right to doctor-patient confidentiality was violated, and his confidential information had been breached,” Crosby wrote in a March 1 affidavit she gave to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In her affidavit, she states that her medical notes were “presumably” read by embassy personnel.
She also says that her medical visit with Assange in February was monitored by two cameras, and that she had to speak with Assange “over the noise of a radio playing” to mask their conversations because of what he said were listening devices in the room.
In addition, when she returned to the embassy after getting food, she was questioned by embassy security staff and asked for a copy of her medical license, even though she had earlier provided her passport and explained the purpose of her visit.
“The hostile, nonconfidential, and intimidating environment was palpable,” she wrote in her affidavit.
In an April 8 letter sent to both U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Dunja Mijatovic, the commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe, Crosby added that during her February visit to the embassy, the conditions of Assange’s confinement had significantly worsened since her first visit in 2017. Her letter noted the severe psychological toll Assange suffered in his prolonged and indefinite confinement.
“Mr. Assange’s situation [inside the embassy] differs from a typical prisoner in a conventional prison,” she wrote in her letter. “In fact, his position is worse than a conventional prison in many respects. His confinement is indefinite and uncertain, which increases chronic stress and its myriad of chronic physical and serious psychological risks, including suicide.”
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