Wikileaks Moves to Farce: Will Assange Live Out His Days in an Ecuadorian Embassy?

by Peter Spiro

Story here, and a lot of play on this morning’s BBC Newshour.  This is the second time in recent months that so-called “diplomatic asylum” has crept into the headlines, last with respect to Chen Guangcheng in China in May. See this earlier post, which links to an excellent Foreign Policy background piece on diplomatic asylum.

Unlike the Chen case, I doubt very much that the UK will agree to Assange’s safe passage out of the country on the way to Ecuador even if Ecuador grants him asylum (which itself seems like a stretch, insofar as the Swedish sex case against Assange hardly qualifies as political persecution, at least not as customarily conceived – but see the Embassy of Ecuador’s statement here). So the best Assange can hope for is a long stay in non-country house quarters.

Speaking of Ecuador, is it trying to revive its imperial ambitions, in some postmodern way? See this engaging piece by Frank Jacobs, the master of cartographic stories, coincidentally out today in the NY Times (calling Duncan Hollis: interesting treaty tales therein).

http://opiniojuris.org/2012/06/20/wikileaks-moves-to-farce-will-assange-live-out-his-days-in-the-ecuadorian-embassy/

4 Responses

  1. I agree. As the International Court of Justice made clear in the Asylum case, there is no general rule permitting States to grant diplomatic asylum, a legal basis must exist in any particular case, and no such basis exists in Assange’s case. So the UK is not obliged to recognise any grant of asylum by Ecuador, still less to permit him safe passage out of the coutnry. Once off embassy premises, he can be arrested and detained under UK law.
    However, diplomatic premises are inviolable and the ICJ, in Haya de la Torre, stated that diplomats are under no obligation to assist the course of justice in the receiving State (although the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations seems now to argue the contrary), so it may be that Assange can simply remain in the Ecuadorian embassy. Haya de la Torre,after all, stayed in the Colombian embassy in Lima for five years, whilst Cardinal Mindszenty stayed in the US embassy in Budapest for 15.
    The Guardian newspaper, however, reports the Ecuadorian embassy to be quite small, so the mission may soon find Assange rather in the way. The one thing that can be predicted is that Assange is very unlikely be be visitng Ecuador in the near future.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/20/julian-assange-not-exempt-uk-law

  2. Assange’s true colors are in full flower.  Apparently he has a well-founded fear that Sweden will persecute him because of his race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.   

    The Ecuadorian Embassy released a statement today:

    “This afternoon Mr Julian Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking political asylum from the Ecuadorian government.

    As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito.

    While the department assesses Mr Assange’s application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government.

    The decision to consider Mr Assange’s application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”

    It will be interesting to see if Correa creates some pretext to grant Assange asylum, just to burnish his credentials as an anti-imperialist.

     

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  1. […] now that he has sought asylum at the Ecuadoran embassy in London has begun to roll in from the public international law blogs. I am basically unsympathetic to Mr. Assange, but in light of Letters Blogatory’s coverage of […]

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