assange protest
© AFP / Daniel Leal-Olivas
United Nations human rights experts have voiced criticism over the UK's decision to imprison WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for nearly one year for skipping bail, describing the harsh sentence as excessive.

Comprised of five independent experts, the UN rights group said that Assange's 50-week internment at the high-security Belmarsh prison made it seem "as if he were convicted for a serious criminal offense."

Claiming that Assange had received a "disproportionate sentence," the UN experts argued in a statement that his punishment "appears to contravene principles of necessity and proportionality." The statement also described the skipping bail charge as a relatively "minor violation."

The same panel issued an opinion in 2015 that Assange was being arbitrarily detained, after the WikiLeaks figurehead was forced to seek political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, in order to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.

A London court ruled on May 1 that Assange was guilty of "violating bail conditions." The Southwark Crown Court in London said that he had shown disdain for the British justice system by skipping bail.

During the hearing, Assange apologized for not honoring the terms of his temporary release, but insisted that his decision to seek asylum was "the best or perhaps the only thing" that he could have done under the circumstances.

He now faces the possibility of extradition to the US, where he is wanted for "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion." An extradition hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday, but has been adjourned until May 30.

WikiLeaks denounced its founder's 50-week sentence as "shocking" and "vindictive." The outlet also expressed "grave concerns" as to whether Assange will receive a fair extradition hearing.

Assange was forcibly dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy last month after the South American nation decided to evict him.