A human rights expert at the United Nations called on the governments of the U.K. and Sweden to accept and implement the recommendations of a U.N. panel to allow freedom of movement for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Alfred de Zayas, the first “independent expert” appointed by the U.N., said Monday that the two countries should set a "good example" and follow the finding announced Feb. 5 by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which stated that Assange should be free to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Authorities in Britain and Sweden rejected the Feb 5. finding, arguing that Assange had detained himself by seeking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after Swedish officials leveled allegations of sexual misconduct against him. The 44-year-old, who has denied the claims made by Sweden, has been in the embassy since 2012.
While Assange hailed the Feb. 5 ruling as a "significant victory," the UK government insisted it was not legally binding and that the report "changes nothing."
“The international order depends on the consistent and uniform application of international law, and is undermined when States pick and choose,” de Zayas said in a statement, adding: “An à la carte approach to human rights erodes the credibility of the entire system.”
Emphasizing that whistleblowers are key to defending human rights, de Zayas criticized the U.K. and Sweden’s response to the finding of the UN report. “It is important that countries that regularly engage in naming and shaming of other countries accept United Nations rulings when they themselves are implicated. It is a matter of intellectual honesty,” he said.
Swedish prosecutors dropped two cases of alleged sexual misconduct against Assange last year, but he still faces a more serious allegation of rape. Assange fears extradition to Sweden may lead to further extradition to the U.S. for having published secret documents and videos, including almost 400,000 U.S. military logs on WikiLeaks.