A U.N. human rights panel says WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by Britain and Sweden since December 2010, although the UK government slammed the report as “ridiculous.”
The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said his detention should end and he should be entitled to compensation.
Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange 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 ways.
Speaking for the first time since the announcement, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hailed the U.N. ruling as a “victory” in an emotional speech from the balcony of Ecuador’s embassy in London where he has been holed up since 2012.
“How sweet it is! This is a victory that cannot be denied. It is a victory of historical importance,” he told a small group of supporters outside the embassy in a rare appearance on the balcony.
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.
However, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond poured scorn on the U.N. report, calling it ridiculous, and said the Wikileaks founder was a fugitive from justice.
The panel ruled Assange is being “arbitrarily detained” in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.
“I reject the decision of this working group,” Hammond told ITV news on Friday. “It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.
“He can come out any time he chooses... But he will have to face justice in Sweden if he chooses to do so. This is frankly a ridiculous finding by the working group and we reject it.”
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 U.N. upholds the principle of non-refoulement prohibiting that practice.SHOW MORE