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UN: Julian Assange Should Be Compensated For Confinement

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained by the UK and Sweden, says UN expert panel

The ongoing legal drama surrounding the Wikileaker founder Julian Assange continued this week, after an “expert panel” from the United Nations weighed into the matter.

The Geneva-based UN working group on arbitrary detention finalised its report on the Assange matter, and concluded that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by Sweden and the UK.

Compensation Call

“WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010, as a result of the legal action against him by both Governments,” said the panel.

The panel then called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.

“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.

“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,” Hong added.

It is understood that the five man panel came to the conclusion after an Australian member (Leigh Toomey) excused herself on the basis that she is also an Australian citizen (as is Assange). The remaining four members voted 3 to 1 to support the finding. The dissenting panel member was the Ukrainian lawyer Vladimir Tochilovsky, according to the Guardian newspaper.

WikiLeaks AssangeThe full report apparently mostly criticises the methods adopted by the Swedish prosecutors.

Last August, sexual assault claims against Assange were dropped by the Swedish prosecutor, although the more serious allegation of rape made against him in 2010 remains.

Assange for his part expects the “immediate return” of his passport and a stop to further attempts to arrest him. Earlier this week he said he would leave the Embassy if the panel ruled against him and accept arrest by British police.

Ongoing Saga

Since June 2012 Assange has remained holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge, central London. He refuses to hand himself over to Swedish authorities, fearing he would then be sent to the US and put on trial for releasing secret American documents.

This is because Julian Assange is the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, the website which gained notoriety when it published US military and diplomatic documents which were leaked by intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning).

The UK in the meantime has been caught in the middle, as it has a legal obligation to extradite Assange while the rape allegation remained outstanding.

The UN panel findings are not legally binding in either the UK or Sweden, but that said, the panel insisted its findings were legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights laws.

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