Taking note of UK/Ecuador diplomatic row
ALL GOVERNMENTS of the 15-member Caribbean Community would be expected to pay close attention to developments relating to the British government’s threat to have the police enter Ecuador’s embassy in London and arrest Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange, for extradition to Sweden for questioning on sex assault claims.
This threat of forced entry into the embassy of a sovereign state has already provoked sharp exchanges between the British and Ecuadorean governments and has also resulted in an expression of diplomatic support for Ecuador by the Union of South American Nations at a meeting of their Foreign Ministers.
On Friday, Foreign Ministers of the wider Organisation of American States (OAS) are scheduled to meet in a special session to consider the implications of the threatened action by Britain.
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has stressed that the threat of invasion by the police of Ecuador’s embassy “is a problem that concerns us. It is the inviolability of diplomatic missions of all members of the OAS”.
Assange, a 41-year-old Australian, has emerged as an international controversial personality ever since his WikiLeaks network embarrassed and angered the United States by the unauthorized unloading of massive confidential diplomatic messages that Washington said posed a threat to national security.
He lost an appeal against extradition last May and, while on bail, sought asylum in Ecuador’s diplomatic mission. Assange’s contention is that the sexual assault allegations with two former WikiLeaks volunteers in Sweden were false and designed to facilitate the Swedish authorities to eventually hand him over to a third country, namely the US.
In granting his request last week for political asylum, the Ecuadorean government accused the administration of Prime Minister David Cameron of behaving as if Ecuador were a “British colony”. It vowed that while it was willing to cooperate with Sweden, it would be based on an understanding that Assange would not be then extradited.
Britain has been arguing that under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 it could potentially lift Ecuador’s diplomatic status to facilitate the police to enter the building and arrest Assange for breaching the terms of his bail.
However, human rights lawyers and others versed in international law have been referencing the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that offers age-old guidance on the “rule of inviolability” that’s applicable to the case of Assange’s rights and the status of the Ecuadorean embassy.
We await the outcome of Friday’s session of the OAS and, naturally, the ultimate politically mature understanding between Britain and Ecuador.