NLG Files Urgent Appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Citing Life-Threatening Denial of Medical Care

New York Members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Heidi Boghosian and Natsu Saito, with Kathleen Cleaver of the Human Rights Research Fund, today delivered an Urgent Appeal Request on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal to Juan Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture. The Request addresses the life-threatening denial of medical care to the 61-year-old journalist, political activist, and human rights defender who has been described as “perhaps America’s most famous prisoner.”

According to the Request, Mr. Abu-Jamal, currently in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, has life-threatening medical conditions that have been caused and/or exacerbated by his conditions of confinement. It reports that prison officials have consistently denied him appropriate medicaltreatment and adequate nutrition, and blocked access to his doctors, his lawyers and his family members. As a result, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s health has deteriorated rapidly over the past four months, and has now reached a crisis point where his life appears to be in imminent danger.

“We are concerned by the pattern that has emerged of willful neglect of Mr. Abu-Jamal’s serious, even life-threatening, medical issues, interspersed with responses that deal with particular symptoms in a scattershot fashion, rather than trying to identify and address the underlying causes of his potentially life-threatening illness,” the Request states.

The Request asks the Special Rapporteur to review of Mumia Abu-Jamal’s treatment under the Urgent Appeal procedure and to urge the United States government to comply with its obligations under international human rights law by ensuring, immediately, that Mr. Abu-Jamal (1) be provided regular and ongoing examinations, reliable diagnoses, and medically appropriate, comprehensive treatment; (2) be provided access to an endocrinologist, a dermatologist, an oncologist, and other specialist(s) as necessary; (3) be provided with a diet appropriate to his medical conditions; and (4) be assured of contact with his attorneys.

“For over 30 years, from death row, Mumia Abu-Jamal provided a thoughtful and powerful voice for the dispossessed, and he continues to do so from his sickbed. It now appears that only other human rights defenders can prevent his voice from being silenced by death as a result of state sanctioned medical neglect,” the Urgent Appeal Request concludes.

View the full Urgent Appeal Request to Juan Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, here.