Title: UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Decision
Release Date: 2016-01-22
Document Date: 2015-12-04
Advance Unedited Version
22 January 2016
Human Rights Council
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention
Opinions adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention at its seventy-fourth session,
30 November - 4 December 2015
Opinion No. 54/2015 concerning Julian Assange (Sweden and
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)*
1. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was established in resolution 1991/42 of
the Commission on Human Rights, which extended and clarified the Working Group’s
mandate in its resolution 1997/50. The Human Rights Council assumed the mandate in its
decision 1/102 and extended it for a three-year period in its resolution 15/18 of 30 September
2010. The mandate was extended for a further three years in resolution 24/7 of 26 September
2. The Government of Sweden replied to the communication of 16 September 2014 on
3 November 2014. The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland replied to the communication of 16 September 2014 on 13 November 2014. Sweden
and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are parties to the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
3. The Working Group regards deprivation of liberty as arbitrary in the following cases:
(a) When it is clearly impossible to invoke any legal basis justifying the
deprivation of liberty (as when a person is kept in detention after the completion of his
sentence or despite an amnesty law applicable to him) (category I);
(b) When the deprivation of liberty results from the exercise of the rights or
freedoms guaranteed by articles 7, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights and, insofar as States parties are concerned, by articles 12, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25,
26 and 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (category II);
(c) When the total or partial non-observance of the international norms relating to
the right to a fair trial, established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the
* In accordance with rule 5 of the Methods of Work, Ms. Leigh Toomey did not participate in the
discussion of the case. Individual dissenting opinion of Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky is appended to the
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relevant international instruments accepted by the States concerned, is of such gravity as to
give the deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character (category III);
(d) When asylum seekers, immigrants or refugees are subjected to prolonged
administrative custody without the possibility of administrative or judicial review or remedy
(e) When the deprivation of liberty constitutes a violation of international law for
reasons of discrimination based on birth, national, ethnic or social origin, language, religion,
economic condition, political or other opinion, gender, sexual orientation or disability or
other status, that aims towards or can result in ignoring the equality of human rights (category
Communication from the source
4. Mr. Julian Assange, born on 3 July 1971, is an Australian national ordinarily residing
in Sydney, Australia. He worked as a publisher and journalist prior to his arrest.
5. The source submitted that Mr. Assange has been detained since 7 December 2010,
including 10 days in isolation in London’s Wandsworth prison; 550 days under house arrest,
and thereafter detained in the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London, United
Kingdom. The source submitted that both the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland and Sweden are the forces responsible for holding the detainee
6. The source informed that Mr. Assange applied for political asylum on 19 June 2012
and was granted asylum by the Republic of Ecuador on 16 August 2012. It was alleged that
Sweden refused to recognize the political asylum granted to Mr. Assange. According to the
source, Sweden insisted that Mr. Assange must have given up his right to political asylum
and been extradited to Sweden, without any guarantee of non-refoulement to the United
States where he faced, in its view, a well-founded risk of political persecution and cruel,
inhumane and degrading treatment.
7. The source informed that Sweden issued a European Arrest Warrant against
Mr. Assange for the purpose of obtaining his presence in Sweden for questioning in relation
to a claimed investigation. No decision has yet been made as to whether there will be a
prosecution and the investigation remains at the ‘preliminary investigation’ phase.
Mr. Assange has not been charged with any crime in Sweden. Consequently, the source
argued, Mr. Assange did not have the formal rights of a defendant, such as access to
potentially exculpatory material.
8. On July 16, 2014, the Stockholm District Court upheld an arrest warrant for his
questioning. The district court refused to acknowledge that Mr. Assange had been under a
deprivation of liberty during his house arrest and during the time he had spent at the embassy.
The district court only considered that he had been detained for the 10 days he was held in
Wandsworth prison (7-16 December 2010). The district court had refused to acknowledge
Mr. Assange’s right to asylum.
9. The source submitted that during the period of his detention, Mr. Assange had been
deprived of a number of his fundamental liberties. It argued that each aspect of the following
circumstances has contributed an arbitrary element whose consequence had been or had
become arbitrary detention. The key elements are:
i. Inability of Mr. Assange to access the full-intended benefit of the grant of
asylum by the Republic of Ecuador in August 2012;
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ii. The continuing and disproportionate denial to him of such access over a period
of time in which its impact had become cumulatively harsh and disproportionate;
iii. The origins of the justification relied upon for his arrest to be pursued by
Sweden under a European Arrest Warrant, and the way in which that request was
validated and pursued with continuing effect to the present time.
10. The source emphasized that Mr. Assange’s detention was not by choice: Mr. Assange
had an inalienable right to security, and to be free from the risk of persecution, inhumane
treatment, and physical harm. The Republic of Ecuador granted Mr. Assange political asylum
in August 2012, recognizing that he would face those well-founded risks if he were extradited
to the United States. The only protection he had from that risk at the time was to stay in the
confines of the Embassy; the only way for Mr. Assange to enjoy his right to asylum was to
be in detention.
11. The source highlights that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had agreed in
previous cases that a deprivation of liberty exists where someone is forced to choose between
either confinement, or forfeiting a fundamental right - such as asylum - and thereby facing
a well-founded risk of persecution. In its view, the European Court of Human Rights and the
United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees similarly adhere to this principle.
12. The source submits that Mr. Assange was deprived of his liberty against his will and
his liberty had been severely restricted, against his volition. An individual cannot be
compelled to renounce an inalienable right, nor can they be required to expose themselves to
the risk of significant harm. Mr. Assange’s exit from the Ecuadorian Embassy would require
him to renounce his right to asylum and expose himself to the very persecution and risk of
physical and mental mistreatment that his grant of asylum was intended to address. His
continued presence in the Embassy cannot, therefore, be characterised as ‘volitional’.
13. The source argues that Mr. Assange ’ s detention is arbitrary, and falls under Categories
I, II, III and IV as classified by the Working Group. In particular, the context of his
deprivation of liberty has arisen from the failure of Sweden which initiated a process against
him to obtain his extradition, in the face of contradictory wishes expressed by
“complainants”, having not established a prima facie case, and refusing, unreasonably and
disproportionately, to achieve a process of questioning of him, if desired, through the normal
processes of mutual assistance. Further, by his offer of co-operation in facilitating a number
of alternative methods short of being extradited to Sweden - where it is further stated as a
matter of record, that he will then be imprisoned in Sweden on arrival and as a foreigner with
no ties to Sweden, in custody until trial. Further, Mr. Assange is under constant surveillance
and the conditions in which he of necessity remains do not adhere to the minimum rules for
14. The source submits that Mr. Assange has been deprived of fundamental liberties
against his will and the deprivation of Mr. Assange’s liberty is arbitrary and illegal.
The arbitrary nature of Mr. Assange’s confinement in the Embassy of Ecuador in London is
grounded in the following factors:
15. Sweden is obliged by applicable law and Convention obligations to recognise the
asylum granted to Mr. Assange, and no exceptions apply (Categories II and IV). Mr. Assange
faces a serious risk of refoulement to the United States. The right to asylum and the related
protection against refoulement is recognised under customary international law.
16. The disproportionate nature of the actions taken by the Swedish prosecutor, including
the insistence upon the issuing of a European Arrest Warrant rather than pursuing questions
with Mr. Assange in the United Kingdom as provided for by mutual assistance protocols
(Categories I and III). For over two years, the Prosecutor has refused to consider alternative
mechanisms, which would allow Mr. Assange to be interviewed in a manner, which was
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compatible with his right to asylum. The disproportionality of the Prosecutor’s decision is
also aggravated by her failure to take into consideration Mr. Assange’s fundamental right to
asylum, especially in the context of the refusal of the Swedish authorities to provide
assurances regarding non-refoulement.
17. The Prosecutor has alternative mechanisms to secure information from Mr. Assange.
If Mr. Assange leaves the confines of the Embassy, he forfeits his most effective and
potentially only protection against refoulement to United States of America.
Any hypothetical investigative inconveniences regarding the interview of Mr. Assange by
video link or in the Embassy pale into insignificance when compared to the grave risk that
refoulement poses to Mr. Assange’s physical and mental integrity. Since the preliminary
investigation has not progressed since 2010, it has not been completed in violation of
Mr. Assange’s right to a speedy resolution of the allegations against him, as per Article 14
(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
18. By virtue of the fact that Mr. Assange has been denied the opportunity to provide a
statement, which is a fundamental aspect of the audi alteram partem principle, and access to
exculpatory evidence, Mr. Assange has also been denied the opportunity to defend himself
against the allegations. The Prosecutor is also fully aware that the practical consequence of
this decision is that Mr. Assange is compelled to remain in the confinement of the Ecuadorian
Embassy. This failure to consider alternative remedies has therefore consigned Mr. Assange
to a lengthy pre-trial detention, which greatly exceeds any acceptable length for an uncharged
person. The duration of such detention is ipso facto incompatible with the presumption of
19. Since both the Swedish Prosecutor and the Stockholm District Court have refused to
consider Mr. Assange’s confinement under either house arrest or in the Embassy as a form
of detention, he has been denied the right to contest the continued necessity and
proportionality of the arrest warrant in light of the length of this detention, i.e. his
confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy. According to the source, Mr. Assange is effectively
serving a sentence for a crime for which he has not even been charged. The Swedish
authorities have nonetheless refused to acknowledge that this confinement should be taken
into consideration for the purposes of calculating sentence if Mr. Assange were to be
convicted of any crime. His continued confinement therefore exposes him to a likely violation
of nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa; if convicted in Sweden, he will be forced
to serve a further sentence in relation to conduct for which he has already been detained. This
is contrary to Article 14 (7) of the ICCPR.
20. Indefinite nature of this detention, and the absence of an effective form of judicial
review or remedy concerning the prolonged confinement and the extremely intrusive
surveillance, to which Mr. Assange has been subjected (Categories I, III and IV):Sweden has
refused to recognise Mr. Assange’s confinement as a form of detention, and as such he has
had no means to seek judicial review as concerns the length and necessity of such
confinement in the Embassy. Mr. Assange has been continuously subjected to highly invasive
surveillance for the last four years. He has never been disclosed the legal basis for such
particular surveillance measures, and in fact has little ability to do so as the United States
national security investigation against him is still underway. He has thus been deprived of
the ability to contest their necessity or proportionality. The prospect of indefinite confinement
is, in itself, is a violation of the requirement set out by the Human Rights Committee that a
maximum period of detention must be established by law, and upon expiry of that period, the
detainee must be automatically released.
21. Absence of minimum conditions accepted for prolonged detention of this nature (such
as medical treatment and access to outside areas) (Category III): the Embassy of the Republic
of Ecuador in London is not a house or detention centre equipped for prolonged pre-trial
detention and lacks appropriate and necessary medical equipment or facilities. If Mr.
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Assange’s health were to deteriorate or if he were to have anything more than a superficial
illness, his life would be seriously at risk.
Response from the Governments
22. In the communications addressed to the Government of Sweden and the Government
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain on 16 September 2014, the Working Group
transmitted the allegations made by the source. The Working Group stated that it would
appreciate if the Governments could, in their reply, provide it with detailed information about
the current situation of Mr. Assange and clarify the legal provisions justifying his continued
detention. The Government of Sweden replied to the communication of 16 September 2014
on 3 November 2014. The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain replied to
the communication of 16 September 2014 on 13 November 2014.
23. According to the Government of Sweden, n 18 November 2010, a Swedish prosecutor
requested that Mr. Assange should be detained in his absence on probable cause suspected
of rape, two counts of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. On the same day, the
Stockholm District Court decided to detain Mr. Assange in his absence. The decision was
upheld by the Svea Court of Appeal on 24 November 2010. In order to execute the detention
order, the Swedish prosecutor issued an international arrest warrant as well as a European
Arrest Warrant (Council Framework Decision, 2002/584/JHA, hereinafter referred to as the
24. As understood by the Government of Sweden, in February 2011, the City of
Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled that Mr. Assange should be surrendered to Sweden in
accordance with the EAW. This decision was upheld by the High Court in a ruling of
2 November 2011 and by the Supreme Court on 30 May 2012. As a result of the EAW,
Mr. Assange was apprehended in the United Kingdom and was detained there between 7 and
16 December 2010. He was thereafter subject to certain restrictions, such as house arrest. On
16 August 2012, Mr. Assange was granted asylum by the Republic of Ecuador and he has
since June 2012 resided at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
25. Mr. Assange requested a reconsideration of the detention order before the Stockholm
District Court on 24 June 2014. On 16 July 2014, the Stockholm District Court ruled that the
decision on detention in absentia should be upheld. Mr. Assange had appealed the decision
to the Svea Court of Appeal and a decision on the matter was still pending.
26. According to the source, Sweden insisted that Mr. Assange must give up his right to
political asylum and be extradited to Sweden, without any guarantee of non-refoulement to
the United States. According to the source, Mr. Assange faces a well-founded risk of political
persecution and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. In this respect, the Government
would like to submit the following.
27. In its reply, the Government of Sweden emphasized that it is important that all
countries act in accordance with international human rights standards, including their treaty
28. The Government firstly found it pertinent to clarify the difference between the
procedures pertaining to an EAW and the question concerning a guarantee of non-
refoulement or extradition to a third state. The surrendering of persons within the European
Union is based on EU-law and the common area for justice and the principle of mutual
recognition of judicial decisions and judgements. The EAW applies throughout the EU and
it provides improved and simplified judicial procedures designed to surrender people for the
purpose of conducting inter alia a criminal prosecution. In the current case, an EAW has
been issued by a Swedish prosecutor due to the fact that Mr. Assange is suspected of serious
crime in Sweden and has been detained in his absence for those crimes.
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29. The procedures pertaining to extradition is based on multilateral and bilateral treaties
as well as on Swedish law, i.e. the Act on Extradition (1957:668). According to the Act,
extradition may not be granted unless the criminal act is punishable in Sweden and
corresponds to an offence for which imprisonment for one year or more is prescribed by
Swedish law. If there is a risk of persecution, or, under certain conditions, if the offense is
considered to be a military offense or a political offense, extradition may not be granted.
Furthermore, an extradited person may not have the death penalty imposed for the offence.
A decision on extradition is taken by the Government, after an investigation and opinion by
the Prosecutor General’s Office and, in case the person sought does not consent to extradition,
a subsequent decision by the Swedish Supreme Court. Should the Supreme Court find that
there are any obstacles to extradition, the Government is bound by this decision.
30. The Government of Sweden found it was important to emphasise that, to this date, no
request for extradition regarding Mr. Assange has been directed to Sweden. Any discussion
about an extradition of Mr. Assange to a third state is therefore strictly hypothetical.
Furthermore, as has been explained above, any potential decision for extradition must be
preceded by a thorough and careful examination of all the circumstances of the particular
case. Such an examination cannot be made before a state has requested extradition of a
specific person and specified the reasons invoked in support of the request. In addition, if a
person has been surrendered to Sweden pursuant to an EAW, Sweden must obtain the consent
of the surrendering state, in this case the United Kingdom, before being able to extradite the
person sought to a third country. In light of the above, the Government refutes the submission
made by the source that Mr. Assange faces a risk of refoulement to the United States.
31. In any case, the Government holds that the Swedish extradition and EAW procedures,
contain sufficient safeguards against any potential extradition in violation of international
human rights agreements.
32. In relation to the submission by the source that Sweden is obliged by applicable law
and Convention obligations to recognise the diplomatic asylum granted to Mr. Assange by
the authorities of the Republic of Ecuador, the Government submitted the following.
33. Regrettably, the source does not specify which law and Convention obligations
Sweden is obliged to recognize. However, in the Government’s opinion, general international
law does not recognize a right of diplomatic asylum as implied by the source. The
International Court of Justice has confirmed this fundamental position. The Government
would also like to emphasise that the Latin American Convention on Diplomatic Asylum
does not constitute general international law. On the contrary, it is a regional instrument and
no similar instruments or practices exist elsewhere. Accordingly, the Government does not
find itself bound by the aforementioned regulations.
34. It should furthermore be noted that according to relevant international instruments,
including the Latin American Convention on Diplomatic Asylum, the right to seek and enjoy
asylum does not apply if an applicant as ground of asylum invokes that he or she is wanted
for ordinary, non-political, crime (see e.g. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights). In this respect, the Government notes that Mr. Assange is suspected of rape, sexual
molestation and unlawful coercion, all non-political crimes, and can therefore not rely on the
above legal frameworks in this respect.
35. In light of the above, the Government refutes the source’s allegation that Sweden is
obliged by applicable law and Convention obligations to recognise the asylum granted.
36. The source further alleges that Mr. Assange’s detention is arbitrary, and falls under
Categories I, II, III and IV as classified by the Working Group. In this regard, the Government
of Sweden firstly noted that the source has not explained how the situation of Mr. Assange
corresponds to the above-mentioned criteria adopted by the Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention. For example, the Government noted that, except for the source’s mentioning of
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Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is unclear under
which other relevant international legal framework, if any, Mr. Assange is invoking his
37. In any case, the Government contests that Mr. Assange is being deprived of his liberty
in violation of the criteria adopted by the Working Group and that, accordingly, the Minimum
Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners would apply to his situation. In this regard, the
Government notes that Mr. Assange, voluntarily, has chosen to reside at the Ecuadorian
Embassy. Mr. Assange is free to leave the Embassy at any point and Swedish authorities have
no control over his decision to stay at the Embassy. Mr. Assange can therefore not be
regarded as being deprived of his liberty due to any decision or action taken by the Swedish
authorities. In this respect, the Government specifically notes that there is no causal link
between Mr. Assange’s current situation at the Ecuadorian Embassy and the EAW issued by
the Swedish authorities, cf. Opinion No. 9/2008 (Yemen), and Opinion No. 30/2012 (Islamic
Republic of Iran). The Government holds that Mr. Assange is free to leave the Ecuadorian
Embassy at any point in time.
38. In relation to the submission that Mr. Assange does not have the formal rights of a
defendant during the Swedish preliminary investigation, such as access to potentially
exculpatory material, the Government submitted the following.
39. In Sweden, a Swedish authority, usually a prosecutor or a police officer, is responsible
for conducting a preliminary investigation. The purpose of the preliminary investigation is to
produce all the evidence in favour of, or against, a crime and a particular suspect. During a
preliminary investigation, a suspect is entitled to examine all the investigation material upon
which the allegation is based, and to request the police to carry out further investigations,
such as questioning witnesses. The prosecutor is not allowed to issue an indictment unless
the suspect has declared that no further actions or measures are required in the preliminary
40. It may be added that since 1995, the European Convention on Human Rights, as well
as the Additional Protocols ratified by Sweden, form part of Swedish law. Article 6 of the
Convention is therefore an integrated part of Swedish legislation. Hence, the Swedish
legislation regarding the criminal procedure, including the preliminary investigations, meets
the requirements of the Convention. In light of the above, the submission that Mr. Assange
does not have the formal rights of a defendant lacks merit.
41. As regards the submission that Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty has arisen from
Sweden’s failure in refusing to consider alternative mechanisms and to question him through
the procedures of mutual legal assistance, the Government holds the following.
42. To begin with, according to the Swedish Instrument of Government (1974:152) the
Swedish Government may not interfere in an ongoing case handled by a Swedish public
authority. Swedish authorities, including the Office of the Prosecutor and the courts, are thus
independent and separated from the Government. In the case at hand, the Swedish prosecutor
in charge of the preliminary investigation has determined that Mr. Assange’s personal
presence is necessary for the investigation of the crimes of which he is suspected. The
prosecutor has the best knowledge of the ongoing criminal investigation and is therefore best
placed to determine the specific actions needed during the preliminary investigation. In
relation to suspicions of serious crime, such as the ones at hand, the interests of the victims
are an important aspect of the considerations made by the prosecutor.
43. As regards Mr. Assange’s potential detention in Sweden, the Government would like
to clarify that as soon as Mr. Assange is in Sweden, the prosecutor must notify the district
court. A new hearing will then be held before the court, where Mr. Assange attends
personally. Thus, it is always for the district court to decide upon the issue of whether
Mr. Assange should be detained or released.
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44. The source also submits that the Stockholm District Court in its decision on detention
on 16 July 2014 refused to acknowledge Mr. Assange’s right to asylum. In this respect, the
Government may clarify the following.
45. In its decision on 16 July 2014 (case No. B 12885-10), the Stockholm District Court
ruled exclusively on the matter of whether Mr. Assange should continue to be detained in his
absence. Essentially, the District Court stated the following. As a result of the EAW, Mr.
Assange has been detained in the period between 7 to 16 December 2010 and he has thereafter
been subject to various restrictions. These have, without being equated with a deprivation of
liberty, of course, been very tough for Mr. Assange. The fact that Mr. Assange chooses to
remain in the Ecuadorian embassy in the United Kingdom is, in the court’s opinion, not to be
considered as a deprivation of liberty and should therefore not be regarded as a consequence
of the decision to detain him in his absence. The District Court further stated that it does not
seem to be possible to surrender Mr. Assange at present, as he is residing at an embassy, but
that this is not sufficient reason to rescind the order for his detention. However, the District
Court makes no reference to Mr. Assange’s potential right to asylum, as suggested by the
46. In sum, and with reference to what has been stated above and in response to the
invitation of the Working Group, the Government holds that Mr. Assange does not face a risk
of refoulement contrary to international human rights obligations to the United States; that
Sweden is not obliged by applicable law and Convention obligations to recognise the
diplomatic asylum granted to Mr. Assange; that Mr. Assange is currently not deprived of his
liberty in violation of the criteria adopted by the Working Group; and that international law
as well as other treaty obligations are being complied with by the Swedish authorities when
handling the criminal investigation related to Mr. Assange.
47. According to the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Mr Assange
entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London of his own free will on 19 June 2012. He has
therefore been there for over two years. He is free to leave at any point.
48. The Ecuadorean Government granted Mr. Assange ‘diplomatic’ asylum under the
1954 Caracas Convention, not ‘political’ asylum. The UK is not a party to the Caracas
Convention and does not recognise ‘diplomatic’ asylum. Therefore the UK is under no legal
obligations arising from Ecuador’s decision.
49. The UK Government considers that the use of the Ecuadorean Embassy premises to
enable Mr. Assange to avoid arrest is incompatible with the Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations. Mr Assange is wanted for interview in Sweden in connection with
allegations of serious sexual offences. He is subject to a European Arrest Warrant in relation
to these allegations. The UK has a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden.
50. The British Government takes violence against women extremely seriously and co-
operates with European and other partners in ensuring that justice is done.
Comments from the source
51. On 14 November 2014, the source submitted its comments to the responses of the
Government of Sweden.
52. According to the source, the Government of Sweden and the Government of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain have continued Mr. Assange’s unjust, unreasonable,
unnecessary and disproportionate confinement. Over time, the basis for Mr. Assange’s
confinement has become so disproportionate as to have become arbitrary. Since 18
November 2010, when a court ordered a domestic arrest warrant, which a Swedish prosecutor
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transformed into an international arrest warrant (EAW and Interpol Red Notice) in December
2010, without judicial oversight, Mr. Assange has still not been charged.
53. Since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010 at the request of Sweden, Mr. Assange
has suffered various forms of deprivation of liberty, including confinement to the Ecuadorian
Embassy from June 2012. Police continued to surround the embassy, continued to obstruct
his asylum and continued their attempts to surveil his visitors and activities both physically
54. On 29 October 2014, in response to an invitation by the United Kingdom, and prior
to Sweden’s response, the Swedish prosecutor again refused to move the case forward by
questioning Mr. Assange. His chances of an “independent, rigorous and fair process” had
already been significantly undermined, because, notwithstanding his right to benefit from the
presumption of innocence, Mr. Assange had been deprived of his liberty for more than the
applicable maximum sentence that would apply to the Swedish allegations.
55. The source considered that the transmitted response clearly has set out the Swedish
Government’s position, that it would do nothing to stop Mr. Assange’s indefinite detention
despite the passage of time and its consequent impact upon Mr. Assange.
56. The source emphasized that in its response, the Swedish Government conceded that
Mr. Assange’s situation, caused by Sweden, was “very tough”, yet failed to address a single
legal authority cited by Mr. Assange demonstrating that he was deprived of liberty and that
this deprivation was arbitrary. In particular, the legal authorities cited in Mr. Assange’s
submission showed that an arbitrary deprivation of liberty arises, where a state forces an
individual to ‘choose’ between confinement and risking persecution, confinement and the
ability to apply for asylum, indefinite confinement and deportation and several other
circumstances where an individual feels compelled to ‘choose’ to suffer indefinite
confinement. The Government of Sweden had no reply to these authorities.
57. The source further underlined that in its response, the Swedish Government refused
to consider the grounds for Mr. Assange’s asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention,
customary international law or any other mechanism that was derivative of the jus cogens
norm of non-refoulement. The Government of Sweden’s reply was silent on the 1951 Refugee
Convention Framework and failed to recognise that it had obligations in relation to the factual
circumstances that gave rise to Mr. Assange’s asylum. Sweden’s failure to recognise
humanitarian grounds for asylum contradicted state practice, including Sweden’s own
58. The source stated that the Government of Sweden sets out its political position in
relation to Mr. Assange’s asylum “the Government refutes the source’s allegation that
Sweden is obliged [...] to recognise the asylum granted”. The reply did not devote a single
word to the position set out in the Assange’s submission concerning Sweden’s duty to afford
mutual recognition to asylum decisions issued by other States within the Framework of the
1951 Convention. The source asserted that Sweden’s obligations arise, inter alia, under the
1951 Convention itself, to which it is a signatory; and Article 18 of the EU Charter. An
examination of the grounds for Ecuador’s decision, including the jus cogens norm of non-
refoulement, is also absent from Sweden’s Reply.
59. According to the source, as affirmed by UNHCR, States do not grant refugee status
to persons; their decisions are declaratory in the sense that they simply ‘recognise’ that there
are well-founded grounds to consider that the person is a refugee. In this sense, the point is
not merely whether Sweden is obliged to recognise Ecuador’s asylum decisions, but whether
Sweden can ignore the fact that there has been an elaborate evidential determination that Mr.
Assange faces a risk of persecution and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
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60. UNHCR has further confirmed that “the principle of non-refoulement applies not only
to recognised refugees, but also to those who have not had their status formally declared”.
Accordingly, the possibility that Sweden’s position is not to recognise the ‘diplomatic
portion’ of Ecuador’s asylum decision does not exempt it from either (a) recognising
Ecuador’s asylum assessment of Mr. Assange as a ‘refugee’ under the 1951 Refugee
Convention or (b) its independent obligation to ensure that its domestic decisions do not
ignore the evidential presumption that Mr. Assange requires protection from the risk of
refoulement to the United States.
61. With regard to the narrow exclusion clause invoked by Sweden in its response, the
source claimed that the Government misunderstood both the clause and the grounds for
Mr. Assange’s asylum. In particular, the statement of the Swedish Government in its response
that “the right to seek and enjoy asylum does not apply if an applicant as grounds of asylum
invokes that he or she is wanted for ordinary, non-political, crime (see e.g. Article 14 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights).” The exclusion clause, as applied by Sweden’s
response, misconstrues the grounds for Mr. Assange’s asylum.
62. The grounds for Mr. Assange’s asylum have grown stronger over time. On 19 May
this year the United States stated in its court submissions that the investigation against
Mr. Assange is an “ongoing Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and FBI criminal investigation
and pending future prosecution" and that the United States Government has been "very clear
that main, multi-subject, criminal investigation of the DOJ and FBI remains open and
63. The source emphasized that notwithstanding that the United States continued to build
its case against Mr. Assange while he was trapped in the Embassy and could at any moment
file an extradition request of its own; formally, had Sweden not issued a European Arrest
Warrant for Mr. Assange, he would not have presently faced arrest upon departure from the
Ecuadorian Embassy, nor would have he been subjected to the current intrusive regime of
surveillance and controls. Thus, his deprivation of liberty was governed by Sweden’s
maintenance of its extradition warrant and therefore falls under the authority of Sweden.
64. In connection to this the source affirmed that the EAW issued by Sweden is the current
formal basis for Mr. Assange’s detention, although United Kingdom police have been
instructed to arrest Mr. Assange even if the Swedish EAW falls away. In this regard, Mr.
Assange continues to face arrest and detention for breaching his house arrest conditions (“bail
conditions”) as a result of successfully exercising his right to seek asylum. However the
conditions of his house arrest arise directly out of Sweden’s issuance of the EAW.
65. The source also asserted that the response of the Government of Sweden failed to
acknowledge Sweden’s own practice of affording diplomatic asylum. In particular, in its
response the Government of Sweden stated that no practices exist in general international
law to support the institution of diplomatic asylum. Sweden’s position was incongruous with
the fact that Sweden had itself recognised that States have, under general international law, a
right and a duty in certain cases to provide diplomatic asylum on humanitarian grounds.
66. The source claimed that Sweden could not resile from its own practice simply because
it was responding to Mr. Assange’s complaint; the principle of estoppel means in
international law that States are bound by their representation and by their conduct.
67. According to the source, Sweden has long recognised humanitarian diplomatic asylum
as being a part of general international law. Particularly famous is the practice of Swedish
diplomatic agents, most prominently Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest who during several
months in 1944, gave diplomatic asylum in the Swedish Embassy, but also in billeted abutting
buildings, to thousands of Jewish Hungarians and other persons as part of a then secret
agreement between the United States and Sweden. In Santiago in 1973, the Swedish
Ambassador to Chile, Harald Edelstam, gave numerous Chileans and other nationals sought
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by the authorities of Augusto Pinochet not only diplomatic asylum in the Swedish Embassy,
but also safe conduct to Sweden. Sweden also granted temporary diplomatic asylum to a US
national in Tehran during the so-called Iran hostage crisis, as did Canada and the United
68. In its comments the source, stated that Sweden not only misrepresented the grounds
for Mr. Assange’s asylum, it also failed to address the fact that Mr. Assange applied for and
obtained asylum in relation to the actions against him by the United States of America and
the risk of political persecution and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
69. With regard to the legality of the EAW, the source stressed that since the final decision
by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Mr. Assange’s case, UK domestic law on
the determinative issues had been drastically changed, including as a result of perceived
abuses raised by Sweden’s EAW, so that if requested, Mr. Assange’s extradition would not
have been permitted by the UK.1 Nevertheless, the Government of the United Kingdom has
stated in relation to Mr. Assange that these changes are “not retrospective” and so may not
benefit him. A position is maintained in which his confinement within the Ecuadorian
Embassy is likely to continue indefinitely. Neither Sweden nor the United Kingdom had seen
it as their duty to proffer any other remedy than to allow the demand for extradition to
70. The source further argued that the response of the Swedish Government asserted that
Mr. Assange’s confinement in the embassy was voluntary, and that “Swedish authorities have
no control over his decision to stay at the embassy”, that he is “free to leave the Ecuadorian
embassy at any point in time” and that there is “no causal link” between the Swedish EAW
and Mr. Assange’s confinement. However, even the Swedish Prosecution Authority as
recently as July 2014 described Mr. Assange’s case in relation to its warrant against him as
remaining “in custody” and Mr. Assange’s being “still detained”.2
71. With regard to the right to independent, rigorous and fair process, the source stated
that beside that Mr. Assange had not yet been formally charged, contrary to the general
statement of Sweden’s response claiming that in Sweden, “[d]uring a preliminary
investigation, a suspect is entitled to examine all the investigation material upon which the
allegation is based,” neither the Swedish court nor Mr. Assange had been granted access to
hundreds of potentially exculpatory SMS messages, thereby violating Mr. Assange’s right to
effective judicial protection.
72. On 19 November 2014, the source submitted its comments to the responses of the
Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The source considered that the reply
1 The changes to UK extradition legislation following Mr. Assange’s case. In brief, the United Kingdom
has now concluded:
(i) By virtue of a binding decision of the UK Supreme Court in 2013, that the UK will no longer, where
a request is made under a European Arrest Warrant, permit the extradition of individuals where the
warrant is not initiated by a judicial authority. It has determined that the requirement of a “judicial
authority” cannot be interpreted as being fulfilled by a prosecutor as is the case in relation to Mr.
(ii) By virtue of legislation in force since July 2014, that the UK will no longer permit extradition on
the basis of a bare accusation (as opposed to a formal completed decision to prosecute and charge)
as is the case in relation to Mr. Assange.
(iii) By virtue of the same legislation now in force, that the United Kingdom will no longer permit
extradition under a European Arrest Warrant without consideration by a court of its proportionality
(Mr. Assange’s case was decided on the basis that such consideration was at that time not permitted).
2See: of-JulianAssange/>; still-detained/>; and remain-in-custody/>.
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of the Swedish Government could not be read in isolation, since the actions (or inaction) of
the two governments were in a number of respects interdependent. Sweden, as represented
by the UK Crown Prosecution Service, was the party formally acting against Mr. Assange in
the UK courts.
73. According to the source, in light of Sweden’s concession that Mr. Assange’s situation
is “very tough”, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain seemed to forget
that those seeking asylum and those who obtain it, like Mr. Assange, are hardly making a
choice based on free will, but one based on escaping from persecution. Leaving the Embassy
would force him to renounce his asylum and expose himself to a risk of persecution and cruel,
74. The source asserted that the response of the UK Government revealed its position to
do nothing to stop Mr. Assange’s indefinite detention despite the passage of time and its
consequent impact upon Mr. Assange and his family. In its response, the United Kingdom
made the same critical error as Sweden - it refused to honour its obligations to respect
Mr. Assange’s asylum under either the 1951 Refugee Convention, or customary international
75. Firstly, the response did not devote a single word concerning the United Kingdom’s
duty to afford mutual recognition to asylum decisions issued by other States within the
Framework of the 1951 Convention. Secondly, the United Kingdom further claimed that Mr.
Assange was not granted ‘political’ asylum but was instead granted asylum under the Caracas
Convention, and that because the United Kingdom was not a party to the Caracas Convention,
it has no obligation to recognise it. Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ecuador are parties to
the 1951 Refugee Convention, which places on States an obligation to respect non-
refoulement with no reservations.
76. The United Kingdom failed to acknowledge custom and its own practice of
recognising diplomatic asylum. States have, under general international law, a right and a
duty in certain cases to provide diplomatic asylum on humanitarian grounds. This is both the
general practice of States and a general practice accepted by them as law (opinio juris), as
set out in Article 38(1)(b) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Further,
numerous countries, including the United Kingdom, had recognised diplomatic asylum in its
practice. Famously, the United Kingdom was prepared to grant diplomatic asylum to a large
number of persons in its Embassy in Tehran under the Shah. Lord McNair had summarised
the UK practice in the following terms: “on humanitarian grounds [the UK] has frequently
authorised its diplomatic and other officers to grant temporary asylum in cases of
77. The source also asserted that, in its response, the United Kingdom suggested that Mr.
Assange’s extradition was deemed to be fair and proportionate by the UK Supreme Court.
However, that decision predated the current ability of UK courts to consider proportionality
in extradition cases. It was a complaint by the Supreme Court on exactly this point in relation
to Mr. Assange that led to corrective legislation that came into force in 2014.
78. The corrective UK legislation addressed the court’s inability to conduct a
proportionality assessment of the Swedish prosecutor’s international arrest warrant
(corrected by s. 157 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, in force
since July this year). The corrective legislation also barred extradition where no decision to
bring a person to trial had been made (s. 156). The prosecutor in Sweden does not dispute
that she had not yet made a decision to bring the case to trial, let alone charge Mr. Assange.
79. The source asserted that the legal basis for Mr. Assange’s extradition has further
eroded. The UK’s response even rested its assertion on a Supreme Court decision which even
the Supreme Court has distanced itself from. In the Bucnys case, the Supreme Court revisited
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its split decision in Assange vs. Swedish Prosecution Authority and explained that the single
argument which had become the decisive point in Assange had been reached incorrectly.
80. Nevertheless, the corrective legislation in domestic UK law excluded any individual
whose case had been already decided by the UK courts. Thus Mr. Assange was frozen out of
a remedy, further contributing to his legally uncertain and precarious situation, without a
willingness on the part of the United Kingdom to review the case given the subsequent
circumstances (the granting of asylum), and with it, the principle of the retroactive
application of the law which was favourable to the accused, in accordance with the
jurisprudence of the ECtHR. The corrective legislation was passed to prevent arbitrary
detention - to prevent people languishing in prison awaiting trial - but now the United
Kingdom is not remedying the very case that led to it. The passage of the new legislation is
an admission of previous unfairness and the very person abused by it is not getting its benefit.
81. The source also claimed that, in its response, the UK Government failed to recognise
that Mr. Assange’s chances of receiving an “independent, rigorous and fair process” had
already been fatally and irreparably undermined. At a very minimum, the United Kingdom
should have recognised that Mr. Assange had been denied a speedy investigation and the
right to defend himself, and he had been kept under different forms of deprivation of liberty
which amount to the arbitrary detention he was currently subjected to.
82. Additionally, Mr. Assange had been, from the beginning of the Swedish investigation,
denied an “independent, rigorous and fair process”. The source alleged that the United
Kingdom completely failed to respond to the arguments that there was a lack of fair process
and prejudice faced by Mr. Assange due to the fact that the existence of a confidential
preliminary investigation against Mr. Assange had been unlawfully disclosed to a tabloid
newspaper (Expressen) by the Swedish Prosecution Authority within hours of its
commencement, which led to a perception that there is a formal accusation against
83. Finally, the source claimed that the United Kingdom did not address any of
Mr. Assange’s substantive rights or the wealth of authorities addressed in its complaint.
The United Kingdom failed to recognise his right to asylum or to offer him safe passage.
Mr. Assange faces ongoing indefinite detention and the serious compromise of his health and
family life, which is a violation of numerous conventions to which the United Kingdom is a
party. The UK Government’s response proposed no relief and only served to reinforce the
indefinite and arbitrary nature of Mr. Assange’s confinement.
84. The question that was posed to the Working Group is whether the current situation of
Mr. Assange corresponds to any of the five categories of arbitrary detention applied by the
Working Group in the consideration of the cases brought to its attention.
85. At the outset, the Working Group notes with concern that Mr. Assange has been
subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty ever since 7 December 2010 to this date
as a result of both the actions and the inactions of the State of Sweden and the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
86. Firstly, Mr. Assange was held in isolation in the Wandsworth prison in London for 10
days, from 7 December to 16 December 2010 and this was not challenged by any of the two
Respondent States. In this regard, the Working Group expresses its concern that he was
detained in isolation at the very beginning of the episode that lasted longer than 5 years. The
arbitrariness is inherent in this form of deprivation of liberty, if the individual is left outside
the cloak of legal protection, including the access to legal assistance (para. 60 of the Working
Group’s Deliberation No. 9 concerning the definition and scope of arbitrary deprivation of
liberty under customary law). Such a practice of law in general corresponds to the violations
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of both rules proscribing arbitrary detention and ensuring the right to a fair trial, as guaranteed
by articles 9 and 10 of the UDHR and articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the ICCPR.
87. That initial deprivation of liberty then continued in the form of house arrest for some
550 days. This again was not contested by any of the two States. During this prolonged period
of house arrest, Mr. Assange had been subjected to various forms of harsh restrictions,
including monitoring using an electric tag, an obligation to report to the police every day and
a bar on being outside of his place of residence at night. In this regard, the Working Group
has no choice but to query what has prohibited the unfolding of judicial management of any
kind in a reasonable manner from occurring for such extended period of time.
88. It is during that period that he has sought refuge at the Embassy of the Republic of
Ecuador in London. Despite the fact that the Republic of Ecuador has granted him asylum in
August 2012, his newly acquired status has not been recognized by neither Sweden nor the
UK. Mr. Assange has been subjected to extensive surveillance by the British police during
his stay at the Ecuadorian Embassy to this date.
89. In view of the foregoing, the Working Group considers that, in violation of articles 9
and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 9 and 14 of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Mr. Assange has not been
guaranteed the international norms of due process and the guarantees to a fair trial during
these three different moments: the detention in isolation in Wandsworth Prison, the 550 days
under house arrest, and the continuation of the deprivation of liberty in the Embassy of the
Republic of Ecuador in London, United Kingdom.
90. The Working Group also views that Mr. Assange’s stay at the Embassy of the
Republic of Ecuador in London to this date should be considered as a prolongation of the
already continued deprivation of liberty that had been conducted in breach of the principles
of reasonableness, necessity and proportionality.
91. The Working Group, in its Deliberation No. 9, had already confirmed its position on
the definition of arbitrary detention. What matters in the expression ‘arbitrary detention’ is
essentially the word “arbitrary”, i.e., the elimination, in all its forms, of arbitrariness,
whatever the phase of deprivation of liberty concerned (para. 56). Placing individuals in
temporary custody in stations, ports and airports or any other facilities where they remain
under constant surveillance may not only amount to restrictions to personal freedom of
movement, but also constitute a de facto deprivation of liberty (para. 59). The notion of
“arbitrary” stricto sensu includes both the requirement that a particular form of deprivation
of liberty is taken in accordance with the applicable law and procedure and that it is
proportional to the aim sought, reasonable and necessary (para. 61).
92. The Human Rights Committee, in its General Comment No. 35 on Article 9 also stated
that “An arrest or detention may be authorized by domestic law and nonetheless be arbitrary.
The notion of “arbitrariness” is not to be equated with “against law”, but must be interpreted
more broadly to include elements of inappropriateness, injustice, lack of predictability and
due process of law, as well as elements of reasonableness, necessity, and proportionality.”
(para. 12, as was reiterated in para. 61 of the Deliberation No. 9 of the Working Group).3
93. The Working Group is concerned that the only basis of the deprivation of liberty of
Mr. Assange appears to be the European Arrest Warrant issued by the Swedish prosecution
based on a criminal allegation. Until the date of the adoption of this Opinion, Mr. Assange
has never been formally indicted in Sweden. The European Arrest Warrant was issued for
3 In this regard, see also Part I and Part II, section C of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules), U.N. Doc., A/RES/70/175.
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the purpose of conducting preliminary investigation in order to determine whether it will lead
to an indictment or not.
94. In its reply, the Swedish Government indicated that according to Swedish law, a
suspect is entitled to examine all the investigation material upon which the allegation is
based. The Working Group notes in this regard that Mr. Assange has not been granted access
to any material of such which is in violation of article 14 of ICCPR.
95. At this point, it is noteworthy that the Working Group, while examining the essential
safeguards for the prevention of torture, stressed that prompt and regular access should be
given to independent medical personnel and lawyers and, under appropriate supervision
when the legitimate purpose of the detention so requires, to family members (para. 58, the
Deliberation No. 9). The right to personal security in article 9, paragraph 1 of the ICCPR, is
relevant to the treatment of both detained and non-detained persons. The appropriateness of
the conditions prevailing in detention to the purpose of detention is sometimes a factor in
determining whether detention is arbitrary within the meaning of article 9 of the ICCPR.
Certain conditions of detention (such as access to counsel and family) may result in
procedural violations of paragraphs 3 and 4 of article 9 (para. 59, the Deliberation 9).
96. With regard to the application of the principle of proportionality, it is also worth
mentioning that Lord Reed of the UK Supreme Court (BankMellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury
 UKSC 39, per Lord Reeds, para. 74) set out that it is necessary to determine (1)
whether the objective of the measure is sufficiently important to justify the limitation of a
protected rights; (2) whether the measure is rationally connected to the objective; (3) whether
a less intrusive measure could have been used without unacceptably compromising the
achievement of the objective; (4) whether, balancing the severity of the measure’s effects on
the rights of the persons to whom it apples against the importance of the objective, to the
extent that the measure will contribute to its achievement, the former outweighs the latter. 4
97. The Working Group also views that there has been a substantial failure to exercise
due diligence on the part of the concerned States with regard to the performance of the
criminal administration, given the following factual elements: (1) in the case of Mr. Assange,
after more than five years’ of time lapse, he is still left even before the stage of preliminary
investigation with no predictability as to whether and when a formal process of any judicial
dealing would commence; (2) despite that it is left to the initial choice of the Swedish
prosecution as to what mode of investigation would best suit the purpose of criminal justice,
the exercise and implementation of the investigation method should be conducted in
compliance with the rule of proportionality, including undertaking to explore alternative
ways of administering justice; (3) unlike other suspects in general whose whereabouts are
either unknown or unidentifiable and whose spirit of cooperation is non-existent,
Mr. Assange, while staying under constant and highly intrusive surveillance, has continued
to express his willingness to participate in the criminal investigation; (4) as a consequence,
his situation now has become both excessive and unnecessary. From a time perspective, it is
worse than if he had appeared in Sweden for questioning and possible legal proceeding when
first summoned to do so; (5) irrespective of whether the grant of the asylum by the Republic
of Ecuador to Mr. Assange should be acknowledged by the concerned States and whether the
concerned States could have endorsed the decision and wish of the Republic of Ecuador, as
they had previously done on the humanitarian grounds, the grant itself and the fear of
persecution on the part of Mr. Assange based on the possibility of extradition, should have
been given fuller consideration in the determination and the exercise of criminal
administration, instead of being subjected to a sweeping judgment as defining either merely
4 For an application of the proportionality principle at the European Court of Human Rights, see the
ECtHR (James and Others v the United Kingdom, Application No. 8793/79,  ECHR 2 (21
February 1986), (1986) 8 EHRR 123).
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hypothetical or irrelevant; (6) it defeats the purpose and efficiency of justice and the interest
of the concerned victims to put this matter of investigation to a state of indefinite
98. The Working Group is convinced once again that, among others, the current situation
of Mr. Assange staying within the confines of the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in
London, United Kingdom, has become a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty. The
factual elements and the totality of the circumstances that have led to this conclusion include
the followings: (1) Mr. Assange has been denied the opportunity to provide a statement,
which is a fundamental aspect of the audi alteram partem principle, the access to exculpatory
evidence, and thus the opportunity to defend himself against the allegations; (2) the duration
of such detention is ipso facto incompatible with the presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange
has been denied the right to contest the continued necessity and proportionality of the arrest
warrant in light of the length of this detention, i.e. his confinement in the Ecuadorian
Embassy; (3) the indefinite nature of this detention, and the absence of an effective form of
judicial review or remedy concerning the prolonged confinement and the highly intrusive
surveillance, to which Mr. Assange has been subjected; (4) the Embassy of the Republic of
Ecuador in London is not and far less than a house or detention centre equipped for prolonged
pre-trial detention and lacks appropriate and necessary medical equipment or facilities. It is
valid to assume, after 5 years of deprivation of liberty, Mr. Assange’s health could have been
deteriorated to a level that anything more than a superficial illness would put his health at a
serious risk and he was denied his access to a medical institution for a proper diagnosis,
including taking a MRI test; (5) with regard to the legality of the EAW, since the final
decision by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in Mr. Assange’s case, UK domestic
law on the determinative issues had been drastically changed, including as a result of
perceived abuses raised by Sweden’s EAW, so that if requested, Mr. Assange’s extradition
would not have been permitted by the UK. Nevertheless, the Government of the United
Kingdom has stated in relation to Mr. Assange that these changes are “not retrospective” and
so may not benefit him. A position is maintained in which his confinement within the
Ecuadorian Embassy is likely to continue indefinitely. The corrective UK legislation
addressed the court’s inability to conduct a proportionality assessment of the Swedish
prosecutor’s international arrest warrant (corrected by s. 157 of the Anti-Social Behaviour,
Crime and Policing Act 2014, in force since July 2014). The corrective legislation also barred
extradition where no decision to bring a person to trial had been made (s. 156).
99. In the light of the foregoing, the Working Group renders the following opinion:
The deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange is arbitrary and in contravention of articles 9
and 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10
and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It falls within category
III of the categories applicable to the consideration of the cases submitted to the Working
100. Consequent upon the opinion rendered, the Working Group requests the Government
of Sweden and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
to assess the situation of Mr. Assange, to ensure his safety and physical integrity, to facilitate
the exercise of his right to freedom of movement in an expedient manner, and to ensure the
full enjoyment of his rights guaranteed by the international norms on detention.
101. The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the
case, the adequate remedy would be to ensure the right of free movement of Mr. Assange and
accord him an enforceable right to compensation, in accordance with article 9(5) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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[Adopted on 4 December 2015]
Individual dissenting opinion of WGAD member Vladimir Tochilovsky
1. The adopted Opinion raises serious question as to the scope of the mandate of the
2. It is assumed in the Opinion that Mr. Assange has been detained in the Embassy of
Ecuador in London by the authorities of the United Kingdom. In particular, it is stated that
his stay in the Embassy constitutes “a state of an arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”
3. In fact, Mr. Assange fled the bail in June 2012 and since then stays at the premises of
the Embassy using them as a safe haven to evade arrest. Indeed, fugitives are often self-
confined within the places where they evade arrest and detention. This could be some
premises, as in Mr. Assange’s situation, or the territory of the State that does not recognise
the arrest warrant. However, these territories and premises of self-confinement cannot be
considered as places of detention for the purposes of the mandate of the Working Group.
4. In regard to the house arrest of Mr. Assange in 2011-2012, it was previously
emphasised by the Working Group that where the person is allowed to leave the residence
(as in Mr. Assange’s case), it is “a form of restriction of liberty rather than deprivation of
liberty, measure which would then lie outside the Group’s competence” (E/CN.4/1998/44,
para. 41(e)). Mr. Assange was allowed to leave the mansion where he was supposed to reside
while litigating against extradition in the courts of the United Kingdom. As soon as his last
application was dismissed by the Supreme Court in June 2012, Mr. Assange fled the bail.
5. The mandate of the Working Group is not without limits. By definition, the Working
Group is not competent to consider situations that do not involve deprivation of liberty. For
the same reason, issues related to the fugitives’ self-confinement, such as asylum and
extradition, do not fall into the mandate of the Working Group (see, for instance,
E/CN.4/1999/63, para. 67).
6. That is not to say that the complaints of Mr. Assange could not have been considered.
There exist the appropriate UN human rights treaty bodies and the European Court of Human
Rights that do have mandate to examine such complaints regardless whether they involve
deprivation of liberty or not.
7. Incidentally, any further application of Mr. Assange may now be declared
inadmissible in an appropriate UN body or ECtHR on the matters that have been considered
by the Working Group. In this regard, one may refer to the ECtHR decision in Peraldi v.
France (2096/05) and the reservation of Sweden to the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
8. For these reasons, I dissent.