WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke with reporters Friday, celebrating a determination by the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) that Swedish and U.K. governments have “arbitrarily detained” Assange since 2010. Through his organization, WikiLeaks, Assange famously released hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents related to the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2010. That same year, Sweden revealed Assange was wanted for a rape allegation, and he was arrested by U.K. police. After posting bail, Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012, where he currently remains. British authorities wait outside the embassy, ready to arrest him and extradite him to Sweden if he leaves. Once extradited to Sweden, Assange says, Swedish authorities will extradite him to the U.S. where he could face the death penalty for publishing government secrets.
Assange lauded the decision by the UNWGAD, calling it “legally binding” and warning that failure to act on the ruling would undermine the U.N. system. The UNWGAD, however, can only “recommend remedies,” and it’s up to member states to act on its decisions. U.K. and Swedish authorities say they do not intend to act on the UNWGAD’s guidance. They are not even detaining Assange, they argue, since Assange chooses to remain within the Ecuadorian embassy of his own volition.
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