by Chiranjibi Paudyal
August 20, 2012
JULIAN ASSANGE AT THE CENTER OF ANOTHER DIPLOMATIC FRACAS, THIS ONE BETWEEN GIANT BRITAIN AND TINY ECUADOR
LONDON, England, Aug. 16, 2012 -- Can a simple man destroy the diplomatic ties between nations? The answer is yes. The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who exposed U.S. diplomatic cable and purportedly defamed the most powerful country of the world. now has instigated a diplomatic debate and dispute about his future.
Relations between United Kingdom, once the greatest colonial power in the world, and Ecuador, a small, impoverished country in South America, are sour and in the verge of collapse due to the same man. The verbal arrows are piercing each other because of Mr. Assange, who has sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June. Ecuador has decided to grant asylum to him.
[Update: On Aug. 19, speaking from an ornate balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Mr. Assange called upon President Barack Obama and U.S. officials to suspend the prosecution of US Army Cpl. Bradley Manning, whom officials say was responsible for the leak of the cables, and to end its "witch hunt" aginst Wikileaks and himself.]
Mr. Assange is facing extradition to Sweden to face rather dubious charges of committing sexual assault on two Swedish ladies by virtue of merely having unprotected sex. Assange seems almost certain to be extradited to Sweden as British officials have said that he can be detained even within an embassy premises.
The British official's point is quite clear and simple, according to Ecuador's minister for foreign affairs, Ricardo Patino, who released details of the letter submitted through Britain's embassy in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.
The British letter said, "You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr. Assange in the current premises of the Embassy. We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr. Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us."
The diplomatic row has come to the surface two months after Mr. Assange suddenly walked into the embassy in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, from where he is almost certain to be extradited to the USA on charges stemming from publication of the diplomatic cables of US embassies around the world.
Though the diplomatic territory occupied by an official embassy is considered to be the national territory of the concerned embassy under international law, the British Foreign ministry says, "The 1987 law permits the revocation of diplomatic status of a building if the foreign power occupying ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post."
The Ecuadorian Minister responded that, "Ecuador, as a state that respects rights and justice and is a democratic and peaceful nation state, rejects in the strongest possible terms the explicit threat of the British official communication. This is unbecoming of a democratic, civilized and law-abiding state. If this conduct persists, Ecuador will take appropriate responses in accordance with international law."
An Ecuadorian government spokesman was quoted in the media as saying, "We are deeply shocked by the British government's threats against the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian Embassy and their suggestion that they may forcibly enter the embassy. This is a clear breach of international law and the protocols set out in the Vienna Convention."
Presumably, other nations could apply such a precedent to British embassies and those of other nations located in their territories.
British officials, however, say that they have not issued any threat against Ecuador.
The local media quoted a spokeswoman of the Britain's Foreign Ministry as saying "We have consistently made our position clear in our discussions with the government of Ecuador... . We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."
Meanwhile, three people are said to have been detained outside the embassy while protesting in support of the Wikileaks founder.
It is quite interesting to note that the man who exposed the American cables has been facing extradition on the charge assaultive sexual behavior by his former supporters - the two Swedish women.
At least for now, it will be quite difficult for Assange to go to Ecuador, as British officials can arrest him on his way to the airport if he is not detained in the embassy. Possibly, he could be named a diplomatic courier, or stowed away as diplomatic baggage on a flight to Quito, and thus enjoy immunity from arrest.