Julian Assange’s detention is “arbitrary,” the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention decided in a Feb. 5 report. “The Working Group also considered that the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation,” the report said.
Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 2012, asked the U.N. to look into the matter back in 2014, the BBC reported. noting “the panel does not have any formal influence over the British or Swedish authorities.”
Assange went to the embassy years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about sexual assault claims, after his various appeals on the extradition failed.
While Assange called the U.N. report “legally binding,” it really isn’t. CNN explained:
“The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention characterized its ruling as a ‘moral recommendation.’ The group concedes it is up to member states to act on its decisions, explaining it can only investigate and ‘recommend remedies such as release from detention and compensation.'”
The UK disagrees with today’s U.N. ruling, arguing that Assange’s stay in the Ecuadorean embassy was by his own choice. A Downing Street spokesperson told the BBC: “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.”
The British foreign minister Philip Hammond said, according to Reuters, that Assange “is hiding from justice” and criticized the ruling saying:”This is frankly a ridiculous finding by the working group and we reject it.” In a tweet, he repeated “I reject the report.”
— Philip Hammond (@PHammondMP) February 5, 2016
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Assange said he would have let the British police arrest him if the U.N. ruled against him.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) February 4, 2016
iMediaEthics has written to one of Assange’s lawyer for more information about how the panel report affects Assange.