UN panel: Wikileaks founder Julian Assange entitled to compensation after "arbitrary detention" - but Metropolitan Police will still arrest him as UK rejects ruling

Emma Haslett
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Julian Assange has been hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012 (Source: Getty)

A UN panel has officially confirmed that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been held under "arbitrary detention" by Sweden and the UK, and that he is entitled to compensation. But this morning the Metropolitan Police force said there is still a warrant out for his arrest.

Yesterday it was reported that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had decided in favour of Assange, who has been in hiding in London's Ecuadorian embassy since 2012, when he skipped bail after he was ordered to travel to Sweden to face rape charges.

This morning the group issued a statement saying Assange had been "subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty".

"The Working Group also found that the detention was arbitrary because he was held in isolation during the first stage of detention and because of the lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor in its investigations, which resulted in the lengthy detention of Mr. Assange," it added.

"The Working Group therefore requested Sweden and the United Kingdom to assess the situation of 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.

"The Working Group also considered that the detention should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation."

But this morning a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said its guidance on Assange had not changed since October, when it stood down its 24-hour guard outside the Ecuadorian embassy - but added that it "remains committed to executing the arrest warrant and presenting Julian Assange before court".

Meanwhile, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it rejected the working group's opinion.

“This changes nothing. We completely reject any claim that Julian Assange is a victim of arbitrary detention. The UK has already made clear to the UN that we will formally contest the working group’s opinion," a spokesperson said.

“Julian Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK. The opinion of the UN Working Group ignores the facts and the well-recognised protections of the British legal system. He is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy. An allegation of rape is still outstanding and a European Arrest Warrant in place, so the UK continues to have a legal obligation to extradite him to Sweden. As the UK is not a party to the Caracas Convention, we do not recognise ‘diplomatic asylum’.

“We are deeply frustrated that this unacceptable situation is still being allowed to continue. Ecuador must engage with Sweden in good faith to bring it to an end. Americas Minister Hugo Swire made this clear to the Ecuadorean Ambassador in November, and we continue to raise the matter in Quito.”

Assange had previously issued a statement saying he would accept arrest by the British police if the panel ruled against him, as there would be "no meaningful prospect of further appeal".

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