The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared that Julian Assange’s sentence for breaching his bail conditions is “disproportionate” and they are “concerned” about the ongoing situation in the United Kingdom.
Issuing a statement yesterday, the UN Working Group stated that the breaching of bail is a minor offence and that it regrets that the British Government has not heeded its opinion on the matter, adding that the UK is continuing its “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” toward the former Wikileaks editor.
“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.”United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
In 2015 the Working Group stated their belief that Assange had been arbitrarily detained by both the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom, the group recalling that the original detention was surrounding matters that are no longer relevant.
“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.”United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
The UN body goes on to criticise the UK for housing Assange in the high-security Belmarsh prison, nicknamed “Britain’s Guantanamo” for its status as the location of high-value terrorists.
“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 human rights standards. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention 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.”United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
The United Nations intervention comes as the UK government faces increasing pressure over its treatment of Assange, in particular, plans to extradite him to the United States on hacking charges. Evidence exists that not only does the U.S. Department of Justice plan to charge the Wikileaks founder with espionage when on American soil but that senior figures in the U.S. government, including Donald Trump, favour the death penalty.
Beyond the United Nations, Julian Assange’s mother Christine has raised alarms about the ongoing treatment of her son, notably the lack of access to medical care and access to face-to-face meetings with his lawyer as he attempts to mount a defence prior to the moves for extradition.