Last week, the Ecuadorian Government granted Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, diplomatic asylum. Mark Weisbrot wrote in the Guardian as to why someone had to stand up for human rights, and HMG, in the person of William Hague, states in a remarkably balanced statement why the UK government feels bound to complete the extradition to Sweden.
- The UK has an independent judiciary and has bound the European Convention on Human Rights into its legal system.
- Sweden has an independent judiciary and is also bound by EU Human Rights law. (Although the European Arrest Warrant has been issued by a Prosecutor. See me here, and Helena Kennedy here….)
- While an embassy is equivalent to sovereign territory, it is questionable if asylum rights can be issued to visitors to or citizens of the hosting country. (If Assange was in Ecuador, then “Fair Do’s”, but he’s not. This is massively complicated by the fact that the OAS has a diplomatic asylum agreement. )
This last issue is very technical; bottom line is that the UK Government don’t recognise Ecuador’s rights to grant asylum to Assange (or anyone) from the Embassy. It seems that the UK embassy in Quito, suggested that the Government can unilaterally de-register the premises’ diplomatic immunity. Head of Legal on his blog argues that this would be in violation of the Vienna Treaty and subject to legal review.
The entry by the police of any Embassy without the permission of the Embassy or its Government would be an appalling act of barbarism; it would be in total contradiction of the UK’s historic commitment and behaviour; it didn’t even enter the Libyan embassy to investigate the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, a policewoman guarding their embassy. As Milton Stevenson points out to me, the UK Government did enter/storm the Iranian Embassy in 1980 although the Iranian Government had lost control of the building to armed intruders.
Despite this the UK government must not instruct its police or special forces to enter the embassy without the agreement of the Ecuadorian ambassador; although HMG deny that they are planning this.
I wrote the bulk of this article on the 16th, the day the story broke, it was completed on the 19th before his speech from the Embassy balcony. I stand by my appeal not to enter the Embassy without permission, but I think the Guardian Editorial which I read later in the day of the 16th sums up my feelings well, Julian Assange case: stay patient and do the right thing
- He shouldn’t have applied for asylum, it demeans it and the people it is truly designed to protect.
- The Government of Ecuador should not have granted it because he is a fugitive from justice.
- The UK and EU governments have the right to deny diplomatic asylum.
- The UK government should not enter the Embassy without permission.
- The UK government should deny safe passage and fulfill their European Arrest Warrant liabilities i.e. deliver Assange to Sweden
I am still not sure about the European Arrest Warrant if not issued by a Judge or Court but then our i.e. English police arrests are not court supervised and the EAW clearly can be. I feel we should probably place a minimal penalty requirement on them, but I don’t think this would impact the Assange case, and may have an impact on EU member state sentencing policies.
It’s interesting how the internet works, when it works well. Since posting the article, one of my twitter correspondents posted the URL for the Assange vs. Swedish Prosecution Authority High Court ruling, calling out para 142, which explains the Swedish prosecution rules and states that the arrest warrants have been issued by courts. Paul Bernel points me at Anya Palmer’s Storify where she explores in more detail the Swedish legal system and debunks some of the claims of Assange’s supporters, and examines the UK’s High and Supreme Court rulings. ( Edited 20th August 2012 )