Julian Assange should face justice

Assange embassy

On the 5th of February the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention argued that Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, had been subject to arbitrary deprivation of liberty and should be allowed to walk free. There is just one problem with this judgement: Mr. Assange isn’t being deprived of his liberty by the British Government, and he’s perfectly free to leave his self-made prison.

To explain, Julian Assange is the founder of the whistle-blowing service, Wikileaks, which published a huge number of confidential diplomatic documents and cables belonging to several governments. Assange is currently hiding as a refugee in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been since 2012. The reason Julian Assange is still inside the Ecuadorian Embassy is because since 2012 the UK Supreme Court has upheld a request for extradition to Sweden, where the authorities want to question him on allegations of rape. Mr. Assange claims the encounter was entirely consensual, and sought refuge in the embassy to avoid questioning. The moment Assange steps outside, the Metropolitan Police will arrest him. In short, he is detained inside of the embassy of his own free will. He could leave at any time, but does not want to, because he is a fugitive from justice.

This simple fact seems to have gone over the heads of the lawyers of the UN’s working group, who have ignored the truth that Assange has placed himself under house arrest. Of course, it’s hardly a surprise that the Working Group ruled in his favour: it has ruled in favour of the detainee in the majority of its 1,325 cases. What’s bizarre is that of the 5 experts in human rights law who wrote the opinion, only one dissented, proving that the cleverest and best educated of people are also sometimes the stupidest.

The statement by the UN isn’t just absurd, but also dangerous. It gives succour to those who defend Assange by disregarding the allegation of rape out of hand. For these people (who seemingly congregate on the Guardian’s comment section), the man and his political activities are inseparable. The activities Wikileaks engaged in were virtuous, so the founder himself must be virtuous. They claim that their noble hero is the victim of a government conspiracy, that this accusation is merely a ploy to get Assange shipped off to the US, where he will face punishment for the leaking of sensitive state secrets. The truth, however, is that the reason Swedish authorities want to question him is entirely unrelated to his activities at Wikileaks. If Assange is innocent, he should go to Sweden and prove that innocence. If he were to be charged while in Sweden, it’s hardly as if he wouldn’t receive a fair trial. Instead, however, he has shamefully chosen to evade questioning by hiding away under diplomatic immunity, while the police guard outside costs the British taxpayer £10,000 a day.

Even worse, the media frenzy caused by the UN statement – and Assange’s subsequent appearance on the balcony of the embassy for the awaiting press corps – has served to obscure the true victim of Wikileaks’ whistle-blowing. Chelsea Manning is currently serving a 35 year sentence in the US for leaking documents while she was a private in the US Army. The documents revealed that the US committed potential human rights violations in its operations in Iraq. For this she was held for 11 months in solitary confinement in her pre-trial detention, prevented from using a public interest defence at her trial, and ultimately overcharged for her ‘crime’. If anyone has been subjected to deprivation of liberty, it is Chelsea Manning, who should rightfully be a free woman.

Luckily the statement issued by the UN regarding Assange is not legally binding. Therefore, when Assange inevitably crawls out of hiding, the Met will arrest him in order for him to face Swedish prosecutors for questioning. His extradition surely can’t come a moment too soon.

Bottom Line: Julian Assange has not been arbitrarily detained, and it's about time he left the embassy.

7 Comments

  1. AFB65
    12 February 2016 - 19:24 GMT

    UK does ignore human rights, UN is absolutely right.

    Read next verdict, international airport:

    http://www.asylumlawdatabase.eu/en/content/ecthr-amuur-v-france-application-no-1977692-25-june-1996

    Reactions of Cameron and Hammond are befehl ist befehl, they use exactly the same as famous WOII criminals.

    It is so obvious that their responses are so political statements, even some with a bit morals, would never say UN verdict is ridiculous.

    Not agree, fine, but ridiculous?

    And please explain how a request for questioning becomes an international arrest warrant?

    There was no judge involved in Sweden with this decision.

    Second, wikileaks is based in Sweden, so please, it is complete nonsense to reason that a man does not have to be afraid to go to Sweden.

    Your article is a complete neglection of human rights.

  2. AFB65
    12 February 2016 - 19:28 GMT

    Another title: Cameron and Hammond should face international court of justice.

  3. AFB65
    12 February 2016 - 19:47 GMT

    http://www.theguardian.com/media/2010/dec/17/julian-assange-sweden

    And everyone is talking about rape, yes, in Sweden people can be convicted for rape, in UK no one can be charged for rape for these facts. Both women wanted to have sex with him.

    So, why Cameron and Hammond are talking the way they do, no one knows, unless they want to change laws in UK.

    Most people do not even know that he was charged, but all charges were dropped.

    And then after 6 weeks he left Sweden.

    In Sweden a man or woman can be charged for rape when he or she puts an arm around his or her partner when partner is asleep. It’s not important at all, if partner didn’t mind.

  4. Josh Salisbury
    13 February 2016 - 20:21 GMT

    @AFB65

    I agree with you that the UK ignores human rights. I can think of several examples myself, and I wouldn’t argue otherwise. But that fact doesn’t mean the UN’s ruling is right in this case. It’s clearly not. You can find tons of op-eds about the legal flaws of the ruling: here http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/05/un-julian-assange-wikileaks, or here http://www.headoflegal.com/2016/02/05/the-un-working-groups-assange-opinion/.

    I say that it’s ridiculous because the ruling ignored the essential truth that Mr. Assange is detained of his own choosing. The ruling cheapens the meaning of ‘arbitrary detention’ when a man who fled from bail to hide under diplomatic immunity, and whom is free to leave his dwelling at any point, is counted as being arbitrarily detained. Now the reason Cameron & Hammond rejected the verdict of the group is because it argued that the UK should pay Assange compensation for his ‘detention’, which as I have explained, is nothing of the kind. Comparison between that reaction and WW2 war criminals is so obviously absurd that I find it hard to put into words.

    Finally though, you accuse me of writing an article which is a complete negligence of human rights. I’d like to ask you: which is more of a negligence of human rights – contesting a ruling of the UN, or apologising for an alleged rape on no evidence at all, and arguing that both women ‘wanted it’? Rape is one of the most serious violations of someone’s human rights, and to dismiss the complainant’s allegation out of hand is awful. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  5. Nella
    21 February 2016 - 09:10 GMT

    Yes, the situation is ridiculous. The most irritating part is that no one questions the claim that Sweden would ship him to the US. It is absurd. The most dangerous place for him to be in after the US should absolutely be Britain. It is not Sweden that is known as Americas little puppy dog. Kudos for the article, well said.

  6. Nella
    21 February 2016 - 09:22 GMT

    And might I add: WikiLeaks is very well respected in Sweden as is Mr Assange, he has spent time here for that reason. There are a lot of people here who would happily see him free of all charges, but there is nothing respectable in hiding from justice. Rape is a serious matter and there are two women involved in this story too. They exist in reality and he slept with them, I don´t know who is right or not about rape, but the fact that he keeps hiding makes me doubt his innocence. If he has done nothing wrong he has nothing to fear, this bullshit about being sent straight to the US from Sweden is not true. He is most likely afraid to set foot again on British territory.

  7. Nella
    21 February 2016 - 09:35 GMT

    Last comment I promise, but if you want to read about this from a Swedish perspective check out flashback.org, seek on “Julian Assange” and google translate the treads. Yes, there is a lot and you have better things to do surely… but if you check it out you will see that the women´s names have been published on this public forum since the beginning of this affair and they have been and are still being publicly slandered. I was not in bed with Julian Assange and I don´t know what went down, but his fans are so sure of his innocence that they are tearing them to shreds plus all details are more or less out about the first concensual sex and then the sex involved in the rape accusations. Stockholm is not a big town and Julian Assange has many fans.

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