Diplomatic Showdown over Assange


Diplomatic Showdown over Assange

David G Silvers

The political asylum granted by Ecuador to the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may devolve into a mess if Britain resorts to a military option against Ecuador to forceably remove him from their Embassy. Despite a stern British warning coupled with a threat to the government of Ecuador to strip it of its diplomatic status and storm its embassy in London to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuador granted political asylum to Assange on Thursday ignoring British threats not to do so.

Charged with breach of his bail conditions, he is alleged to be involved in a sexual assault case in Sweden and is wanted by the police of Sweden. To avoid his extradition to Sweden, he has been holed up at the embassy of Ecuador seeking refuge since June. In reaction, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Ricardo Patino, categorically denounced the British threat as a “blatant disregard” for international law.

Expressing pragmatism during this ongoing diplomatic standoff, the government of Australia reiterated its offer of consular assistance to Assange, who is an Australian citizen. He is likely to be moved to the International Court of Justice at The Hague for securing safe passage from Britain to Ecuador if the British government continues to refuse the same.

Further, Patino criticized the British government’s move of invoking an obscure law that allows it to revoke the diplomatic status of an embassy under certain circumstances. Many of Assange’s supporters have argued that Ecuador is not a British colony. Hence, the decision to grant asylum to Mr. Assange was prompted by a genuine concern for his human rights as Ecuador’s government believed that his (Assange) fears of “political persecution” were “legitimate”. He fears that if extradited to Sweden he could be handed over to the American government for publishing countless diplomatic cables that endangered the lives of many.

Considering this fact as an important motive for granting diplomatic asylum to Assange, Patino said: “We believe that his fears are legitimate and that there are threats that he could face political persecution. The Ecuadorian government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us at our diplomatic missions, has decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr. Assange.”

Although Mr. Assange has described this courtesy by the Ecuadorian government as an “historic victory” his diplomatic asylum status may not give him any permanent relief due to American involvement. The British government is disappointed with the government of Ecuador for not extraditing Assange to Sweden because he has already exhausted all legal options during his stay in Britain.

It is, therefore, the firm resolve of the British government to expedite Assange’s extradition to Sweden as evidenced by the British Foreign Office’s statement, the “Ecuadorian government’s decision does not change that. We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act…We shall carry out that obligation.”

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