UK & Sweden ‘undermining UN’ over Assange detention – letter

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange © Peter Nicholls
Britain and Sweden have been accused of undermining UN human rights agreements in an open letter signed by 500 supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Signatories include Chinese sculptor Ai Weiwei, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, academic Noam Chomsky, former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

The list of supporters also includes several Nobel Prize winners including Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire and film director Ken Loach.

The letter was published after a UN Working Group’s ruling that Assange had been arbitrarily detained. The report suggests Swedish prosecutor’s used disproportionate methods, including a European arrest warrant, instead of interviewing Assange in the UK.

After the initial UN report was released on February 5, Assange addressed a crowd outside the embassy.

“The UK and Sweden lost at the highest level,” he said.

Both the British and Swedish governments have been accused of undermining the UN.

“We therefore call on the governments of Sweden and the UK to comply without further delay with the Working Group’s findings and ensure the right of free movement of Mr Assange and accord him an enforceable right to compensation,” the open letter reads.

The open letter was organized by the Justice for Assange campaign. The high profile show of support aims to put pressure on the governments to rethink their stance.

“The governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines the United Nations human rights system as a whole,” the letter reads.

“We urge Sweden and the United Kingdom to respect the binding nature of the human rights covenants on which the decision is based, including the international covenant on civil and political rights, as well as the independence, integrity and authority of the office of the high commissioner for human rights and the working group on arbitrary detention.”

Assange, who sought asylum in London’s Ecuador embassy, is wanted for questioning in relation to sexual assault and rape allegations in Sweden. The WikiLeaks founder has denied all accusations against him, but would be arrested for breach of bail terms if he were to leave the Ecuadorian embassy.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has rejected the UN report, calling it “flawed in law” and “ridiculous.”

Hammond has continued to call for Assange’s arrest, labeling him a “fugitive from justice.”