Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after det

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Re: Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after

Postby admin » Sun Feb 07, 2016 2:36 am

Julian Assange: 'sweet' victory soured by British and Swedish rejection: No release in sight despite UN panel deciding WikiLeaks founder is being arbitrarily detained at Ecuador embassy
by Esther Addley, Owen Bowcott, David Crouch in Gothenberg, and Jessica Elgot
5 February 2016

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WikiLeak’s founder, Julian Assange, holds up the UN panel’s report as he addresses supporters and the media from the embassy balcony. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty

A UN panel may have found that Julian Assange is subject to “arbitrary detention” and called for him to be allowed to walk free, but the WikiLeaks founder remains exactly where he has been for the past 44 months – inside Ecuador’s London embassy and locked in a three-nation war of words.

Britain and Sweden immediately rejected the UN report, which declared that Assange had been “arbitrarily detained” since his arrest in 2010 and during his lengthy stay in the embassy, where he sought asylum in June 2012. The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, described the findings as “ridiculous” and the Australian as a “fugitive from justice”.

However, the panel’s findings, leaked on Thursday and published in full on Friday morning, were a welcome victory for Assange, and a moment he intended to savour fully. At 4.01pm he emerged on to the balcony of the west London embassy to greet a crowd of several hundred supporters and journalists, pausing first, just briefly, to glance at the sky he has rarely seen for more than three years.

“How sweet it is,” said Assange, holding aloft a copy of the UN report while supporters shouted: “We love you, Julian!” It had been, he said, “a victory of historical importance”, and a decision reached after a process to which both Britain and Sweden had made submissions. “They lost. UK lost; Sweden lost.”

The Swedish government, however, has insisted the report changes nothing, and that it cannot interfere in an independent prosecutor’s ongoing attempt to extradite Assange for questioning over an allegation of rape dating from 2010, which he denies.

Meanwhile, for Ecuador – the Australian’s (mostly) willing host – the findings meant it was time for the two countries to allow Assange to walk free, and to compensate both him and them for the lengthy period he has been holed up in one of its few rooms.

At times, Assange was in magnanimous mood. Having initially accused Hammond of insulting the UN with comments that were “beneath the stature that a foreign minister should express in this situation”, he later described him as a “perfectly nice person” whose comments were “merely rhetoric”. Britain had not appealed against the findings of the UN working group on arbitrary detention, he said, “because they knew they would lose”.

But there were dark warnings for those he said were responsible for “depriv[ing] my children of their father for five and a half years”.

“A lot of people have very long memories about the parties that have committed injustices in this case. Inevitably, those people will face the consequences of their actions.”

Only a single, persistent heckler interrupted the mood. “Can someone close that person up?” asked Assange. Shouts of “Yes!” came in response.

After exhausting all his legal options in the UK and Sweden some time ago, there is no question that the report represents a boost for Assange’s legal team.

Reaching their conclusion by a three-to-one majority after a fifth member recused herself, the panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and offer him compensation.

Assange, they found, had been unable “to access the full-intended benefit” of the asylum status granted by Ecuador, and “the continuing and disproportionate denial to him of such access … had become cumulatively harsh and disproportionate”.

In particular, the panel offered an excoriating critique of Sweden’s prosecution process, which they said had been in a state of “indefinite procrastination”. With Quito and Stockholm still unable to agree on arrangements to allow Swedish prosecutors access to the London embassy, Assange has yet to be interviewed over the alleged offences. Britain said on Thursday it was “deeply frustrated” by the deadlock.

But for all Assange’s jubilation, he remains in the embassy, the extradition warrant still stands, and Britain and Sweden remain adamant that the report changes nothing.

Assange also remains fearful of a potential future extradition to the US, where a secret grand jury has been looking into whether to prosecute him over WikiLeak’s publishing activities.


British lawyers lined up on Friday to dismiss the panel’s findings, with Dominic Grieve, who was attorney general in 2012 when Assange entered the embassy, calling it “an extraordinary document” and “very far-fetched”.

Ken Macdonald QC, the former director of public prosecutions, described the findings as “beyond parody”.

“Julian Assange is wanted in connection with a grave sexual offence in a country that has a fair-trial justice system consistent with the highest international standards. Instead of cooperating with the Swedish authorities, as he should have done, Mr Assange has chosen to hole up in a foreign embassy, deliberately frustrating a serious criminal investigation. To describe his situation as ‘arbitrary detention’ is ludicrous.”

Elisabeth Massi Fritz, the lawyer for the Swedish woman whom Assange is accused of raping, said the UN panel had “a lack of understanding” that rape “is one of the most serious abuses and violations of human rights”.

It was “insulting and offensive”, she said, to her client to suggest a rape suspect should be compensated for withholding himself from justice for more than five years.

But the former chair of the UN working group, Mads Andenas, defended its finding, saying: “There is no doubt that the normal course of action for the Swedish authorities would have been to interview Assange in London. The extradition request was disproportionate.”

So what happens next in the extraordinary, seemingly irresolveable drama of Julian Assange? At a press conference earlier in the day, one of his lawyers, Melinda Taylor, said that if Sweden and Britain were not prepared to act, Assange might consider applying again to the Swedish courts, “to see how they will enforce or apply the findings of the working group”.

The European court of human rights was another option, she said, although the Strasbourg court confirmed on Friday that an application lodged by Assange in November against the UK and Sweden had been declared inadmissible the following month.

Speaking on the balcony, Assange dropped heavy hints about breaches of the convention against torture. “If this illegal, immoral, unethical detention continues, there will be criminal consequences for the parties involved.”
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Re: Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after

Postby admin » Sun Feb 07, 2016 2:38 am

UN panel calls on UK and Sweden to end Julian Assange's 'deprivation of liberty': UN working group says WikiLeaks founder should be offered compensation for being confined to Ecuadorian embassy
by Owen Bowcott and David Crouch
5 February 2016

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Arbitrary detention ruling is legally binding, says UN official. Photograph: Assange in 2014.

The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by the UK and Sweden for more than five years and should be released immediately with compensation, according to a United Nations report.

As anticipated, the finding by the Geneva-based UN working group on arbitrary detention criticises legal action against Assange by both European governments and blames them for preventing him from leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.

The panel calls on the Swedish and British authorities to end Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement and offer him compensation.

The report says: “The working group considered that Mr Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison, which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorian embassy.

“Having concluded that there was a continuous deprivation of liberty, the working group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr Assange.”

It adds: “The working group therefore requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of Mr Assange to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention.

“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.”

A UK government spokesperson said:“This changes nothing. We completely reject any claim that Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention. The UK has already made clear to the UN that we will formally contest the working group’s opinion.

“Julian Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK. The opinion of the UN working group ignores the facts and the well-recognised protections of the British legal system. He is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy. An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European arrest warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden. As the UK is not a party to the Caracas convention, we do not recognise ‘diplomatic asylum’.

“We are deeply frustrated that this unacceptable situation is still being allowed to continue. Ecuador must engage with Sweden in good faith to bring it to an end. America's minister Hugo Swire made this clear to the Ecuadorian ambassador in November, and we continue to raise the matter in Quito.”

The UN committee said one of its members, Leigh Toomey, had declined to take part in the inquiry because she, like Assange, is an Australian citizen. One of the other members, Vladimir Tochilovsky, a Ukrainian lawyer, had disagreed with the finding.

The statement said: “Given that Mr Assange is an Australian citizen, one of the members of the working group who shares his nationality recused herself from participating in the deliberations. Another member of the working group disagreed with the position of the majority and considered that the situation of Mr Assange is not one of detention and therefore falls outside the mandate of the working group.”

Only three of the five-member panel therefore supported the finding against the UK and Sweden.

Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “In light of this decision, it’s clear that any criminal charges against Mr Assange in connection with Wikileaks’ publishing operations would be unprecedented and unconstitutional.

“Indeed, even the prolonged criminal investigation of Wikileaks itself has had a profound chilling effect. The justice department should end that investigation and make clear that no publisher will ever be prosecuted for the act of journalism.”

Much of the criticism in the panel’s full report is directed at the methods adopted by the Swedish prosecutors. The report states: “There has been a substantial failure to exercise due diligence on the part of the concerned states [Sweden and the UK] with regard to the performance of the criminal administration … After more than five years of time lapse, [Assange] is still left even before the stage of preliminary investigation with no predictability as to whether and when a formal process of any judicial dealing would commence.

“Despite that, it is left to the initial choice of the Swedish prosecution as to what mode of investigation would best suit the purpose of criminal justice. The exercise and implementation of the investigation method should be conducted in compliance with the rule of proportionality, including undertaking to explore alternative ways of administering justice.”

The report continues: “The working group is convinced that … the current situation of Mr Assange staying within the confines of the embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London has become a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

“The duration of such detention is, ipso facto, incompatible with the presumption of innocence. Mr Assange has been denied the right to contest the continued necessity and proportionality of the arrest warrant in light of the length of this detention. It defeats the purpose and efficiency of justice and the interest of the concerned victims to put this matter of investigation to a state of indefinite procrastination.”

The report implies that insisting on Assange’s extradition to Sweden before any charges have been made amounts to disproportionate pressure in a criminal investigation. Greater efforts should have been made to interview him in the UK.


The panel received representations about the danger of “political persecution” if Assange is removed from Sweden to the US.

The Swedish foreign ministry said: “The [Swedish] government does not agree with the assessment made by the majority of the working group. In light of the safeguards contained in the Swedish extradition and [European arrest warrant] procedures against any potential extradition in violation of international human rights agreements, the government reiterates its position that Mr Assange does not face a risk of refoulement [removal] contrary to international human rights obligations to the United States from Sweden.

“In any case, no request for extradition regarding Mr Assange has been directed to Sweden. Moreover, Mr Assange has chosen, voluntarily, to stay at the Ecuadorian embassy and Swedish authorities have no control over his decision to stay there. Mr Assange is free to leave the embassy at any point. Thus, he is not being deprived of his liberty there due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities.”
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Re: Julian Assange accuses UK minister of insulting UN after

Postby admin » Sun Feb 07, 2016 2:41 am

Assange demands UK and Sweden lift arrest threat so he can leave Ecuadorian embassy: WikiLeaks founder says in statement he expects immediate return of passport after UN panel finds he has been ‘arbitrarily detained’
by Esther Addley, David Crouch in Gothenburg, Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent and Jessica Elgot
5 February 2016

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Image
Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy. The WikiLeaks founder is calling for the threat of arrest to be lifted. Photograph: Kerim Okten/EPA

Julian Assange will demand on Friday that Sweden and the UK lift any threat of arrest to allow him to walk free from Ecuador’s embassy in London, after a United Nations panel found that his three-and-a-half year confinement at the embassy in London amounted to “arbitrary detention”.

Sweden’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that the UN panel, which will publish its findings on Friday, had decided in favour of the WikiLeaks founder and found that he was “arbitrarily detained”.

Assange has not set foot outside the cramped west London embassy building since June 2012, when he sought asylum from Ecuador in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden. The Australian is wanted for questioning over an allegation of rape dating to 2010, which he denies.

The findings of the UN working group on arbitrary detention (UNWGAD) are not legally binding, but can be used to apply pressure on states in human rights cases. The British and Swedish governments were informed of the working group’s conclusion on 22 January. Both indicated on Thursday that they do not accept its findings.

Anna Ekberg, spokesperson for the Swedish foreign ministry, said: “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]. It will be more clear tomorrow why we reject the working group’s conclusions.”

The British foreign office said it would not “pre-empt” the panel’s report but said in a statement: “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 Ecuadorian embassy.

“An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European arrest warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.”

A spokesperson for the Swedish Prosecution Authority said that the country’s Supreme Court found in May 2015 that Assange “should still be detained in his absence”, and that the UNWGAB finding “has no formal impact on the ongoing investigation, according to Swedish law”.

Assange issued a statement via Twitter early on Thursday saying that if the five-person panel found against him, he would voluntarily walk out of the embassy and offer himself for immediate arrest, “as there is no meaningful prospect of further appeal”.

“However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me.”


He is expected to appear by videolink at a press conference on Friday to call for the threat of arrest and extradition to be lifted.

Assange’s Swedish lawyer, Per Samuelson, said that if the working group found in his favour, “there is only one solution for Marianne Ny [the Swedish prosecutor seeking Assange’s extradition], and that is to immediately release him and drop the case”. Samuelson added: “If he is regarded as detained, that means he has served his time, so I see no other option for Sweden but to close the case.”

Assange’s lawyers also want assurances from the UK that, even if the Swedish prosecution were to be dropped, he would not be arrested and subject to a second extradition to the US. Assange and WikiLeaks have been the subject of a secret grand jury investigation in Virginia that has been looking into whether to prosecute them over the whistleblowing website’s US cable disclosures.


Melinda Taylor, a legal spokeswoman for Assange, said they had “every reason to believe” that the US would seek Assange’s extradition. “If one of the orders is that he should be released and his liberty should be assured, we would obviously look to the UK to make sure that it is effective and not illusory -– that it’s not just liberty for five seconds, but liberty that is meaningful.”

In the past, the UNWGAD has highlighted the plight of significant international figures, including the formerly imprisoned Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi. The UN panel declined to take a view on the detention of Saddam Hussein in Iraq by the US forces in 2006 but eventually said that his former minister, Tariq Aziz, was being arbitrarily detained.

In 2008, an UNWGAD report declared that Mustafa Abdi, a Somalian convicted rapist who was held in immigration custody in the UK for several years after the end of his sentence had been subject to arbitrary detention. The European court of human rights subsequently agreed and awarded Abdi compensation.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the London-based International Bar Association, said a finding by the UN panel in Assange’s favour “would seem to contradict a fairly extensive legal process both in the UK and in Sweden”.

Ellis added: “It’s important to maintain adherence to rule of law principles and ensure that individuals have to abide by legal rulings. It’s surprising to think that Assange could be exempted from those principles. The ruling by the UN panel is not binding on British law.

“It would, however, provide Assange with support for his claim that he should not be extradited. I’m sure the UK is trying to figure a way out. It would be difficult for me to think that there should be an exception [from the European arrest warrant] for this case.”
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