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From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Ecuador had no choice
Thursday 16 August 2012
This is not just because of Quito’s values of “human rights, democracy and peace,” as Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino stressed, but as a response to Britain’s attempt to bludgeon Ecuador into submission.
Foreign Secretary William Hague‘s attempt to put pressure on President Rafael Correa‘s government by “reminding” it of a 1987 law allowing the British government to revoke the diplomatic status of foreign embassies was an act of ham-fisted arrogance.
Patino’s response of bringing the threat into the open and telling the Foreign Office: “We are not a British colony” was entirely appropriate.
The Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 was passed in very specific circumstances.
It followed the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher by a bullet fired from the Libyan embassy or people’s bureau, as it was called.
Under the Vienna convention on consular relations, police could not enter the people’s bureau to investigate the crime.
The key section of the Act opening the way to revoking diplomatic status stipulates that this can happen if a state “ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post.”
There is no way that Ecuador’s granting of political asylum to Assange fits that definition. It is a right that all states have.
If, for any reason, the US embassy in London were to allow someone to take up residence pending consideration of a political asylum application, does anyone imagine that Hague and his officials would be whispering to Washington that its embassy’s status might be revoked?
Merely asking the question lays bare the unattractive nature of the British government’s conduct.
It feels that it has the right to throw its weight around against countries it views as less powerful or influential and, by so doing, it confirms the negative image so many Latin American states have of Britain.
Ecuador has not granted political asylum as a knee-jerk reaction. Its diplomats have been consulting British, Swedish and US officials over how best to resolve this matter.
Two Swedish women have accused Assange of unspecified sexual offences, although no charges have yet been proferred.
Assange and his supporters insist that these allegations are politically motivated, but the women’s right to have their complaints taken seriously and to see the man they accuse face due legal process merits respect.
The complicating factor in this scenario is that the US will not confirm or deny that it will apply for Assange’s extradition once he is removed to Sweden and Stockholm refuses to rule out handing him over to Washington for a show trial over his leaking of US diplomatic messages.
Swedish police could have interviewed Assange in London over the sexual assault claims but chose not to, which raises fears that Sweden, Britain and the US may be engaged in a deceitful charade to use one legal process as the pretext to set in train another related to WikiLeaks.
Assange has little chance of justice in a US court, which makes a diplomatic solution of this legal maze crucial.
British government threats and pomposity are unhelpful and ultimately self-defeating.
Britain Threatens To Storm Ecuador Embassy To Seize Assange: here.
‘Assange will not get safe passage out of UK’: here.