The government is facing fresh pressure to resolve the case of Julian Assange after a United Nations working group confirmed that the WikiLeaks founder is being “arbitrarily detained” in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr Assange’s “deprivation of liberty”. The panel added that the authorities should respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement.
However, UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond called the decision “ridiculous”.
Mr Assange has been living in the embassy for more than three years after being granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian government. There had been intense interest in whether Mr Assange would leave the embassy, but it was clear he will remain inside the building as long as there is a threat of arrest.
He is wanted for questioning in Sweden over a sex allegation, which he has always denied, and believes he will be taken to the US for questioning over the activities of WikiLeaks if he is extradited.
He told a news conference on Friday that the UN Working Group’s decision was legally binding, insisting there was no higher authority on whether detentions were lawful.
“It is insulting for the UK to call the decision ridiculous. Those comments were beneath the stature of a foreign minister.”
Mr Assange said Sweden and the UK had opportunities in the past few weeks to appeal against the decision but had not taken any action, so the matter was now a “settled law”.
He continued: “The UK and Sweden had their opportunities to lodge appeals. They did not lodge an appeal. You cannot take part in a process and then at the end of it come out with press statements saying you disagree.”
Comments such as those made by the Foreign Secretary were for “domestic consumption”, he added.
Mr Assange said: “It is the end of the road for legal arguments by the UK and Sweden. Those arguments lost and the time for an appeal is over.
“It is now the task of the states of the UK and Sweden to implement the verdict. They cannot pretend to look tough.”
Mr Assange said the decision had strengthened the ability of the UN to deal with complex cases.