By Shreerupa Mitra-Jha
Around 500 of the world’s leading human rights experts, authors, academics, including Nobel Prize winners, have called on the governments of Sweden and the UK to ensure the right of freedom of movement of Julian Assange and warned that the two governments are setting a dangerous precedent by undermining the UN Human Rights system.
“The governments of Sweden and the UK are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines the UN Human Rights system as a whole,” a statement said.
“We therefore call on the governments of Sweden and the UK to comply without further delay with the [UN] Working Group’s findings and 'ensure the right of free movement of Mr. Assange and accord him an enforceable right to compensation, in accordance with article 9(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,'” the statement added.
The statement was circulated as the UN Human Rights Council is commemorating today the 50th anniversary of the International Human Rights Covenants, that includes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The signatories include names like Nobel prize laureate Adolfo Perez-Esquivel, artist Ai Weiwei, author Arundhati Roy, actor John Cusack, Nobel prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Nobel prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, Pulitzer Prize winner Laura Poitras, artist of Pussy Riot Nadya Tolokonnikova, academic Noam Chomsky, academic Saskia Sassen, academic Slavoj Žižek, writer Tariq Ali, academic Mahmoud Mamdani, Nobel prize laureate Tawakkol Karman, senior advocate and former UN special rapporteur Anand Grover and former Greek finance minster Yanis Varoufakis.
Also, included among the signatories are Axel Kicillof, former Argentinian finance minister, Brita Sundberg-Weitman, former chief judge of Sweden, Daniel Ellsberg, former US military analyst and source of Pentagon Papers, Human Rights Law Network, Indian organization, Hedvig Ekerwald, professor at Uppsala University, Craig Murray, former UK ambassador, apart from many former UN special rapporteurs like, Maina Kiai, Tomas, Ojea, Quintana, Osman El-Hajje and Mads Adenas who is a former special rapporteur on arbitrary detention.
A UN panel on 5 February ruled that WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, has been “arbitrarily detained” at the Ecuador Embassy in London and urged the governments of UK and Sweden to ensure his freedom of movement. The panel also ruled that Assange should be accorded an “enforceable right to compensation”.
The UK vehemently rejected the ruling that the 44-year-old Australian has been arbitrarily detained and said the UN opinion “changes nothing”. The UK maintains that Assange will be arrested by the Metropolitan Police if he leaves the premises of the Ecuadorean embassy. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations, which he has denied.
Britain’s defiance of the opinion of the UN investigation into the Julian Assange case sets a dangerous precedent for upholding international law, Prof Mads Adenas, former chair of the WGAD on arbitrary detention had said.
In an interview with The Guardian, Adenas, said, “The UK may lobby for some support when the matter is reported to the UN Human Rights Council, but the UK will certainly be criticised by other states for its response, and clearly deserve that. The damage done to the UK in the UN and its moral authority in human rights issues is another matter, but there is no doubt about the damage done to the authority of the UK.”