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Julian Assange arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the UK, UN expert panel finds

GENEVA (5 February 2016) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010, as a result of the legal action against him by both Governments, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said today.

In a public statement, the expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation (Check the statement:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17012&LangID=E)

Mr. Assange, detained first in prison then under house arrest, took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 after losing his appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden, where a judicial investigation was initiated against him in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct. However, he was not formally charged.

“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention,” said Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the expert panel.

“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,” Mr. Hong added. 

In its official Opinion, the Working Group considered that Mr. Assange had been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth Prison in London, followed by house arrest and then confinement at the Ecuadorean Embassy.

The experts also found that the detention was arbitrary because Mr. Assange was held in isolation at Wandsworth Prison, and because a lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office in its investigations resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty.

The Working Group established that this detention violates Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Check the Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015), adopted in December: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015.docx

NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The WGAD has a mandate to investigate allegations of individuals being deprived of their liberty in an arbitrary way or inconsistently with international human rights standards, and to recommend remedies such as release from detention and compensation, when appropriate.
The binding nature of its opinions derives from the collaboration by States in the procedure, the adversarial nature of is findings and also by the authority given to the WGAD by the UN Human Rights Council. The Opinions of the WGAD are also considered as authoritative by prominent international and regional judicial institutions, including the European Court of Human Rights.

ENDS

Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea) is the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Other members of the Working Group are Ms. Leigh Toomey (Australia); Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico); Mr. Roland Adjovi Sètondji (Benin) and Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine). Learn more, log on to:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx

The UN Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Library/Pages/UDHR.aspx
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx.

UN Human Rights, Country Pages:
Sweden: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/SEIndex.aspx
United Kingdom: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/GBIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests please contact Mr. Sharof Azizov (+41 22 917 9748 / sazizov@ohchr.org), Mr. Christophe Peschoux (+41 22 917 93 81 / cpeschoux@ohchr.org), or write to wgad@ohchr.org

The Vice-Chair of the Working Group, Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi will be available for phone interviews (Off.  +1 215 517 2689 / Mob. +1 267 252 3668 / Fax. +1 267 937 3195 / adjovir@arcadia.edu)

For media inquiries related to other UN mandates:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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