Julian Assange claims 'vindication' after UN report

Julian Assange says a UN panel's finding that he has been arbitrarily detained is a "vindication."

The WikiLeaks founder says it is "now a matter of settled law" that he has been wrongly detained.

See Full Article

Assange spoke to journalists by video from the London embassy of Ecuador, where he has been holed up for 3 1/2 years to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sexual offences.

Assange said Britain and Sweden cannot appeal the panel's finding, but Britain has already indicated it will challenge.

This is a breaking news update. Our earlier story follows.

GENEVA - A United Nations human rights panel has sided with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in his long-running battle with Swedish and British authorities, saying he should be freed immediately and compensated for the years he has lost.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which falls under the offices of the UN human rights chief, said Assange has been "arbitrarily detained" by Britain and Sweden since December 2010, when he was first sought for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct.

The panel's recommendation was immediately rejected by Swedish and British officials who said Assange's legal situation is unchanged. He remains in the Embassy of Ecuador in London, where he sought refuge more than three years ago.

The panel's finding has no legal force, British and Swedish officials maintain, but it represents a public relations victory for Assange, who argues that the allegations against him are part of a plot to send him to the United States to face more possible charges related to WikiLeaks' release of classified documents.

The panel's decision was not unanimous: Vladimir Tochilovsky, a Ukrainian member, disagreed with the other three voting members because he did not believe the group had a mandate to investigate the case because he did not believe Assange had been detained. The fifth member of the panel recused herself because she is Australian, as is Assange.

It is not clear if U.S. judicial officials are seeking Assange's arrest on U.S. charges. No charges have been filed against Assange in Sweden, but Swedish prosecutors want to question him over allegations of rape stemming from a working visit he made to the country in 2010 when WikiLeaks was attracting international attention for its secret-spilling.

Assange has consistently denied the allegations but declined to return to Sweden to meet with prosecutors and eventually sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has lived since June 2012.

The panel criticized Sweden's approach, noting that Assange was never formally charged in Sweden - only placed under preliminary investigation.

"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," said panel chairman Seong-Phil Hong in a statement.

Citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that has 168 state parties including both Sweden and Britain, the panel said "the adequate remedy would be to ensure the right of free movement of Mr. Assange and accord him an enforceable right to compensation."

British officials argue that Assange is free to leave the Ecuadorean Embassy at any time - although he would face arrest from British police because of a European Arrest Warrant issued at Sweden's behest. He is also sought by Britain for jumping bail.

The panel's decision, which was given privately to the governments before it was released to the public, seems to have stunned officials in Sweden and Britain who maintain proper procedures have been followed at all times.

Karin Rosander, spokeswoman for the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said that under Swedish law the panel's conclusion will have no "formal impact."

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called the panel's finding "frankly ridiculous".

The panel criticized a "disproportionate" reaction by Swedish prosecutors in issuing a European arrest warrant rather than seeking to question Assange using bilateral agreements with Britain, and insisted that the Swedish prosecutor refused to consider other ways of interviewing him compatible with his right to asylum - which it said was not properly respected.

Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement it would formally contest the panel's opinion.

"This changes nothing. We completely reject any claim that Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention," the Foreign Office said in a statement. "Julian Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the U.K. The opinion of the UN Working Group ignores the facts and the well-recognized protections of the British legal system."

It countered that Assange was "voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy."

The case has also been complicated by uncertainty surrounding Assange's legal status in the United States. The U.S. government has not revealed whether he has been indicted - grand jury proceedings are secret there - but has indicated that sensitive investigations into Assange and WikiLeaks have been made.

The working group said Assange could face "refoulement" to the United States - being handed over to a country where he could face violence or prison. The UN upholds the principle of non-refoulement prohibiting that practice.

-----

Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark contributed.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Senate confirms Mike Pompeo to run the CIA

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The Senate on Monday confirmed President Donald Trump's nominee to run the CIA despite some Democratic objections that Rep. Mike Pompeo has been less than transparent about his positions on torture, surveillance and Russia's meddling in the U.S. Source
  • UN calls for end to South Sudan fighting

    World News CTV News
    The UN Security Council called Monday for a halt to fighting in South Sudan and swift deployment of a new contingent of 4,000 peacekeepers to boost the existing UN force in the conflict-wracked African nation. Source
  • Quebec class action lawsuit seeks damages for solitary confinement

    Canada News CTV News
    A class action lawsuit has been certified in Quebec that alleges federal prisons are abusing a practice known as “administrative segregation,” which the lawsuit’s backers call “solitary confinement.” Former federal inmate Arlene Gallone is representing the prisoners. Source
  • Kevin O'Leary challenges Premier Kathleen Wynne to call an election

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    The war of words between Ontario’s Liberal government and Kevin O’Leary got nastier Monday as the federal Conservative leadership candidate challenged Premier Kathleen Wynne to call a snap election. Calling Wynne “out of touch,” O’Leary dared her to seek a new mandate from Ontario’s voters, in a letter posted to his Facebook page. Source
  • Minnesota officer charged with punching handcuffed teen in face

    World News Toronto Sun
    ST. PAUL, MINN. - A St. Paul police officer was charged Monday with punching a 14-year-old girl twice in the face after she spit on him while handcuffed in the back of a squad car. Officer Michael Soucheray II faces a charge of misdemeanour assault. Source
  • ’She gambled away Ryan’s life’: Calgary mother ruled criminally negligent in son’s death

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    CALGARY — An Alberta judge says a Calgary woman who treated her son with holistic remedies before he died of a strep infection “gambled away” his life and is guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Justice Kristine Eidsvik also issued a judicial stay on a second charge against Tamara Lovett of failing to provide the necessaries of life. Source
  • Donald Trump's tweets are presidential records, but what about deletions?

    World News Toronto Sun
    WASHINGTON - The National Archives and Records Administration considers President Donald Trump’s tweets as presidential records that need to be preserved for historic purposes, but an archives official said Monday that the agency has yet to say whether his administration will be required to keep altered or deleted tweets. Source
  • Three men guilty in B.C. teen's murder sentenced to life

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    VANCOUVER — Police say three men have been sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 18 years after pleading guilty in B.C. Supreme Court to second-degree murder charges in the slaying of a 19-year-old man. Source
  • Wildfires in Chile devastate livelihoods, destroy homes and livestock

    World News CTV News
    PUMANQUE, Chile - Lambs suffered broken legs trying to escape the blaze that tore across Tarcila Becerra's land. Today there's nothing on the blackened soil left for the few chickens that survived to graze on, and horses whinny in a makeshift stable a few blocks from her ravaged home. Source
  • White House press secretary Sean Spicer: 'Our intention is never to lie'

    World News Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK - White House press secretary Sean Spicer told a roomful of reporters that “our intention is never to lie to you,” although sometimes the Trump administration may “disagree with the facts.” Spicer’s first full press briefing was closely watched Monday following a weekend statement about President Donald Trump’s inauguration audience that included incorrect assertions. Source