An United Nations panel maintained Wednesday that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange continue to be “arbitrarily detained” in London notwithstanding an appeal brought by the British government.
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention announced Wednesday that it has rejected a challenge filed by the U.K. regarding Mr. Assange, in turn upholding a February ruling that said the WikiLeaks chief is being arbitrarily held inside Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Despite being granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012, Mr. Assange has been unable to leave its London compound in the years since without risking arrest: British police have been instructed to apprehend the WikiLeaks chief if and when he exits the facility in accordance with a Swedish arrest warrant issued in connection with a 2010 rape case, while Mr. Assange has said that being sent to Sweden could inevitably lend to his extradition to the United States, however, where he could be charged over his transparency website’s previous publications.
“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,” panel chairman Seong-Phil Hong said when the panel announced its initial finding in February.
Nearly nine months later, the same group said Wednesday that it was unconvinced by Britain’s subsequent appeal.
“The UN expert group also considered four requests for review of previous opinions, submitted by the Arab Republic of Egypt, the State of Kuwait and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Working Group concluded that the requests did not meet the threshold of a review as enshrined in paragraph 21 of its methods of work, and that they were thus not admissible,” Wednesday’s statement said.
According to the panel’s charter, that paragraph says the Working Group can reconsider any of its opinions if new information emerges that could potentially alter the outcome of a past ruling.
“Now that all appeals are exhausted I expect that the U.K. and Sweden will comply with their international obligations and set me free,” Mr. Assange said in reaction to Wednesday’s news. “It an obvious and grotesque injustice to detain someone for six years who hasn’t even been charged with an offense.”
Prior to the working group’s announcement this week, Ecuador’s attorney general said Mr. Assange will likely remain inside its London embassy for the unforeseeable future notwithstanding a recent meeting there between the WikiLeaks chief and Sweden’s chief prosecutor more than six years in the making.
“Four years have passed and we are only at this stage, but that is no longer attributable to Ecuador, it is attributable to Swedish prosecutors. I do not think there is a quick way out,” Ecuador’s prosecutor, Galo Chiriboga, told reporters Monday.