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It's Official: UN Tells UK and Sweden Julian Assange Is Arbitrarily Detained

“The Working Group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end," says a statement from UN panel.
Image: 360b/Shutterstock

A UN panel has ruled that Wikileaks editor Julian Assange's confinement to the London Ecuadorian embassy qualifies as arbitrary detention.

Since 2012, Assange has lived in the embassy over fears that if arrested and sent to Sweden to face an allegation of rape, he would then be extradited to the US as part of an ongoing, and largely secret, investigation into Wikileaks. Assange sent a complaint about his situation to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2014.


That complaint has paid off.

"The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention," said Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the expert panel, in a statement.

"The Working Group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation," Mr. Hong added.

.@Wikileaks founder Julian #Assange is being arbitrarily detained by Sweden & the UK - UN #humanrights panel finds
— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 5, 2016

The ruling mentioned Assange's initial detention in Wandsworth Prison in London, as well as a period of house arrest, in addition to his confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy. The prison stay was considered arbitrary detention because Assange was held in isolation, and a "lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor's Office in its investigations resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty," according to the statement.

"The Working Group established that this detention violates Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," the statement continued.


Anna Ekberg, spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry, told the Guardian on Thursday: "The UN working group on arbitrary detention has concluded that Mr Assange is arbitrarily detained. The working group's view differs from that of the Swedish authorities. We will forward a reply to the working group [on Friday]."

UN announces that Julian Assange is unlawfully detained

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 5, 2016

On Thursday, Wikileaks tweeted a statement from Assange, saying that if the panel ruled in his favour, he expected the return his passport from UK authorities "and the termination of further attempts to arrest me."

But the UN group's decision is not legally binding on the UK.

A spokesperson from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights previously told Motherboard that the ruling is "not binding in itself. But it's based on binding international law."

"We do expect that countries will carefully review what the Working Group is saying," she added.

At the time of writing, it appears that Assange is still inside the Ecuadorian embassy.