Daily Management Review

UN Panel Decides WikiLeaks' Assange Should Go Free from Embassy and be Compensated


UN Panel Decides WikiLeaks' Assange Should Go Free from Embassy and be Compensated
A much awaited opinion of the UN panel has opined that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be allowed to go free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London and be awarded compensation for what amounts to a three-and-a-half-year arbitrary detention.
Assange has been holed up in the embassy since June 2012 to avoid a rape investigation in Sweden and he had enraged the United States by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Noting that Asange had entered the embassy voluntarily, both Britain and Sweden denied that he was being deprived of freedom. Assange would be arrested if he left the embassy, Britain said adding that it could contest the decision.
Assange claimed that he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador and had appealed to the UN panel to approve this. The decision of the UN however is not of a binding nature.
The UN decision was however not unanimous even as the panel ruled in his favour. While one member expressed dissent and one recusing herself, three members in the panel of five panel supported a decision in Assange's favour.
"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," the group's head, Seong-Phil Hong, said in a statement.

"(It) maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation.”
A ploy to eventually take him to the United States where a criminal investigation into the activities of WikiLeaks is still open was active against him and the charges of rape leveled against him in Sweden in 2010 were false, Assange has been claiming.
Sweden said it has no such plans.
Though Britain had said he would be arrested and extradited to Sweden as soon as he stepped outside the embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London, Assange had said that if he lost the appeal then he would leave his cramped quarters at the embassy.
This decision in Assange’s favor is the most recent development in a string of events for Assange since his agency published leaked US government documents which were often highly critical U.S. appraisals of world leaders from Vladimir Putin to the Saudi royal family.
More than 90,000 secret documents on the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan were released by the group in 2010. Next came the release of almost 400,000 U.S. military reports detailing operations in Iraq. Millions of diplomatic cables dating back to 1973 were later disclosed by his agency.
Friday's ruling in unlikely to change the legal issues facing Assange as the U.N. Working Group does not have the authority to order the release of a detainee. However the UN panel’s backing carries a moral weight that puts pressure on governments as has been viewed in many previous high profile cases.
"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," a British government spokesman said.
There was no formal impact on the rape investigation against Assange under Swedish law of the UN decision, said Swedish prosecutors.