What took you so long UN?
See video that started all this at the bottom.
A United Nations panel has ruled that Julian Assange’s three-and-a-half year confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy amounts to “arbitrary detention”, the Guardian understands, leading his lawyers to call for the Swedish extradition request to be dropped immediately.
Assange had appealed to the UN working group on arbitrary detention in 2014, arguing that he was illegally confined to the embassy because he risks arrest if he leaves. The Wikileaks founder sought asylum from Ecuador in July 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
The panel’s findings were disclosed to the Swedish and British governments on 22 January, and will be published tomorrow.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, said if the WGAD found in his favour, “there is only one solution for Marianne Ny [the Swedish prosecutor seeking Assange’s extradition], and that is to immediately release him and drop the case. If he is regarded as detained, that means he has served his time, so I see no other option for Sweden but to close the case.”
His lawyers also demanded assurances from the UK that Assange would not be arrested and subjected to potential extradition to the US, which he fears.
The British Foreign Office said it would not pre-empt the panel’s findings, but said in a statement: “We have been consistently clear that Mr Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy.
“An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European arrest warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.”
Anna Ekberg, a spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry, said it would not comment ahead of the formal publication on Friday.
Assange has said that if the panel finds against him, he will voluntarily leave the embassy and accept arrest, “as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal. However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me.”
It is not clear if Assange has any knowledge of the findings of the UN investigation, which concluded on 4 December.
The Metropolitan police have said they will make “every effort” to arrest the WikiLeaks founder should he leave the embassy, and it is not clear if the panel findings will have any bearing on this position.
Outside the embassy on Thursday there was one police car and a growing media presence. A source familiar with the UN working group told the Guardian that if the Swedish or British governments ignored its decision, “it would make it very difficult for them to make use of UN human rights council decisions in the future to bring pressure on other countries over human rights violations – the ruling sends a strong political message”.
Assange has not been charged with any offense, but has been sought for questioning in Sweden in relation to sexual assault allegations made against him by two women.
The appeal was a last-ditch legal attempt by Assange to get a ruling that his detention is arbitrary and unlawful. It rests on a challenge to the European extradition system, his inability to access the benefit of the grant of asylum by Ecuador, and what he argues is his long-term detention.
The submission to the UN was launched with little fanfare. Assange said in a statement that the UN encourages the adjudicators to carry out its task with “discretion, objectivity and independence” and that the UK and Swedish governments had submitted their responses to the working group on arbitrary detention confidentially.
In a statement issued by WikiLeaks on Twitter, Assange said: “Should the UN announce tomorrow that I have lost my case against the United Kingdom and Sweden, I shall exit the embassy at noon on Friday to accept arrest by British police as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal.
“However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me.”
Let’s not forget what started it all. This is why the US is mad? For exposing the truth that its armies are cowardly murderers?
Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq