After staying the Ecuadorian embassy located in London for nearly four years a UN panel of experts have ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been “unlawfully detained.”
Julian Assange was granted political asylum in London’s Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault and rape charges made by two “women [who] explicitly deny having been raped by Mr. Assange,” a charge he also strongly denies.
Earlier this week Assange had issued a statement agreeing that he would leave the embassy and surrender himself to British police on Friday if the UN panel happened to rule against him.
Assange’s terms still stand that if he visit Sweden he will face extradition to the United States for the work he has done related to Wikileaks, his organization that exposes corporate and government secrets.
Back in 2014 Assange had filed a complaint to the UN stating that he was being “arbitrarily detained” as he could not leave the embassy without facing arrest, and a UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention began investigating his case and will announce their official findings on Friday, February 5, 2016.
In Assange’s 2014 complaint he argued that living in 30 square meters of the Ecuadorian Embassy with no sunlight or fresh air had taken a “significant toll” on his mental health.
Legal experts have taken evidence from both the UK and Sweden and found their outcome to be in Assange’s favor, however the official panel has yet to comment on Assange’s status. One of the reasons Wikileaks is awaiting official confirmation before they declare their founder free.
However Sweden, Britain nor the UN have made official comment, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention made their decision back in December, and had informed both the Swedish and British governments of their ruling.
What does this mean for Julian Assange?
According to the BBC Assange isn’t entirely a free man, as British officials have made it clear that the European arrest warrant against him remains in place. The panels decisions is not legally binding to the UK or Sweden, according to a BBC legal expert.
The UN’s ruling may be influential in the long run, but Assange will not be able to leave the embassy a free man on Friday as he had initially hoped, regardless of the UN’s ruling. Earlier in the week Assange had said in a statement that “should I prevail and the state parties be found [by the UN panel] to have acted unlawfully, expect the immediate return of my passport and the termination of further attempts to arrest me.”
Currently the Wikileaks organization is awaiting official confirmation from UN officials before they publicly publish and declare a ruling in favor of Assange.
The allegations Assange was facing were dropped in 2015 because the Swedish statue of limitations expired, however the more serious allegations of rape will not expire until 2020. This means if Swedish prosecutors do not drop their investigation and Assange does not surrender himself willingly, he could remain in the embassy another four years.
Meanwhile, Assange’s health continues to deteriorate, even his doctor said the Wikileaks founder is in “constant and severe pain,” and needs an MRI scan which cannot be carried out within the embassy. UK authorities have even refused to grant Assange “safe passage” to seek any form of medical help.