Julian Assange has hailed the United Nations’ ruling he is being “arbitrarily detained” as a “really significant victory” and a “vindication.”
Business Insider covered Friday’s events live in London. Scroll down to read them as they happened.
The Wikileaks founder, who has lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for the last three-and-a-half years to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual assault and rape, blasted the British foreign secretary Philip Hammond and demanded Sweden and the UK respect the UN’s decision, calling it “legally binding.”
However, the UK have said they still intend to arrest him if he steps outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London — so there’s no indication his situation will change any time soon.
Speaking on a balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy on Friday afternoon, Assange warned there may be “criminal consequences” if the UK government do not now allow him to leave without fear of arrest.
On Friday morning, a UN Working Group declared that Assange’s treatment amounts to arbitrary detention. The Working Group’s head Seong-Phil Jong said in a statement: “The working group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation.”
But the UK and Swedish governments ridiculed the decision. Philip Hammond called it “ridiculous,” while the Swedish ambassador to the UN said: ” “Mr. Assange has chosen, voluntarily, to stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy and the Swedish authorities have no control over his decision to stay there. Mr. Assange is free to leave the Embassy at any point. Thus, he is not being deprived of his liberty there due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities.”
The UK is going to formally contest the decision, it says.
Business Insider liveblogged Friday’s events. Scroll down to read them as they happened, from the midday press conference to Assange’s appearance on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy.
16.38 — Aaaaaaand we’re done for the day. Thanks for following! To summarise: The UN says Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is arbitrarily detained. The UK government says he isn’t. Assange’s lawyers are demanding that UK government let him go free. The UK government says they won’t. In short — nothing has really changed.
16.28 — Business Insider spoke to Val from Bedforshire, a protester outside the embassy. Asked what she’d like to tell Assange, she said: “I’d like to apologise for my country keeping him in there for almost 4 years … I’d like to thank him because without him I wouldn’t have known about Guantanamo and all the other things that were uncovered … The UK cannot tell other countries to follow UN rules and then not do it themselves.”
She added: “Our government has now got to release him. I hope he will soon be reunited with his family … It’s only because the US wants him, that’s why.”
16.16 — Here’s footage of Assange speaking via Business Insider UK reporter Barbara Tacsh.
16.13 — And that’s it! More photos:
16.12 — Assange: If this continues, “there will be criminal consequences for the parties involved.”
16.10 — Assange: “What right does this government, or the US government, or the Swedish government have to deny my children their father for five and a half years? Without any charges in any country. That is a fact that I will never forget. And whcih must be addressed, and will be addressed as time goes by. My children are completely innocent parties to what has happened. They’re not in politics. They’re not in the business of holding governments to account. They’re in the business of being children.”
16.08 — Assange now quotes the UN decision. “The detention of Assange is arbitrary, and contrary to … the declaration of human rights.”
16.06 — Low-res photo of Assange speaking.
16.05 — Says UK must accept the UN decision. “The UK and Sweden accepted to be parties to a 16-month process.” Both countries responded — “as a party to the proceedings … The UK lost. Sweden lost. They lost at the highest level. They then had an opportunity to appeal … [they] did not appeal.”
16.04 — Assange is much cleaner-shaven than he has been in previous media appearances.
16.01 — Assange is on the balcony to cheers. Calls the UN decision a victory.
15.49 — Ten more minutes!
15.43 — Someone is on the balcony! It’s not Julian.
15.41 — Paddy Power, one of Britain’s biggest bookies, says there is more chance of Steven Avery — the convict from the hit Netflix series “Making a Murderer” — getting out prison first than Assange leaving the embassy. Click on through for the full story.
15.32 — In one of today’s wierdest moments, a journalist for Russia Today just tried to livestream (via Periscope) the view through Julian Assange’s bedroom window.
15.24 — Assange-watch update: Still no Assange.
14.54 — Russian state news outlet Russia Today is livestreaming events on the ground with Periscope. People are singing protest songs. You can watch it here.
14.48 — While we continue to watch curtain-rustling, here’s the lone dissenting opinion from the Working Group, that argued Assange is not being arbitrarily detained.
14.25 — On the scene, Business Insider reporter Barbara Tasch says there’s “movement behind the window.” Stay tuned!
14.04 — There are rumours that Assange will be making an appearance on the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy where he’s holed up within th e next hour. We’ll keep you posted.
13.56 — Another photo of human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, a support of Assange. He’s at the Ecuadorian Embassy with activist group Wise Up, chanting: “There is only one decision, no extradition.”
13.05 — This man is arguing with pro-Assange protesters outside the Embassy. He says “Assange should come outside and face justice.”
13.03 — Lawyer Melinda Taylor says discussion shouldn’t be about Swedish investigators going to embassy to question Assange over allegations. “The question is why is arbitrary detention continuing … the Working Group found there’s a violation … every day in detention is a crime … he shouldn’t have to be in detention any longer … he needs to be released.”
13.00 — Human rights campaigner Peter Tachell is outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Protesters are calling on Swedish prosecutors to just go to Assange at the embassy to interview him.
13.10 — And the press conference is now over! JulianAssange claims he has been vindicated, and his lawyers have attacked the UK and Sweden.
But he’s not leaving the embassy any time soon due to the ongoing risk of arrest. In short, little has changed.
12.55 — Question on what Assange would say to woman behind sexual assault/rape allegations. No real answer from Melinda Taylor. “Assange “offered himself up … for questioning. Out of hand the prosecutor refused to do it, and that’s what made the investigation grind to a halt. Wasn’t Assange, it was the prosecutor.”
12.53 — Question on why UK should comply with ruling. Lawyer Melinda Taylor: “UK is a member of the Security Council — does it really want to set a precedent of countries completely ignoring the United Nations? … unless the UK wants to join these rogue nations, they really do have to comply.”
12.52 — Q&A at press conference. Julian Assange will not be joining.
12.43 — RONALD ADJOVI from the UN Working Group told Sky News that the UN told Swedish prosecutors were taking too long to do their investigation to decide whether Assange should be charged and the case goes to trial. He added that Swedish prosecutors could have questioned him during this time and asked “why does Assange have to go to Sweden” to answer questions.
12.40 — Here’s footage of Assange speaking today, via The Guardian.
12.36 — More photos from outside the Ecuadorian Embassy at lunchtime.
12.29 — Someone posing in front of the embassy told Barbara Tasch: “I’m here at the embassy because I am a supporter of Julian Assange. I’m here at the Ecuadorian embassy today because I agree with the UN ruling that he’s being arbitrarily detained.”
12.28 — Assange: “Finally, I would like to thank the UN for considering over the last 16 months our submissions … and producing this verdict which adds not just to my freedom and to justice for my children, but it adds significantly to the ability of the UN to deal with complex cases of arbitrary detention including those involving Western States.”
12.24 — Assange: “It is now the task of the states of UK and Sweden as a whole to implement the verdict.” Not to do so “would have the effect of undermining the UN’s systems.”
12.23 — Assange: UN’s ruling: “A matter of settled law … [UK and Sweden] cannot now object.”
12.22 — Whistleblower Edward Snowden chimes in:
12.21 — Assange on Philip Hammond’s claims UN finding is ridiculous: “I find those comments to be beneath the stature that a foreign minister should express in these situations.”
12.20 — UN’s decisions “are legally binding,” Assange claims.
12.19 — Assange: “I’ve been detained now without charge .. for five and a half years …Today that detention without charge has been found by the highest organisation … the United Nations … to be unlawful.”
12.18 — Assange about to speak!
12.16 — Here’s a working livestream, via YouTube.
12.15 — Melina Taylor: Assange’s treatment “completely contrary to the presumption of innocence … indefinite detention is actually a kind of mental torture.”
12.12 — Barbara Tasch outside the Ecuador embassy reports that a group of Latin American activists are giving a speech outside in the street.
They would not give their names but they say Assange is their “hero” because he “exposed the lies about Pinochet.”
They shouted “Shame on Britain” and explained that the UK is forcing Assange to choose between two basic human rights:
1. Right to seek asylum.
2. Right to seek medical help.
They say he is constant pain in his right shoulder and that the US, UK and Sweden are breaking international law by not letting him go. They said “we don’t live in the middle ages anymore. What is the point of international law if it can be broken.”
12.09 — Lawyer Melinda Taylor: UN decision “dispels the myth that Assange is a fugitive of justice or can walk out of the embassy … detention by any other name is still detention.”
12.08 — Cites “unlawful FBI surveillance activity in Europe” as evidence of a case being built by the US against Assange.
12.06 — Lawyer Jennifer Robinson citing Wikileaks’ achievements. Iraq War logs, etc.
12.04 — The YouTube livestream doesn’t seem to be working properly. The Guardian has a working one.
12.02 — The conference will explain the UN’s finding and what the UK and Sweden “must” do, lawyer Jennifer Robinson says. “The deprivation of Assange is arbitrary and in contravention of the … Declaration of Human Rights.”
The UN ruling is a “resounding victory.”
12.00 — The livestream is now live! No speaking yet though.
11.58 — Protestors and journalists gather outside the Embassy.
11:55 — Reporters are convinced Assange could be making an appearance on the balcony at the Ecuadorian Embassy in central London, where he was granted political asylum by Ecuador since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sex offenses and rape, which he denies.
Business Insider reporter Barbara Tasch is outside the embassy at the moment and she says the crowd is swelling.
The Wikileaks editor-in-chief has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual assault and rape.
He maintains that if extradited to Sweden, he will be subsequently extradited to the US to stand trial for his work on Wikileaks, a whistleblowing platform.
On Friday, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention announced the results of an investigation that has been underway since 2012: “The Working Group on arbitrary detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention.”
However, the UK government says that it will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy. Likewise, the Swedish ambassador to the UN said: “Mr. Assange has chosen, voluntarily, to stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy and the Swedish authorities have no control over his decision to stay there. Mr. Assange is free to leave the Embassy at any point. Thus, he is not deing deprived of his liberty there due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish authorities.”