UN experts urge UK to honour rights obligations and let Mr. Julian Assange leave Ecuador embassy in London freely
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
“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.