The Wikileaks founder sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London three years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations.
It’s expected a UN working group on arbitrary detentions has now backed Mr Assange’s claim.
In August 2012, Ecuador granted Julian Assange political asylum as he sought to avoid extradition to Sweden to be questioned over a rape claim, which he denies.
Mr Assange feared that if sent to Sweden, he would then be shipped to the United States to be interrogated as part of a secretive investigation into the Wikileaks founder’s activites.
Now, a UN working group is expected to rule that Mr Assange has been arbitrarily detained in contravention of international commitments.
That’s despite the fact he’s been staying inside Ecuador’s London embassy voluntarily.
Mr Assange’s lawyer, Per Samuelson, says Swedish prosecutors should cancel the decision to detain his client in absentia and close the case against him.
“Sweden must withdraw the European arrest warrant. Everything is depending on the Swedish decision to keep him in custody and that decision can be cancelled, withdrawn by (prosecutor) Marianne Ny personally tomorrow and then she can withdraw the European arrest warrant and then the UK authorities will stop guarding the building and he is a free man again.”
In his September 2014 application, Julian Assange told the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that he was a political refugee whose rights had been infringed by being unable to take up asylum in Ecuador.
He says once the UN panel’s ruling is confirmed, he expects the immediate return of his passport and an end to attempts by British police to arrest him.
But there are still questions over whether the UN decision would be legally binding.
“No, the decision is not formally binding, so they are formally free to neglect it and go against it. But I think that will be impossible for Sweden to do in the light of the fact that they (UN panel) have interpreted Swedish law and said that he (Assange) is detained and if so, he’s been detained for three-and-a-half years which is way more than the maximum penalty he risks if he comes to Sweden and would be convicted.”
Swedish prosecutors say the UN decision had no formal impact on the rape investigation under Swedish law.
Christophe Peschoux, a member of the UN panel, explains that the working group is not a court but rather a body created by member states.
However Mr Peschoux says the panel adjudicates on the basis of international human rights law, which is binding for signatory states.
He outlines the two aspects of Mr Assange’s case which were under review.
“In the case of detention, there are two elements that the working group is looking into. One is the legality of the detention, the other is the arbitrariness of the detention. Because the detention can be legal, so it can be made according to existing laws and procedures, but these laws and procedures may be in violation of fundamental human rights. So if it’s the case, then the decision is legal but can be arbitrary.”
One of the most famous cases the UN panel once examined was that of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose arrest by authorities in her native Myanmar was deemed arbitrary, and whose liberation they recommended.
The request was ignored at the time.
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman says any decision by the UN panel examining Mr Assange’s appeal would not be legally binding.
He reiterated that an arrest warrant for Mr Assange will still be put into effect if he left the Ecuadorian embassy.
But Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for Wikileaks, says Mr Assange expects otherwise.
“Julian is very hopeful that he will win, it will be in his favour. He is expecting immediate reaction by the Swedish and UK governments, the lifting of the arrest warrant, that the UK will hand him his passport and he will have his liberty back.”