By Bill Smith & Albert Otti
HAVANA TIMES — Today, a group of UN independent jurists described the situation faced by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – who has resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as a refugee since June of 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden – as a case of “arbitrary detention,” DPA reported.
Speaking to the press from the embassy through Skype, Assange praised the decision of the UN jurists as a victory and urged the United Kingdom and Sweden to abide by it. “This is a victory that cannot be denied,” Assange announced from the Ecuadorian Embassy.
“This is the end of the road for the legal arguments,” Assange said. “It is now the task of the states of Sweden and the United Kingdom as a whole to implement the verdict.”
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions “considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention,” South Korean international law expert Seong-Phil Hong explained.
The legal actions taken by Sweden and the United Kingdom are responsible for Assange’s situation, the UN workgroup sentenced.
The experts called on the governments of the two countries to grant Assange freedom of movement. In addition, they believe Assange should be compensated for his forced exile at London’s Ecuadorian Embassy and the detention and house arrest he was subjected to previously, in 2010.
The United Kingdom and Sweden have denied these accusations. “Mr. Asange freely chose to remain in the Ecuadorian Embassy and Swedish authorities have no say in his decision to be there,” the chief of the Swedish Foreign Affair’s legal department Anders Ronquist wrote in response to the UN jurists’ decision. “Mr. Assange can decide to leave the embassy at any moment.”
British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond called the UN decision “ridiculous” and described Assange as a “fugitive from justice.” The Foreign Minister added that the decision of the jurists will not change the UK’s actions.
Assange said Hammond’s comments were beneath a foreign minister and added that, were the UK not to abide by the WGAD’s decision, this would “undermine” the UN system.
Though the decision by this group of jurists is legally binding, the WGAD has no power to enforce it.
A spokeswoman for Sweden’s Attorney General’s Office insisted the decision by the UN workgroup does not have a formal impact on the investigation underway, as per Swedish legislation. The spokeswoman invoked a ruling handed down by the Swedish Supreme Court in May of 2015, stating that, after examining the facts of the case, the court had decided that Julian Assange must be detained.
The 44-year-old Australian programmer and journalist, Assange had submitted a complaint to the WGAD in 2014, claiming he had been “arbitrarily detained”, as he could not leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London without being immediately arrested.
A European detention order for allegations of sexual abuse in Sweden hangs over Assange. The founder of WikiLeaks fears extradition to the United States and a life sentence there for publishing confidential US documents on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars on his Internet platform.