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United Kingdom: Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expresses concern about Assange proceedings

GENEVA (3 May 2019) – The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention takes note of Mr. Julian Assange’s conviction by a UK court on 1 May 2019, and his sentencing to 50 weeks imprisonment. On 4 December 2015, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention adopted Opinion No. 54/2015*, in which it considered that Mr. Assange was arbitrarily detained by the Governments of Sweden and the UK.

The Working Group issues the following statement:

“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is deeply concerned about this course of action including the disproportionate sentence imposed on Mr. Assange. The Working Group is of the view that violating bail is a minor violation that, in the United Kingdom, carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, even though the bond related to the bail has been lost in favour of the British Government, and that Mr. Assange was still detained after violating the bail which, in any case should not stand after the Opinion was issued. The Working Group regrets that the Government has not complied with its Opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange.

It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr. Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr. Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case. 

The Working Group is further concerned that Mr. Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.

The WGAD reiterates its recommendation to the Government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its Opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.”

ENDS

* The Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015), adopted in December

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.

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UN Human Rights, country page: United Kingdom

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