Independent UN rights experts on Thursday said the arrest of Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange by police in the United Kingdom after the Ecuadorian Government decided to stop granting him asylum in their London embassy, exposed him to “the risk of serious human rights violations” if extradited to the United States.
These views are consistent with a series of actions and statements by the UN which has sided with Assange throughout this threat of prosecution and his nearly seven years as a refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Agnes Callamard, said “expelling Assange from the Embassy” and allowing his arrest, it had taken Mr. Assange “one step closer to extradition.” She added that the UK had now arbitrarily-detained the controversial anti-secrecy journalist and campaigner, “possibly endangering his life.”
The UN independent expert on the right to privacy, Joe Cannataci, issued a statement following the arrest, saying that “this will not stop my efforts to assess Mr. Assange’s claims that his privacy has been violated. All it means is that, instead of visiting Mr Assange and speaking to him at the Embassy…I intend to visit him and speak to him wherever he may be detained.”
In a statement last Friday, Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, said he was alarmed by reports that an arrest was imminent, and that if extradited, Mr. Assange could be exposed to “a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Last December, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, urged the UK to “abide by its international obligations” and allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the embassy. The Working Group concluded in its opinion No. 54/2015 that Assange was being arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and demanded that he be released. “Under international law, pre-trial detention must be only imposed in limited instanices. Detention during investigations must be even more limited, especially in the absence of any charge.”