"Serious breach of Julian Assage’s human rights"

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino (left) and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speak during a press conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Monday.  

“It is time to free Julian Assange, it is time for his human rights to be respected,” the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said in London on Monday.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Mr. Assange, held to mark the completion of the second year of the Wikileaks founder’s stay as a political asylee in his country’s embassy in London, Mr. Patino highlighted the “serious breach” of Julian Assange’s human rights, and of the “lost two years” during which the Swedish prosecuting authorities have stone-walled all attempts by Ecuador to find a just way out of the impasse.

Despite four formal offers by Mr. Assange’s legal team to the Swedish prosecution to interview him in person, in writing, via telephone or via video-link, the Swedish government has refused to start the process of evidence collection.

Mr. Patino pointed out that by doing so Sweden has violated explicit provisions of international law and Sweden’s own law that allows the prosecutor to take evidence outside Swedish territory.

Calling on the international community -- particularly journalists -- to join an campaign to free Mr. Assange, Mr. Patino said his government will “continue to offer him our protection, [and] continue to be ready to talk with the British and Swedish government” on this issue.

“This situation must come to an end. Two years is too long,” he said.

Mr. Assange said that he would be leaving the embassy “soon”, a statement that his team was quick to put in perspective as a statement of hope rather than of his imminent departure from the Ecuadorian embassy.

“I have not been charged with any offence either in the UK or Sweden, nor has there been any public indictment in relation to my work in the US,” Mr Assange said. “ How can it be that such a situation can arise in Europe – where the rule of law is supposed to be respected -- where a person is held and kept from his family while a foreign government builds an ever larger case against that person and his organization?” he asked.

Recent changes in British extradition laws are a positive development in Mr. Assange’s extradition case. According to the reformed law, a person who has not been charged cannot be extradited.

Fifty-nine human rights and legal organization have submitted a petition to the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review on June 15 seeking to remedy what they see as Sweden’s “violation” of Mr. Assange’s human rights in not charging him for four years, during which time he has experienced different levels of pre-charge detention.

Another petition, signed by 33 unions, media and civil society organisations, has been handed over to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva asking for its immediate intervention on Mr. Assange’s behalf.

Mr Assange, who looked visibly tired, neither denied nor confirmed media reports that he had a life-threatening illness. He said that confinement of the kind he had experienced would impact even the healthiest person.

“There is no precedent for this kind of captivity,” a member of Mr. Assange’s team told The Hindu. “It is very unusual that in a highly civilized country a person like Julian is held captive without charge, and cannot even go to a hospital.”

“Ecuador is a small country taking a very brave position. We now want to appeal for high profile support for Julian from around the world – including India.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 9:20:10 AM |

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