Ecuador has called for Julian Assange to be allowed to go free after a UN panel said his time in the country’s London embassy amounted to an “arbitrary detention.”
In a live press conference this morning from Quito, Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patiño, responded to a decision adopted by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) that considered that Julian Assange’s three-and-a-half year asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy to the UK in violation of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
The group also considered that the Australian journalist and founder of WikiLeaks should be afforded the right to compensation.
Patiño heralded the decision as “gratifying,” stressing that the “arbitrary detention” since 2012 has violated some of the “most important of human rights on the planet.”
Likening the situation to political persecution, the minister chided the “reproachable conduct” of both the UK and Sweden, saying “[i]t is time for both governments to correct their mistake and allow for the release of Julian Assange.”
The official document released by the Working Group this morning requested that both Sweden and the UK “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 by the international norms on detention.”
While Ecuador hailed the decision, reached by three of the five independent members of the WGAD panel, the UK Foreign Office vowed to formally contest the opinion, with Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond calling it “ridiculous.”
The government also maintained that it has a legal obligation to extradite Assange, as a European Arrest Warrant is still in place, and the panel’s consideration is not legally binding in the UK.
Ecuador granted Assange asylum in August 2012 after the WikiLeaks founder was accused of sexually assaulting two women in Sweden. Assange was unable to obtain guarantees from either the UK or Sweden that he would not be extradited to the US, where he is wanted for revealing sensitive information via Wikileaks. He has since been unable to leave the embassy in London without fear of immediate arrest.