"It is important that countries that regularly engage in naming and shaming of other countries accept United Nations rulings when they themselves are implicated," said independent UN human rights expert Alfred de Zayas.
"It is a matter of intellectual honesty. Prompt implementation of the Working Group's Opinion would set an example for the rest of the world."
UN rights expert urges the UK and Sweden to give good example to the world and implement the Assange ruling https://t.co/x3PrV3rWZp— Alfred de Zayas (@Alfreddezayas) February 15, 2016
The UN Working Group of Arbitrary Detention has ruled that Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by two "democratic" governments and is entitled to his freedom.
Prosecutors in Sweden have issued a European arrest warrant for Assange over a rape allegation dating back to 2010, in Stockholm.
Assange has not formally been charged with any offense, Swedish officials have issued an extradition request so he can be questioned.
Assange has always denied the rape accusations, claiming the case is part of a conspiracy to see him extradited to the US where he could be charged with leaking classified files.
In 2012, the UK's Supreme Court upheld the decision that he should be extradited to Sweden for questioning. Seeking asylum, Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy where it was granted and where he has remained ever since.
"Whistleblowers are key human rights defenders in the twenty-first century, in which a culture of secrecy, behind-closed-door deals, disinformation, lack of access to information, 1984-like surveillance of individuals, intimidation and self-censorship lead to gross violations of human rights," says de Zayas who is accusing the UK and Sweden of taking an "à la carte approach to human rights."
Dinah PoKempner, general counsel of Human Rights Watch, has called the rhetoric from the UK and Swedish governments "deplorable". PoKempner also refutes the accusations that the UN Working Group is compiled of "a group of laypeople, not lawyers" as stated by the UK foreign secretary, saying that many experts in the group "are professors of law or human rights or both".
The Working Group, while it can’t force the government to follow its rulings, "is the authoritative voice of the UN on the issue of arbitrary detention, and its opinions are given great weight as interpretations of binding international law obligations," writes PoKempner.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights today says the opinions of the Working Group should be taken into consideration by the UK and Sweden as they are based on international human rights law that binds the relevant states.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Mr Assange's detention was contrary to various provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and called upon the UK and Sweden to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate the exercise of his right to freedom of movement, and to pay him compensation.
"Their failure to give due consideration to these international rights and obligations is what drove the conclusion that Assange’s confinement is arbitrary."
PoKempner stipulates that the issue isn’t Assange not facing Swedish justice over rape allegations, but the risk he will be extradited to the UK where he is likely to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
"Their fatuous dismissal of the Working Group won’t impugn this necessary and neutral body that was established by the world’s governments to uphold rights. But both have severely damaged their own reputation for being so ready to dismiss upholding inconvenient human rights obligations and their credibility as global advocates for rights by refusing to respect the institution of asylum."