UN expert to visit Ecuador Embassy in response to reports of Assange’s expulsion, rights violations

A United Nations (UN) expert plans to meet WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London on April 25 after receiving complaints of privacy violations, a statement released Friday by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said.

This move was made after the expert received two separate complaints made by Assange and Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, according to the statement.

In the statement, Joe Cannataci, the Human Rights Council special rapporteur on the right to privacy, said the meeting would “help determine if there exists a prima facie case of violation of privacy that warrants further investigation.”

He also said that he was requesting further information from the Ecuadorian government on a complaint lodged by the country’s president that his privacy had been violated by the publication of personal data.

WikiLeaks said earlier this week on its verified social media account that Assange will be expelled within “hours to days,” quoting “a high-level source within the Ecuadorian state.”

In an interview on Tuesday, President Moreno told local media that Assange has repeatedly violated protocol and conditions of his stay at the embassy.

Assange does not have the right to hack private accounts or phones and cannot intervene in the politics of other countries, especially Ecuador’s partners, said the president. “Several times, Mr. Assange has violated the agreement we reached with him and his lawyers,” he was quoted as saying.

In another statement released by the OHCHR on Friday, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer said he was alarmed by reports that Assange may be expelled from the Embassy of Ecuador in London, indicating that he intended to personally investigate the case.

Melzer said Assange’s expulsion from the Ecuadorian Embassy could “expose him to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

“I therefore urge the Government of Ecuador to abstain from expelling Mr. Assange from its Embassy in London, or from otherwise ceasing or suspending his political asylum until such time as the full protection of his human rights can be guaranteed,” said the special rapporteur.

Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia tweeted on Friday that “the diplomatic asylum is a sovereign authority of a state, which has the right to grant it or withdraw it unilaterally when it deems it justified.”

After having established WikiLeaks in 2006, Assange has been staying at the embassy since 2012 when he was granted asylum by Ecuador as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where the Australian-born whistleblower was facing allegations of sexual assault and rape. In 2017, he received Ecuadorian citizenship so as to resolve the political impasse over his continued presence in Britain.

However, in 2018, Assange launched legal action through his lawyers against the Ecuadorian government, accusing it of violating his fundamental rights and freedoms.