First day of new year 2019 the UN office in Geneva, Switzerland, reminds of the United Nations Working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) reiterated call to the UK that Julian Assange recover his entire freedom. In December 2015, the WGAD had determined the deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange arbitrary and called for his release.
“GENEVA (21 December 2018) – UN human rights experts today repeated a demand that the UK abides by its international obligations and immediately allows Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been for over 6 years, fearing arrest by British authorities if he leaves, and extradition to the US.
“States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable. But when they honestly admit these violations, they do honour the very spirit of the rule of law, earn enhanced respect for doing so, and set worldwide commendable examples,” the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) said.
In December 2015, the Working Group concluded in its opinion No. 54/2015 that Mr. Assange – who at the time had a European arrest warrant issued against him for an allegation of crimes committed in Sweden ‑ was being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and demanded that he be released.
“Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge” said the experts. “The Swedish investigations have been closed for over 18 months now, and the only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador. Mr. Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the UK has ratified,” the experts further said
The WGAD is further concerned that the modalities of the continued arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange is undermining his health, and may possible endanger his life given the disproportionate amount of anxiety and stress that such prolonged deprivation of liberty entails.
“The United Kingdom has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and has a responsibility to honour its commitment, by respecting its provisions in all cases,” the experts said.
“As the High Commissioner for human rights said several years ago, human rights treaty law is binding law, it is not discretionary law. It is not some passing fancy that a state can apply sometimes and not in the other,” the experts recalled.
“In addition, the recommendations of the WGAD Opinions are expected to be implemented by all States, including those which have not been a party in the case concerning Mr. Assange,” said the experts.
“On 10 December, the world celebrated International Human Rights Day. Seventy years ago, on that very day, the United Nations proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the mother of all rights contained in subsequent conventions, including the ICCPR.
“It is time that Mr. Assange, who has already paid a high price for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of opinion, expression and information, and to promote the right to truth in the public interest, recovers his freedom,” the experts concluded.”
This statement by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mr. Michel Forst.