thursday, 4 february of 2016

UN panel ´rules in Julian Assange´s favour´

A UN panel has ruled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been "unlawfully detained", the BBC understands.

Mr Assange claimed asylum in London's Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault claims, which he denies.

The Met Police said he will still be held if he does leave the embassy.

He earlier tweeted he would accept arrest if the panel ruled against him, but called for his arrest warrant to be dropped if the decision went his way.

A warrant for his arrest remains in place.

In 2014, Mr Assange complained to the UN that he was being "arbitrarily detained" as he could not leave the embassy without being arrested.

The UN's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is due to announce the findings of its investigation into the case on Friday.

Its panel of legal experts has taken evidence from the UK and Sweden.

While the BBC understands the panel will find in Mr Assange's favour, Wikileaks tweeted it was waiting for "official confirmation".

There has been no official comment yet from either Sweden, Britain or the UN but the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention took its decision in December, and informed both the Swedish and British governments.

In his complaint to the panel - made in 2014 - Julian Assange argued that living in 30 square metres of the Ecuadorian Embassy with no sunlight or fresh air had taken a "significant toll" on his mental health.

Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world's worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt.

So a decision against Sweden and Britain in favour of Mr Assange is bound to be controversial.

But it doesn't mean that he'll walk free. It's not legally binding. And British officials have made clear that the European arrest warrant against him remains in place.

The panel's decision is not legally binding on the UK or Sweden, Clive Coleman, BBC legal affairs correspondent said.

Mr Assange will argue the decision is significant and adds considerable legal and moral force to the argument he is being arbitrarily detained, he said.

But our correspondent added the UK government is likely to argue that Mr Assange's detention is "self-imposed and follows an entirely lawful process".

The UK Foreign Office has said it still had an obligation to extradite Mr Assange.

Australian Mr Assange was originally arrested in London in 2010 under a European Arrest Warrant issued by Sweden.

He claimed asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge after the UK Supreme Court ruled the extradition against him could go ahead.

(Published by BBC News - February 4, 2016)

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