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COLOMBO: The UN human rights chief said on a visit to Sri Lanka on Tuesday that Britain and Sweden should accept the findings of one of his panels that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been arbitrarily detained.

Last week, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued its conclusion — a non-binding legal opinion — that Assange had been subjected to arbitrary detention by the Swedish and British governments.

Britain and Sweden angrily rejected the panel’s recommendations that Assange be allowed to walk free from Ecuador’s London embassy, where he sought refuge in 2012 and be offered compensation.

Speaking in Colombo, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said the Working Group, although not a court, based its decision on binding international law and that Britain and Sweden should therefore abide by its findings.

“Human rights law, the treaty body law is binding law, it is not discretionary law, it is not some passing fancy that a state can apply sometimes and not in the others,” Zeid, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters at the end of a four-day visit. A spokesman for Zeid said the panel based its decision on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. “If there are further court cases on Assange, you are likely to see the Working Group’s opinion cited in the court, and quite possibly in the judgement,” spokesman Rupert Colville said.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2016