Assange findings by U.N. panel are legally binding

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Feb. 5, 2016 at 7:24 AM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A U.N. panel that determined WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was being arbitrarily detained by Sweden and Britain and that he should be allowed to leave an embassy in London said its ruling was "legally binding" on Friday.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled in favor of Assange, 44, who has resided since 2012 in Ecuador's London embassy after losing his appeal in Britain's Supreme Court against his extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of sexual misconduct. He has never been formally charged.

The panel called for his freedom and for compensation in a statement released Friday.

The investigating panel said its mandate and opinions are based on international human rights law and can be used as evidence in court, and as such are regarded as legally binding.

Panel leader Seong-Phil Hong, in the statement, said "the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention."

"The Working Group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation."

The statement referred to Assange's stay, in isolation, in Britain's Wadsworth prison, and that "lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor's Office in its investigations resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty," a reference to his house arrest and later confinement at the embassy.

Assange, an Australian citizen, gained fame for publishing thousands of classified U.S. documents online, and has denied charges of rape and sexual molestation claimed in 2010 by two women in Sweden. He has said the allegations are a plot to extradite him to the United States because of the leaks, and has yet to be charged with a crime in the United States. An extradition request has not been issued to Britain.

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