Week 6: Prat – the United Nations Working Group On Arbitrary Detention

by George_East on February 7, 2016

UN_pratThis Week’s Prat of the Week Award goes to the group set up by the UN to investigate the question of whether Julian Assange is being arbitrarily detained

Oh dear. Even the question is ridiculous.   Let’s recap: Julian Assange is wanted for questioning in respect of two allegations of rape in Sweden.   The Scandinavian country sought to have him extradited. Assange with the best legal representation that his money (or at least his supporters’ money) could buy took his challenge to the extradition all the way to the Supreme Court.   The highest court in the land concluded that he should indeed be extradited.

Then while on bail, subject to not very onerous bail conditions – he was, if you remember, living in some stately home, albeit with a requirement to report to the police daily and wearing an electronic tag (all pretty standard stuff – ask Ray North).   While doing so, he skipped bail and took up residence in the Ecuadorian embassy. Where he has remained ever since.

No one made him go to the Ecuadorian embassy and no one has made him stay there since. He is staying there purely and simply to avoid due process of the law being carried, having exhausted all of his appeal routes, and having to face the rape charges in Sweden.

Yet despite all of this the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention gave its opinion this week and decided (with one member dissenting) that Assange had been and was being arbitrarily detained.   It is hard to think of an example which less meets the ordinary definition of each of those words.

In no sense can it be described as ‘arbitrary’ if due process has been followed, you’ve exhausted all of your appeal routes having taken the case to the highest court in the land and you’ve been legally represented throughout. Extraordinarily the UNWGAD (to give it its ungainly acronym) doesn’t even mention the fact that Assange took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.

If that is bizarre enough, it is hard to know where to start with the finding that Assange is being ‘detained’ (let alone ‘arbitrarily detained’). He sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in order to avoid being extradited. That isn’t detention, it is a decision he has made voluntarily to hole up there. It is no more being detained than I am now in my house writing this.

It is hard to know how the decision could be more divorced from the reality. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, called it ‘ridiculous’. That is being very kind indeed.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mike Killingworth February 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm

I’ve only just caught up with this.

Why is Ray N tagged?


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