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Sweden: Appellate Court Reaffirms Detention in Absentia of Julian Assange

(Oct. 3, 2016) On September 16, 2016, the Swedish appellate court, the Svea Court of Appeal, reaffirmed the detention in absentia of Julian Assange, following a request from Assange to have his detention set aside. (Press Release, Svea Court of Appeal, Decision in the Case Concerning the Detention of Julian Assange (Sept. 16, 2016).)

Assange has been staying at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since August 2012, when the Republic of Ecuador granted him refugee. At the time he was under house arrest in the United Kingdom. He feared that he might be extradited to Sweden and further extradited to the United States; to date he has not been able to leave the embassy. (Press Release, OHCHR, The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Deems the Deprivation of Liberty of Mr. Julian Assange as Arbitrary (Feb. 5, 2016).)

The Svea Court of Appeal issued a decision on appeal of a district court decision on Assange’s request that the Court revoke his detention and allow an oral hearing of his case. (Svea Court of Appeal Case No. Ö 7130-16, Svea Court of Appeal website (Sept. 9 & 13, 2016).)  Assange’s request rested on a 2016 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report that Assange’s detention in absentia was arbitrary. (The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Deems the Deprivation of Liberty of Mr. Julian Assange as Arbitrary, supra.)

In dismissing Assange’s claims, the Svea Court of Appeal found that Assange still meets the criteria for being detained in absentia, as he is still suspected, on probable cause, of the crime of rape in Sweden and there is still a risk that he will flee without a detention order, and further noted that the U.N. OHCHR report is not binding on Swedish courts. The Court reasoned that Assange is free to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy and thus his freedom is not disproportionally restricted, contrary to his claims. (Svea Court of Appeal Case No. Ö 7130-16, supra, at 3, 5-6.) The Court specifically disagreed with the findings of the U.N. report that Assange risked extradition to the United States if he left the embassy. (Id. at 6.)