Julian Assange: British government to fight UN ruling that it 'arbitrarily detained' WikiLeaks founder

A spokesperson said his stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy was 'voluntary' and denied detaining him

The British Government is fighting a United Nations ruling that accused it of “arbitrarily detaining” Julian Assange in violation of his fundamental human rights.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the UK and Sweden to immediately end the WikiLeaks founder’s “deprivation of liberty'' and compensate him.

But a spokesperson for the British Government said it would “formally contest” the findings and denied that Mr Assange’s stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London constituted arbitrary detention.

Video: Assange speaks from Ecuadorian embassy



“This changes nothing. We completely reject any claim that Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention,” he added.

“The opinion of the UN Working Group ignores the facts and the well-recognised protections of the British legal system. 

“He is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy.”

The spokesperson said that as a rape allegation against Mr Assange is still being investigated in Sweden and subject to a European arrest warrant, the UK has a legal obligation to extradite him.

Demonstrators hold banners outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is staying

Britain is also not subject to the 1954 Caracas Convention, meaning it does not have to recognise diplomatic asylum. 

“We are deeply frustrated that this unacceptable situation is still being allowed to continue,” the Government spokesperson added. 

“Ecuador must engage with Sweden in good faith to bring it to an end. 

“Americas Minister Hugo Swire made this clear to the Ecuadorean Ambassador in November, and we continue to raise the matter in Quito.”

When the findings were leaked on Thursday, Mr Assange said he would leave the Embassy if the panel ruled against him and accept arrest by British police.

“However, should I prevail and the state parties be found to have acted unlawfully, I expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me,” he said in a statement.

Swedish prosecutors want to question him over allegations of rape stemming from a working visit he made to the country in 2010, when revelations made by WikiLeaks on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were reverberating around the world. 

But Mr Assange fears Sweden will extradite him to authorities in the US where he could be put on trial over the publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

He has consistently denied the rape allegations but refused to return to Sweden and eventually sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has lived since June 2012.