GENEVA — Fifty-nine human rights and legal organizations urged the United Nations on June 15 to remedy Sweden’s violation of the fundamental human rights of WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange. For nearly four years, Assange has experienced pre-charge detention stemming from a Swedish investigation yet to charge him. At the same time, a US federal grand jury is preparing a criminal case against WikiLeaks and it officers.
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The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) joined the groups in submitting two reports —one in English and one in Spanish— to the UN Universal Periodic Review highlighting procedural rights violations of Assange, Sweden’s longest running case of pre-trial deprivation of liberty. According to the English report, “The methods employed by the prosecutor in Mr. Assange’s case are a clear violation of his fundamental human rights, yet they remain beyond the reach of judicial review.”
Today marks the two-year anniversary of Assange’s stay in the Embassy of Ecuador in London (and a total of nearly four years in the UK under different forms of restrictions to his freedom of movement). He has been granted political asylum in relation to US attempts to prosecute him as the publisher of WikiLeaks. Sweden has refused to give assurances that Assange will not be extradited to the US. A Swedish prosecutor has kept a preliminary investigation open for nearly four years but has not charged Assange with any crime. The prosecutor refuses to question him in London, leading to a stalemate. At least four formal offers have been made to the prosecution to interview Assange in person, in writing, via telephone, or via video-link. All offers have been declined. The stalemate has cost over $10 million in the UK alone, where a costly police detail watches the Embassy and all of Assange’s visitors around the clock.
A third report, signed by 33 union, human rights, media and civil society organizations, petitioned the Human Rights Commission in Geneva to intervene to free Assange who they refer to as a political prisoner.
The reports were submitted to the UN’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the peak UN human rights review mechanism that investigates each country’s human rights record every four years. The submissions expose numerous systematic deficiencies in Swedish pre-trial procedures like the routine placement of persons who have not been charged with any crime in indefinite, isolated, or unexplained pre-charge detention.