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If Swedish prosecutors care about victims, conduct timely investigation: UN panel member on Assange case

Ruchi Kumar | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:36 IST
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  • UN panel member Roland Adjovi Setondji explains the working groups decision on Julian Assange\'s detention
  • While the group didn\'t imply that, according to international practice, if found guilty for sexual assault, Assange would have already served his sentence
  • The working has completed its work and is not involved in politics, neither international nor domestic, and will move to its next case in peace,

In a landmark move, a special UN panel weighed in on the case regarding Julian Assange's detention by the UK and Sweden governments. In retrospect, they found him to be a victim of arbitrarily detention by the two governments.

This report, rather the opinion by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), was formally submitted on January 22, and made public on Thursday, having since become the talking point across media outlets.

The expert panel had called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Julian Assange's deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation

Assange, who has been accused of sexual misconduct, was under isolated detention in Wandsworth Prison in UK for 10 days in 2010, after which he was moved into house arrest for 550 days. Assange sought asylum with Ecuador and has since been confined with the property of Embassy of Ecuador in London. The UN WGAD found Assange to have been arbitrarily detained by the UK and Sweden.

Implications in sexual assault case against Assange

"The opinion is about the situation of Assange as deprived of his liberty, not about the merits of the case against him in Sweden," Roland Adjovi Setondji, a member of the working group that investigated the case explained the ruling to Catch News.

"We do sympathise with the victims of the alleged crimes and we are of the view that if the Swedish prosecutor cares about those victims, she should conduct the investigations in a timely manner in order to decide whether she wants to indict Assange or not." he emphasised.

Does this imply that if found guilty for sexual assault, Assange would have already served his sentence?

"No. That is no such implication in the Opinion we presented," Setondji said. "But, in international practice, that has been one way of repairing the wrong suffered by an accused," he added.

What's next in the case?

The opinions of the WGAD are based on international human rights law and are legally-binding. The British government has, however, rejected the UN panel's considerations regarding the detention of Julian Assange, on Friday.

Confronting the ruling by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), the government spokesperson added, "The UK has already made clear to the UN that we will formally contest the working group's opinion."

On their part, the WGAD has recommended the UK and Sweden to end the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and to afford appropriate compensation. "Everyone is at liberty to read the opinion as it serves its interest but the good thing is that the opinion is there for everyone's reading. Whoever is interested in non biased perspective could read it anytime to build his or her own idea," Setondji told Catch News.

Dismissing questions raised over the competence of working group, Setondji added, "In my personal opinion (not to be attached to the WGAD), the experts in the working group are highly qualified, contrary to some statements. Disagreeing with the views held by the working group is open like for any other organ of that sort, or any human activity. But this must be done respectfully and, as much as one can, honestly both intellectually or factually."

"The working has completed its work and is not involved in politics, neither international nor domestic, and will move to its next case in peace," he added in conclusion.

First published: 9 February 2016, 1:19 IST
 
Ruchi Kumar @RuchiKumar

Ruchi Kumar is an Indian journalist living in Kabul with her cat Bukhari. On most days, she reports on the ongoings in the region. Rest of the time, she reads, writes and wanders around Kabul looking for people who will tell stories.

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