regular video updates from the Ecuadorian Embassy from London
Julian Assange: how WikiLeaks founder could leave Ecuador’s London embassy
From giving diplomatic status to smuggling him out, here are options that Ecuador could try
- guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 August 2012 18.52 BST
So what happens next?
Could Ecuador give Assange a diplomatic passport?
Such passports are supposed to facilitate travel but do not confer immunity from the laws of other states.
Could Ecuador grant Assange diplomatic status?
This would be a bold move by Ecuador, and would ratchet up the crisis. Article 29 of the Vienna Convention states that those with diplomatic status are immune from prosecution. It reads: “The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving state shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.”
But there is a countervailing obligation on Ecuador to respect the laws of the UK and not to interfere in Britain’s internal affairs.
Joanne Foakes, a former Foreign Office lawyer now based at the international think tank Chatham House, said: “In principle, a state can freely appoint anyone as a member of its mission, apart from its head of mission. But if they were to seek to do so now, it would be an obvious device to evade the laws of the receiving state, the UK. In these circumstances the UK may feel justified in repudiating such an appointment.”
Could embassy officials put Assange in a diplomatic vehicle and drive him to the airport?
Diplomatic vehicles are immune from searches from the receiving country, in this case the UK. But even if Assange managed to get into an embassy car without being arrested, he would at some stage have to get out to board a plane. At that point he will have lost the protection conferred by being technically on Ecuadorean soil, and would be back under UK jurisdiction and liable for arrest.
Could he be smuggled out – or placed in a crate or bag that has diplomatic protection?
As far-fetched as this sounds, it has been tried before in the UK.
In 1984 an attempt was made to abduct a Nigerian politician, Umaru Dikko, from Britain by placing him in a crate and attempting to ship him back to Nigeria. Those involved tried, but failed, to label the crate correctly as a diplomatic package or bag.
The Vienna Convention says: “The diplomatic bag shall not be opened or detained.”
But such a package is not immune from scanning, or from thermal imaging, which would pick up body heat from inside any such package. In such circumstances, UK authorities may be entitled to open the package and seize the concealed Assange.
Julian Assange ‘doing all right’ amid Ecuador asylum row
WikiLeaks founder spends comfortable night at Ecuadorean embassy in London as protesters plan show of solidarity
- guardian.co.uk, Friday 17 August 2012 11.41 BST
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent a comfortable night in the Ecuadorean embassy in London after the South American country’s decision to offer him asylum, and is said to be “doing all right”, according to a diplomatic source.
More than a dozen Metropolitan police officers stood guard outside the redbrick Knightsbridge mansion block on Friday morning, accompanied by a handful of his supporters who are understood to be planning a show of solidarity and direct action tonight in protest over the British government’s treatment of Assange.
A strong international media presence remained behind barriers outside, where gutters were full of beer cans and coffee cups.
One supporter, Tristan Woodwards, said he had spent the night camped out opposite the embassy to show sympathy. “I’m here to support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and to show my disgust at the British government’s threat to a sovereign nation’s embassy,” he said. “It’s completely wrong. People talk about the [assault] allegations, but [the UK government’s reaction] seems over the top for someone who’s supposed to have committed a crime.”
Another supporter, Tammy Samede, said she had decided to keep watch on the embassy to make sure the government acted in accordance with international law. “To be honest, I’m not a fan of the British government for a lot reasons,” she said. “But they’re using the need to question him to get him out of here and get him to Sweden, who will extradite him to the US, who will probably imprison him forever or execute him.”
Samede said that while the women who had made the assault allegations had every right to due process, the case should be dealt with “in the proper manner and not in the political manner”. She said Assange had offered to answer questions by videolink, but British authorities seemed unwilling to let him.
Asked how long she would keep vigil, she said: “It’s not the most comfortable place, but standing up for what’s right is never comfortable. That’s why [Assange] is stuck in a room without a window in the embassy.”