United Nations WGAD declares Assange’s detention arbitrary [Read the non-binding opinion]

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) has by majority adopted Opinion No. 54/2015 holding that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In its opinion, WGAD recognized that Assange is entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.

WGAD passed this order in an application filed by Assange with the WGAD in September 2014. The Opinion was sent to the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on January 22, 2016 in accordance with the Working Group’s Methods of Work.

The decision has been made public on February 5, 2016. WGAD has issued a public statement, calling the Swedish and British authorities to end “Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation”.

WGAD member Vladimir Tochilovsky dissented with the majority opinion holding that the situation of Assange is not one of detention and therefore falls outside the mandate of the Working Group. An Australian member of the panel had recused himself from the decision as Assange is an Australian citizen.


Majority opinion

WGAD by majority held:

The deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange is arbitrary and in contravention of articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It falls within category III of the categories applicable to the consideration of the cases submitted to the Working Group.


WGAD requests governments to implement its decision

The majority order further states:

Consequent upon the opinion rendered, the Working Group requests the Government of Sweden and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to assess the situation of Mr. Assange, to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed bythe international norms on detention.


Binding or non-binding

While the WGAD claims that the opinions of the WGAD are legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), British authorities contend that UNWGAD findings have no binding impact on UK law and cannot overrule the court-sanctioned procedure for removing Assange, under a European arrest warrant, to face justice in Scandinavia

Kirsty Brimelow QC, of Doughty Street Chambers, an expert in international law tribunals told The Guardian that:

A finding by UNWGAD against the UK is not binding. It has no enforcement power. However, a finding that the UK has acted in a way which is inconsistent with relevant international standards should not be ignored by the UK. The UK should not act contrary to international law.

Read the complete decision here:

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