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Open letter condemns governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom for setting a "dangerous precedent that undermines the United Nations Human Rights system as a whole."(Photo: Elekh/ CC-BY-SA)

500 Scholars, Activists, and Nobel Laureates Call on UK and Sweden to Free Assange

Open letter condemns governments for ignoring United Nations ruling on arbitrary detention of Wikileaks' founder

Lauren McCauley

More than 500 high-profile activists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, academics, artists and human rights organizations released an open letter on Tuesday accusing Sweden and the United Kingdom of undermining the United Nations by continuing their "arbitrary detention" of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The letter was delivered to the Swedish and UK permanent representatives at the convening of the 31st United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Tuesday. It was published in response to a ruling, issued by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention last month, that Assange had been arbitrarily detained for more than three years and should be freed and compensated.

Those findings had been dismissed by UK foreign secretary Philip Hammond as "ridiculous" and "flawed," while a number of senior British attorneys argued that the UN report was "not binding on the UK courts," the Guardian reports.

Despite the ruling, Assange remains at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The letter, which was posted on the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) website, condemned the reactions of the UK and Swedish governments, charging that they "are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines the United Nations Human Rights system as a whole."

The signatories, which hail from 60 different countries, include more than 100 human and legal rights organizations; four Nobel Peace Prize winners; activists such as Naomi Klein and Arundhati Roy; the cities of Madrid and Barcelona; 25 freedom of expression organizations including Reporters Without Borders, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and The Freedom of the Press Foundation; and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who last month launched DiEM25, a pan-European progressive movement.

"We urge Sweden and the United Kingdom to respect the binding nature of the human rights covenants on which the decision is based, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; as well as the independence, integrity and authority of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention," the letter states. "We therefore call on the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom to comply without further delay with the 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.'"


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