Five hundred prominent names, including Ai Weiwei and Mairead Maguire, accuse countries of undermining UN human rights covenants.
Link to original article (The Guardian): http://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/mar/01/julian-assange-wikileaks-supporters-ai-weiwei-uk-sweden-open-letter
Supporters of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have published an open letter signed by 500 prominent artists, Nobel prize winners and human rights organisations accusing the UK and Sweden of undermining the UN.
Among signatories to the international appeal are the Chinese sculptor Ai Weiwei, the Indian writer Arundhati Roy, the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Several Nobel prize winners including the Argentinian Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and the Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire, as well as the film director Ken Loach, the musician Brian Eno, the author Naomi Klein, Prof Noam Chomsky and the journalist John Pilger have added their name to the letter.
Assange, who has sought asylum in the Ecuador embassy, is wanted in Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations, which he denies. This month the UN working group on arbitrary detention (UNWGAD) formally found that he had been subject to arbitrary detention, partially on the grounds that Swedish prosecutors used disproportionate methods, including a European arrest warrant, rather than initially interviewing him in the UK.
Philip Hammond, the UK foreign secretary, dismissed the UN report as “ridiculous”, called it “flawed in law” and described Assange as a fugitive from justice. Many senior British lawyers supported his defiance and stressed that the report was not binding on the UK courts.
The international letter declares: “We … condemn the reactions of the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom to the finding by UNWGAD that Julian Assange is arbitrarily detained. The governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines the United Nations human rights system as a whole.
“We urge Sweden and the United Kingdom to respect the binding nature of the human rights covenants on which the decision is based, including the international covenant on civil and political rights; as well as the independence, integrity and authority of the office of the high commissioner for human rights and the working group on arbitrary detention.”
The letter calls on both governments to comply with the UN group’s findings and “ensure the right of free movement of Mr Assange and accord him an enforceable right to compensation”.
Among the signatories is Prof Mads Andenas, the Norwegian former chair of UNWGAD. The letter was organised by the Justice for Assange website. The letter is headed: “Five hundred human rights organisations, Noble [sic] prize winners, jurists … condemn Sweden and UK over reaction to UNWGAD Assange findings.”
The letter was presented to a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday. The UK has said it will challenge the WGAD opinion.
“It is extraordinary that so many NGOs have called on governments to act,” said Alfred de Zayas, the UN’s independent expert on democracy and equality.
“Already we have seen the British government response to the Assange UNWGAD case being cited in Sri Lanka and the Maldives to justify non-compliance with UNWGAD decisions and UN commitments like investigating war crimes,” said Jen Robinson, a member of Assange’s legal team in Geneva.