Earlier this year, the UN-sanctioned Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was the victim of “arbitrary detention.” Further, the group contended that Assange has been “illegally deprived of his freedom and rights” since he sought asylum in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012, reports RT News.
On March 24, the United Kingdom appealed the ruling of the UN panel, which has the authority to render decisions that are recommendations but has no binding legal power, alleging that group had gotten it completely wrong with regard to Julian Assange.
“The Working Group’s Opinion is deeply flawed and Mr. Assange has never been the subject of arbitrary detention. His human rights have been protected throughout the process and will continue to be protected if and when he is extradited to Sweden.”
Julian Assange has been living at the Ecuadorian Embassy since August of 2012. That’s when it became overwhelmingly apparent that the WikiLeaks founder was likely to be arrested in connection with rape allegations that had been levied out of Sweden. If arrested in the UK, Assange would have been extradited to Sweden per established international law, and (it is widely believed), the WikiLeaks founder would ultimately be extradited to the United States to face charges related to a 2010 WikiLeaks information dump.
Today, it has been reported that the UN panel has rejected the UK’s appeal of its March decision. According to the UN, the appeal was “inadmissible.” As such, the previous ruling that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being “arbitrarily detained” stands, and both Sweden and the United Kingdom have been ordered to take immediate steps to rectify the WikiLeaks founder’s situation.
Specifically, both nations have been instructed to do what is needed to restore Julian Assange’s protection, liberty, and fundamental human rights. They have also been ordered to compensate him financially for his “arbitrary detention.”
Mr. Assange has already spoken out on the Wednesday ruling, according to WikiLeaks on Twitter.
According to Assange, he expects both the UK and Sweden to comply with Wednesday’s ruling and “set him free.” However, as the UN noted in its rejected appeal, Julian Assange is not being forcibly held or detained. The WikiLeaks founder himself sought and received asylum in an attempt to avoid arrest related to 2010 rape allegations; Assange has never been formally charged by Sweden with rape.
Julian Assange further referred to his voluntary detention as a “grotesque injustice.”
Earlier in November, the WikiLeaks founder was interviewed by Swedish officials from inside the Ecuadorian Embassy with regard to his alleged involvement in the open rape case. According to Assange, he “fully cooperated” with the investigators; it has also been reported that a DNA sample collected from Assange is in the possession of the UK government and will be forwarded to Sweden for processing.
Despite today’s ruling in the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, it is unclear whether his circumstances will immediately change, or if he will be “set free” from the Ecuadorian Embassy. As The Washington Times reports, British police are under order to immediately arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy. This is in connection with the arrest warrant out of Sweden.
The UN panel has no authority to undermine or prevent such an arrest.
In fact, the WGAD can do no more than issue opinions and recommendations and provide them to UN member states on a case-by-case basis, reports EJIL:Talk!. The advisory panel cannot issue legally binding rulings, nor force any member nation of the UN to abide by their rulings. In the case of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, Sweden, and the UK are merely obligated to give “due consideration” to the ruling of the WGAD.
Before Wednesday’s ruling on the Julian Assange “arbitrary detention” case, it was announced by the Ecuadorian Attorney General that the WikiLeaks founder would likely continue to remain at the nation’s London embassy for the “unforeseeable future.”
“Four years have passed and we are only at this stage, but that is no longer attributable to Ecuador, it is attributable to Swedish prosecutors. I do not think there is a quick way out.”
It is unknown at this point how the WGAD’s decision will impact those previously announced plans, although it has been previously reported that Assange will appeal to President-elect Trump for a pardon in the future. As yet, neither the UK or Sweden have officially responded to the rejection of the UK appeal and what it could mean for the future of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
[Featured Image by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Images]