UN experts urge UK to honour rights obligations over Julian Assange

United Nations human rights experts have repeated a demand that the UK abides by its international obligations and allows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He has been living inside the embassy for more than six years, fearing he will be extradited to the United States if he leaves.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), which concluded three years ago that Mr Assange was being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and should be released, urged the UK Government to “honour its obligations”.

In a statement from Geneva, the group said: “States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable.

“But when they honestly admit these violations, they do honour the very spirit of the rule of law, earn enhanced respect for doing so, and set worldwide commendable examples.

“Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instances. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge.”

They added that investigations by the Swedish authorities ended over 18 months ago, and the only ground remaining for Mr Assange’s continued “deprivation of liberty” is a bail violation in the UK, which it described as a minor offence that cannot justify the years of confinement since he sought asylum in the embassy.

“Mr Assange should be able to exercise his right to freedom of movement in an unhindered manner, in accordance with the human rights conventions the UK has ratified,” the experts further said.

The WGAD said it was worried the continued “arbitrary deprivation” of liberty of Mr Assange is undermining his health, and may endanger his life given the “disproportionate amount of anxiety and stress that such prolonged deprivation of liberty entails.”

The statement continued: “The United Kingdom has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and has a responsibility to honour its commitment, by respecting its provisions in all cases,” the experts said.

“As the High Commissioner for human rights said several years ago, human rights treaty law is binding law, it is not discretionary law. It is not some passing fancy that a state can apply sometimes and not in the other.

“It is time that Mr Assange, who has already paid a high price for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of opinion, expression and information, and to promote the right to truth in the public interest, recovers his freedom.”

Mr Assange was visited on Thursday by his father John and two German MPs who were critical of the UK Government’s role in the deadlock over his future.