United Nations Calls Assange’s 50 Week Sentence Disproportionate

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has weighed in on Assange’s 50 week prison sentence. They call the sentence disproportionate.

Last month, award winning journalist Julian Assange, a co-founder of Wikileaks, was handed a 50 week prison sentence for skipping bail. All this time, he was, of course, inside the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK protected by political asylum. That political asylum status was revoked after a regime change and a major loan was gifted to the country. Shortly after the sentence was handed down, the US quickly began the process of extraditing the Australian citizen to the United States.

In the midst of all of the blurry legal and political back and forth, the United Nations has weighed in on all of this. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued a statement on these development. From their comments:

“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is deeply concerned about this course of action including the disproportionate sentence imposed on Mr. Assange. The Working Group is of the view that violating bail is a minor violation that, in the United Kingdom, carries a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison, even though the bond related to the bail has been lost in favour of the British Government, and that Mr. Assange was still detained after violating the bail which, in any case should not stand after the Opinion was issued. The Working Group regrets that the Government has not complied with its Opinion and has now furthered the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Assange.

It is worth recalling that the detention and the subsequent bail of Mr. Assange in the UK were connected to preliminary investigations initiated in 2010 by a prosecutor in Sweden. It is equally worth noting that that prosecutor did not press any charges against Mr. Assange and that in 2017, after interviewing him in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, she discontinued investigations and brought an end to the case.

The Working Group is further concerned that Mr. Assange has been detained since 11 April 2019 in Belmarsh prison, a high-security prison, as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offence. This treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by the human rights standards.

The WGAD reiterates its recommendation to the Government of the United Kingdom, as expressed in its Opinion 54/2015, and its 21 December 2018 statement, that the right of Mr Assange to personal liberty should be restored.”

The statement back comments made by Wikileaks. They not only publicly called the sentence vindictive, but also pointed to court documents they filed saying that the sentence handed down to Assange exceeded what the ruling court could hand down. This in the midst of comments suggesting that Assange is effectively being held in solitary confinement at this point in time.

So, it is probably not a big surprise that all of this is raising concern from the United Nations at this point in time. Here we have an arrest and detention of a journalist who played a major role in exposing what many call corrupt activities carried out by the United States. The United States is not happy and is doing everything they can to drag that journalist onto US soil. Assange, at least at one point, basically feared for his life and successfully obtained political asylum. Now that the US successfully got Ecuador to revoke the political asylum, now he is being handed what many are calling excessive prison sentences and placed in solitary confinement. Really, it’s not that hard to suggest that all of this is politically motivated.

Supporters are no doubt relieved that others are stepping forward and saying that what is going down is not right. I lends further credibility to what they have been saying all along.

We’ll continue to monitor the situation with Assange and bring you any further updates as we get them.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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