17 August 2012

Ecuadorian asylum for Wikileaks Julian Assange

Ecuador on 16 August 2012 granted diplomatic asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, currently an advisory board member. An Australian citizen who has never been in Ecuador, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on 19 June. That followed British court decisions approving his extradition to Sweden on charges of rape and sexual assault against two women.

British government does not recognize the validity of diplomatic asylum, and will not in any circumstances permit safe passage of Assange to Ecuador or anywhere else for that matter. For the time being talks continue with the Ecuadorian government, but there has been mention that domestic law* permits the suspension of diplomatic immunity of an embassy in a specific situation of national interest. Should that occur police would forcibly enter the building and arrest the individual to be deported.

 Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act (1987)

Of course,  the international repercussions of such an unusual action would be hard to anticipate.

In the background is the possibility that the United States might request Assange's extradition from Sweden to face charges relating to the publication by Wikileaks in 2010 of a vast number of classified U.S. diplomatic cables and military documents relating to the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. Judged authentic, some were subsequently published in the New York Times and The Guardian.

In the United States Pfc. Bradley Manning, U.S. Army, intelligence analyst who passed on documents to Wikileaks, was arrested in May 2011 on 22 charges, including aiding the enemy, wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet, transmitting national defence information, and theft of public property or records. He has been imprisoned at Fort Meade, MD and Fort Leavenworth, KS, at times under harsh conditions, and is not facing court martial until February 2013.