The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that Julian Assange is being arbitrarily and unlawfully detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom; and that he must be immediately released and compensated. The Working Group spentsixteen months investigating the case before issuing the Opinion. The process was adversarial: the UK and Sweden took part by making submissions to the Working Group. More
Press release: UK refuses hospital visit for MRI and diagnosis
(14 October 2015 20:00 EST)
In a press conference today, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino read out a letter from Assange’s UK doctor who conducted a medical examination in August. The letter says that he is in constant and severe pain, which is growing worse and has been present since June 2015. The doctor stated that an MRI scan needs to be performed. This can only be carried out in a hospital.
Dr. Wood’s letter dated 14 August 2015 states: "He has been suffering with a constant pain to the right shoulder region for the past three months [since June 2015]. There is no history of acute injury to the area. [...] I examined him and all movements of his shoulder (abduction, internal rotation and external rotation) are limited due to pain. I am unable to elicit the exact cause of his symptoms without the benefit of further diagnostic tests, [including] MRI." [END QUOTE]
The cause is unknown. There was no fall or injury. The source of the medical condition can only be diagnosed with hospital equipment that cannot be brought into the embassy due to size and weight.
Ecuador wrote to the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 30 September 2015 to request that Mr. Assange be permitted to go to the hospital under conditions agreed upon by UK and Ecuador ("they can guard the car with 10.000 police officers if they wish"). The safe passage would be for a few hours in order to allow Mr. Assange to be able to have medical tests undertaken and in order to diagnose the cause.
The UK FCO replied on 12 October that it would not permit the safe passage to the hospital for purposes of medical tests.
Assange’s US lawyer Carey Shenkman said:
"By claiming that Mr. Assange must give up his asylum in order to receive medical treatment, the UK government is forcing him to choose between the human right to asylum and the human right to medical treatment. No one should ever have to face that choice.
Sweden and the United Kingdom have the responsibility to ensure that Assange’s basic rights are respected. They should agree without further delay to permit Mr. Assange’s safe passage to a hospital on humanitarian grounds." [END QUOTE]
The Foreign Minister said that even in times of war and conflict, safe passage are given for humanitarian reasons to ensure that persons are given the medical attention they need.
For three years both the UK and Swedish governments have failed to grant Mr. Assange safe passage or a guarantee of no onward extradition to the United States. For three years Mr. Assange has been denied liberty, adequate medical treatment, and access to sunlight. Three years is longer than any sentence Mr. Assange would serve in Sweden if he were actually charged and tried in Sweden; to date, he has never been charged.
On 11 May 2015 the Supreme Court of Sweden issued a split decision in the Assange case. Judge Svante O. Johansson’s dissenting opinion argued that the detention order should be revoked because the actual harm and intrusion outweighed the reasons for a continued detention. Sweden’s Court of Appeal had previously rebuked the prosecutor in November 2014 for breaching her duty to progress the preliminary investigation. Read more. The Supreme Court accepted that the prosecutor had breached her duty for stalling for so long. However, the majority of judges argued that Julian Assange would continue to be detained in absentia without charge. The reasoning was that the court could overlook the fact that the preliminary investigation had been frozen for over four years now that the prosecutor had announced that she would accept to take Mr. Assange’s statement in the embassy of Ecuador in London, where he has asylum.
Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has detained without charge in one form or another since 7 December 2010. He is under the protection of the Ecuadorian embassy in London which has granted him asylum and recognised that he risks extradition to the United States for his publishing activities with WikiLeaks.
The US periodically confirms that a criminal national security investigation into Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is ongoing — for example to a US court on 4 March 2015, and to the Washington Post on 28 January 2015.
In Sweden, Julian Assange is not charged with a crime. But in a highly unusual move, Sweden issued an Interpol Red Notice and a European Arrest Warrant, immediately after WikiLeaks began publishing a cache of 250,000 US Diplomatic Cables on 29 November 2010. Such warrants are usually issued for persons whose whereabouts are unknown. But Julian Assange’s whereabouts were known (he had given a press conference and hundreds of interviews in London). His lawyers were in communication with the prosecutor and had communicated that he was available to answer questions from the Swedish prosecutor through standard means.
Questioning people within European borders is a routine and uncomplicated process, which is standardised throughout the European Union. Sweden often uses these means to question people.
In the initial ten days after 20 August 2010, the police opened the ’preliminary investigation’, it was assigned to three different prosecutors in quick succession. The penultimate prosecutor found that the case had no basis, and that there were no grounds to place Julian Assange under a criminal investigation.
The final prosecutor however, Marianne Ny, took over on 1 September 2010 and reopened the investigation. The Swedish investigation has been frozen since 2010. In November 2014, Sweden’s Svea Court of Appeal ruled that the prosecutor had failed her professional duty to progress the investigation against Julian Assange.
This website is about what happened in the police investigation against Julian Assange in Sweden, how the prosecutor handled the case in its initial stages, and the press and political climate in Sweden at the time.
Julian Assange has challenged the Swedish court order for his arrest in Sweden. The matter reached the Swedish Supreme Court on 25 February 2015.
He has also filed a complaint at the United Nations Working group on Arbitrary Detention regarding the continued obstruction of his asylum by UK and Sweden.
It is also about Julian Assange’s legal challenge of the validity of the European Arrest Warrant before the UK courts. Although Julian Assange’s challenge was not successful, if he had taken his case to the UK courts today, he would have won. This is because UK legislation had failed to protect people who were subject to EAWs, especially, as in Julian Assange’s case, if no decision had been made as to whether there were grounds to charge so as to prevent fishing expeditions. Under the amended law, persons can only be extradited if the UK judge is satisfied that the case is trial ready.
The UK has imposed an extraordinary, and extraordinarily expensive, police encirclement of the embassy of Ecuador in London. The cost has exceeded GBP 10.000.000. A website is dedicated to tracking the cost of maintaining this encirclement: govwaste.co.uk.
Numerous other websites (see for example: here and here and books here andhere) also explore Assange’s case in depth.
Assange: Frequently Asked Questions
When did Assange enter the embassy?
He entered the embassy on June 19, 2012 and applied for political asylum, which was formally granted two months later.
Why is Mr. Assange still in the embassy?
The UK has encircled the embassy with police since he entered it and refuses to let him take up his asylum in Ecuador. The United States refuses to drop its attempts to pursue a national security case against Mr. Assange over WikiLeaks publications on Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantanamo bay and the US State Department. Sweden refuses to either drop its "preliminary investigation" or charge Mr. Assange with a crime. The UK states that it has spent more than $10m on the encirclement so far (see http://govcost.co.uk) but refuses to disclose the breakdown of the cost.
What does the law say?
International law says that a sovereign country has decided to recognise Mr. Assange as needing protection from political persecution on humanitarian grounds. Mr. Assange has a right to meaningfully exercise that protection through passage to Ecuador. Ecuador invoked a number of applicable conventions, including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. The United Kingdom and Sweden are also parties to the 1951 Convention and are obligated to recognise the asylum decision of Ecuador. While both states have been careful to avoid saying that they do not recognise the asylum, their actions can only be interpreted as a wilful violation of Mr. Assange’s right to ’seek, receive and enjoy’ his asylum. In international law, the obligation to protect persons from persecution under the 1951 Refugee Convention prevails over extradition agreements between states.
Why do the UK and Sweden disobey international law?
The United Kingdom says it has a treaty obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden even though he has not been charged with an offense. There is a conflict between the United Kingdom’s obligations to the 1951 UN refugee convention and its obligations under the European Arrest Warrant system. It is established law that these conflicts are to be resolved in favour of the higher obligation which is to the 1951 convention.
Rather than following international law, the United Kingdom has chosen to interpret the conflict in favor of its geopolitical alliances. The United Kingdom has a history of breaking international law in this manner, for example, in its invasion of Iraq, its cooperation with US rendition operations, and its facilitation of global mass spying via its intelligence service GCHQ. Sweden is also a party to these last two violations.
Why was he given asylum?
Mr. Assange’s asylum claim was upheld on two points.
Firstly, that there was a reasonable fear of persecution by the United States as a result of his publishing work, due to the ongoing US Department of Justice probe and political calls for his assassination. (See here and here.)
Secondly, that neither the US, UK, Sweden, nor his home country, Australia, were willing or able to protect him. Diplomatic conditions are often applied to extraditions, so Ecuador asked the UK to veto an onwards US extradition; the UK refused. Ecuador asked Sweden to veto an onwards US extradition or come to the embassy to interview Mr. Assange; Sweden refused both requests. Ecuador granted Mr. Assange asylum thereafter, and now has obligations under international law to protect Mr. Assange. The asylum cannot be revoked.
What is the status of the US investigation against Mr. Assange?
The US Department of Justice confirmed in its April 2014 court filings that the national security criminal investigation and "pending prosecution" proceed. The FBI is leading the investigation. A dozen other agencies have been involved. Seehere.
What is the status of the Swedish investigation against Mr. Assange?
Formally, it is at the stage of "preliminary investigation." Mr. Assange has not been charged. The investigation was previously canceled with the explanation that there were no grounds to accuse Mr. Assange. The prosecutor has yet to decide whether the investigation should turn into a formal investigation or not.
Is Mr. Assange accused of ’rape’?
Over the past year, new information has emerged that both women explicitly deny having been raped by Mr. Assange. In a statement to the UK Supreme Court, the prosecutor acknowledged that the complainants wished only to ask the police for advice about HIV tests, having discovered they’d had both had sex with Mr. Assange. (There has never been an allegation Mr. Assange has HIV.) Neither of the women wished to lodge a formal complaint.
The woman of whom Mr. Assange is accused of the offence of "lesser rape" (a technical term in Swedish law) sent an SMS to a friend saying that she "did not want to accuse JA [of] anything" and "it was the police who made up the charges". The other woman tweeted in 2013 that she had never been raped. Both women’s testimonies say that they consented to the sex. A senior prosecutor already dismissed the ’rape’ accusation, saying that there were no grounds for accusing Mr. Assange on this basis. But a third prosecutor, lobbied by a politician who was running for attorney general, took over the investigation and resurrected the accusations against Mr. Assange. Due to the great number of incorrect reports of, it is best to rely on primary source documents in this matter, which are on the internet and the UK Supreme Court "Agreed Statements of Facts" agreed to by the UK, the Swedish authoritiesm and Mr. Assange’s legal team. (See here and here.)
Are the two women CIA agents? Is the Swedish case a plot?
While the Swedish government’s close relationship with the United States may have a bearing on its public statements in the matter, Mr. Assange has never accused the two women of being influenced by these considerations. It has been widely misreported that he has. Telephone records show that one of the women says that she "did not want to accuse JA [of] anything", "it was the police who made up the charges". The Swedish authorities seized the opportunity to ’get’ Mr. Assange. This was subsequently driven by a prominent Swedish politician, Claes Borgström, who became the centre of media attention as the state-funded representative of the two women. Sweden was just three weeks away from the general elections, and Borgström was running for the position of attorney general, and other scandals in his party had dominated the news. The case gained him extraordinary media exposure in the run up to the election by keeping the case alive, as well as replacing other stories. Borgström subsequently billed the state for 80 hours of speaking to the press in relation to just one of the women. At the time Borgström was also embroiled in the notorious Quick scandal, widely regarded as the worst in Sweden’s judicial history. Since 2010, it has become increasingly apparent that personal and national prestige have played a role in maintaining the stalemate. (See here.)
Why is the US investigation taking so long?
The WikiLeaks investigation is classed as a national security case. Multi-year investigations are common in national security cases, but the US government has also intimated that it would wait until Mr. Assange was in Sweden before proceeding further. The investigation is politically and diplomatically charged as would be a future extradition. These factors are likely also weighing on US decision-making as to timing. See here
Is Mr. Assange Swedish?
No. Mr. Assange is Australian and has no connection to Sweden and does not speak Swedish. He visited Sweden in August 2010 to give a lecture about the war in Afghanistan (where Swedish forces operate under US command).
What is the status of the United Kingdom’s actions against Mr. Assange?
Documents from Edward Snowden reveal that UK intelligence agency GCHQ was spying on WikiLeaks in 2012. The UK government admits to spending more than $10m on the ongoing embassy police encirclement against Mr. Assange, a figure increasing about $15k a day. Despite requests, it has refused to divulge further information. The encirclement expenditure has been a source of cross-party controversy in the United Kingdom, with the cost being equal 24,828 hospital beds or the training of 285 police. The UK government refuses to release most of its materials on Mr. Assange saying that to do so would compromise the United Kingdom’s international relationships and national security. But several prominent figures have spoken out about the situation.
"It’s absolutely ridiculous, that money should be spent on frontline policing. It’s completely wasted." London Mayor Boris Johnson
"It’s absolute madness... either somebody else has to pay - that is, the Swedish authorities - or we just have to back off and stop guarding the embassy. It is ludicrous." Baroness Jenny Jones, deputy chair of the Police & Crime Committee at the London Assembly
It is unfair for taxpayers to continue to fund this farce. The time has come for the Met to review its strategy on Assange, and withdraw the officers currently guarding the Ecuadorian embassy." Former Scotland Yard royalty protection chief Dai Davies