Dave Lindorff
Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
“What this astonishing incendiary reaction by the British Foreign Office to Assange’s grant of asylum by Ecuador makes abundantly clear is that Assange and his Wikileaks organization are truly feared by Britain and the U.S.”

We Don’t Need No Bloody Treaties: Britain Blows a Fuse over Ecuador’s Asylum Grant to Wikileaks’ Assange

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The concerted and orchestrated campaign to capture Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and ultimately to hand him over to the tender mercies of a kangaroo court in the US, where he would likely be tried for spying and other possibly capital offenses, continues as Britain threatens the Ecuadoran Embassy with a police assault.

According to the newspaper the Australian, a News Corp. property and Australian flagship of media baron Rupert Murdoch, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says he and the Ecuadoran ambassador received a written message yesterday from the British Foreign Office warning that Britain might send police to “assault” the country’s embassy and forcibly remove Assange so as to hand him over to Sweden to face questioning on several controversial sexual assault claims made by women there.

Although the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, passed in 1961 and signed by Britain, Sweden and the US, along with nearly every country in the world, clearly grants embassies the status of being considered the official territory of the country represented by the embassy, thus putting them beyond all laws of the host country, Britain is citing a 1987 UK law that states that when a foreign nation ''ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post,'' the Vienna Convention no longer applies, and the building is no longer beyond the reach of British police.

The text of the threatening UK letter, released by the Ecuadoran government, reads:

“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...

“...We need to reiterate that we consider the continued use of the diplomatic premises in this way incompatible with the Vienna Convention and unsustainable and we have made clear the serious implications that this has for our diplomatic relations.”

A letter sent to the government of Ecuador by the British Embassy in Quito was even more explicit, saying:

“We must arrest Mr. Assange and extradite him to Sweden. Should you grant him asylum, and then request safe passage for him, we will refuse it. We consider Assange’s use of diplomatic premises to be incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and not sustainable. Under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, we have a legal basis to arrest Mr. Assange inside your embassy. If you cannot resolve the issue of Mr. Assange’s presence on your premises, then this route is open to us.” 

Clearly this threat is ridiculous on its face, given that the Vienna Convention is unambiguous in stating that embassies are inviolate. As Article 22 of the Convention puts it:

1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enterthem, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premisesof the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of themission or impairment of its dignity.

3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means oftransport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

There's not a lot of wiggle room left there for sending police barging into an embassy to grab someone. The British government’s assertion that somehow the Ecuador Embassy, by granting Assange asylum from deportation to Sweden and possibly to the US (which reportedly has a secret sealed indictment waiting for him), is “misusing” its embassy grounds and is thus not protected by the Vienna Convention is both absurd and dangerous. The ability of embassies to grant people asylum without fear of invasion by forces from the host country has been recognized for centuries, with its roots going back to the Greeks and Egyptians, and even at the coldest period of the Cold War, it was honored by rival states like Britain, the US, and the Soviet Union. If Assange, whose most serious “crime” at this point is skipping out on bail in Britain, can be rousted from asylum in a foreign embassy, what does that mean for those people charged with “crimes” in countries like China or Cuba who may in the future seek asylum from persecution or prosecution in a British or a US embassy? How would the late astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, an acknowledged intellectual mentor to many of the young activists in the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989, who after the brutal government crackdown holed up with his wife for months in the US Embassy in Beijing, have fared under such a warped interpretation of the Vienna Convention? How would Chen Guangcheng, the blind dissident in China who escaped house arrest and fled to the US Embassy, have fared?

It’s significant that last year, the US government, including even President Obama at a press conference, tried to claim that Raymond Davis (whom they all knew was a contract agent and paid killer from the CIA), was immune from arrest and prosecution in Pakistan even after he had brazenly slaughtered two young men on motorcycles, shooting them both in the back and then executing them with point-blank shots to the head, all in a crowded street in broad daylight. Their argument: he worked either for the US Consulate in Lahore or the US Embassy in Karachi. And he was nabbed at the scene of the crime. He wasn’t even on protected consular grounds. (In the end, Pakistan let Davis escape the country, after the US paid death payments to Davis’s victims’ families in accordance with Sharia law.)

Actually, when it comes to use of an embassy or a consulate “in a way incompatable with the Vienna Convention,” the US and Britain, which post CIA agents or MI6 agents undercover as diplomats in most of their foreign embassies, and which have long used their so-called diplomatic “pouches” (which in the US case can often be entire shipping containers!), immune from customs inspections, to transport weapons to favored terrorist groups inside countries like Chile or Iraq or Iran, are really guilty of using their embassies and consulates in ways that are "incompatible" with the Vienna Convention.

During the US occupation of Iraq, there were a number of solid reports of weapons being smuggled into the country via diplomatic pouch to both countries for use by Iraqi operatives working outside the law, and for smuggling onward to groups inside Iran. Just today, Iran’s PressTV reports that the US Consulate in the southern Iraqi city of Basra was found to have obtained, through diplomatic pouch, a shipment of light and heavy weapons intended for smuggling to terror groups operating inside of Iran. At one point during the occupation, several British agents operating out of the British Consulate in Basra, were caught by Iraqi police driving a car while dressed in local arab garb. Found in the car were guns, RPGs, and bombs and wiring. They were arrested, but were later rescued by British military forces who stormed the police station. No arrests were made by Iraqi police of any British consular personnel following this incident, because of the Vienna Convention.

Why would Britain risk destroying that same Vienna Convention, which has been around since 1961, and even longer in other legal iterations, over such a minor case as ducking out on bail, particularly as Assange has never even been charged with a crime in Sweden, where a British Court says he has to be deported on an Interpol warrant? (He’s just wanted in Sweden at this point only for questioning, technically). After all, Britain is no longer a global power, and stands to lose a lot if its own embassies no longer can count on protection under the Vienna Convention.

The answer to that would seem to be that it is the US, which despite its denials seems to desperately want to get Assange and prosecute him for leaking secret cables, which is behind this farce. The US, unlike Britain, is a global power to reckon with, and does not have to worry overmuch about its embassies being over-run (bombed maybe, but aside from the Iranian US Embassy occupation, which was not entirely government sanctioned, there has not been a US Embassy taken over by government action, and there is unlikely to be). The costs to the host country would simply be too great.

As Ecuador has told Britain, an assault on an embassy is technically an act of war, as embassies are viewed legally as the territory of the home country they represent.

Already, there are threats in other countries to invade and take over British embassies if Britain makes good on its threat and has police assault the Ecuador embassy. It’s a fair bet that in Latin America, where there is broad support for Ecuador’s principled stand, and where asylum in embassies has a hallowed tradition and has saved many people during coups and dictatorships, it’s a good bet that British embassies would take a heavy beating if Assange is dragged out of Ecuador’s embassy. US embassies too could take a hit, since Latin Americans are acutely aware of America’s role in this affair, and have little love lost for America and its penchant for pushing its weight around. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has called for a meeting of the Organization of American States to address the British threat to his country’s sovereignty.

Odds are that Britain is bluffing, although it has massed police and vans around the Ecuador Embassy building, which, unlike the fort-like US embassies around the world, sits unguarded and unwalled on a street in London, though the question of how or when Assange will be able to escape the embassy and gain safe passage out of Britain and to Ecuador, and whether he could subsequently avoid being kidnapped there and “renditioned” to the US, remains. British supporters of Assange have been putting out calls on social media for people to mass around the embattled embassy to protect it against a police assault. Some have already been arrested doing so there.

What this astonishing incendiary reaction by the British Foreign Office to Assange’s grant of asylum by Ecuador makes abundantly clear is that Assange and his Wikileaks organization are truly feared by Britain and the US. His organization’s ability to expose the war crimes, the war criminals, and the international treachery of these two countries and their allies around the world is one of the biggest threats they face, and they are proving it by their desperate efforts to neutralize or eliminate him.



ABOUT Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is an investigative reporter, a columnist for CounterPunch, and a contributor to Businessweek, The Nation, Extra! and Salon.com. He received a Project Censored award in 2004. Dave is also a founding member of the online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening! at www.thiscantbehappening.net

ETNIKS's picture

PLEASE, SIGN PETITION for

PLEASE, SIGN PETITION for Julian Assange FREEDOM

Petition to the Swedish Prosecutor to Stop Extradition OR Interview Julian Assange in Britain

Please Sign Petition
https://www.change.org/petitions/swedish-director-public-prosecutor-stop...

I cannot imagine how

I cannot imagine how humiliating this must be for the average Briton. To watch their Sovereign publicly called to heel as a servant for their American masters on the worldwide stage! This Prime Minister and his government has no shame! No self respect! No courage at all! All that feel good nationalism during the Olympic games and then instantly this reminder - "Don't forget your just the help."

They fear Julian Assange

They fear Julian Assange because he is telling the truth about our Fascist government.

Chevron and all big oil

Chevron and all big oil should be tried and found guilty as people.

http://www.chevroninecuador.com/

The Swedish police could

The Swedish police could QUESTION Assange INSIDE of the Ecuadorean embassy in London about his having sex without a condom in Sweden, but Sweden refuses because this matter is about getting Assange to Sweden for extradition to the US for exposing Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama as a war criminal where Assange will be imprisoned for life or executed for it.

Exactly.

Exactly.

It seems very easy for the

It seems very easy for the author of this article to summarily and arbitrarily dismiss Assange's crime as one of just 'skipping out on bail in Britain'. I suppose that if accused criminals, of the ilk of Milosevic or Goebels or Khaddafi, sought such protection in the embassy of a rogue country, then this would also be protected under the quoted Vienna Convention. Just like the case of the protection offered to the shooter in the Lebanese embassy who murdered a British police officer. Assange has violated a British law by cowardly escaping from authorities and seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy....he broke British law in Britain and he must answer for it. On his efforts to avoid going to Sweden to answer sexual assault charges, he is a coward, plain and simple, and his claims which have found cult support among the likes of the author are just another form of manipulation which Assange has practiced on the naive over the course of his shady career.

I think you have been

I think you have been brainwashed by the two worst criminal countries in the world today, one a former empire and the other a current empire. It is easy for these two nations to perversly conspire together and to push a third nation into assisting them to capture and detain a couageous individual who has NOT been charged with any crime (so please don't stoop to the ridiculous in comparing him to criminals). I consider his move to be brilliant. It has stopped these two evil empires right in their tracks. Good for him. Now their opposition to the Ecuadorian protection is not only perverse it is also unethical and immoral.

Assange has not broken any

Assange has not broken any laws since he is only wanted for questioning in Sweeden. A coward- I think not- but rather a hero in my estimation for exposing criminal activities on the part of the US and Britain. I wonder if Subchainer would seek prosecution of Bush, Cheney, and Obama for war crimes and violations of our constitutional rights repeatedly? And let's not forget the banksters that have manipulated Wall Street and the housing market for their criminal gain.

"What this astonishing incendiary reaction by the British Foreign Office to Assange’s grant of asylum by Ecuador makes abundantly clear is that Assange and his Wikileaks organization are truly feared by Britain and the US. His organization’s ability to expose the war crimes, the war criminals, and the international treachery of these two countries and their allies around the world is one of the biggest threats they face, and they are proving it by their desperate efforts to neutralize or eliminate him." The author pegged it correctly as to why the US and Britain want Assange.

So you're comparing Assange

So you're comparing Assange to Milosevic, Goebels and Khaddafi? Really? Who did Assange murder? Who did he torture? The US and British governments, by contrast, have blood all over their hands and the criminals responsible have never been tried, punished or held accountable. Shady career? What would that be, telling the truth about US and British crimes against humanity? Are we all supposed to remain silent, like obedient sheep, while our governments murder innocent civillians in our name? Assange has not been accused of any crime (because he has committed none), he is only "wanted for questioning". If that's all they want, why won't the Swedish prosecuters come to Britain and question Assange there? Julian has repeatedly offered to answer any questions they want to ask, but knows if he sets foot on Swedish soil they will kidnap him and send him to the US to be tortured like Bradley Manning, which is something the Swedish government has done before. Wake up man, this is a political trial through and through, and has nothing whatsoever to do with justice!

Well said and accurate.

Well said and accurate.

The law is an ass! Especially

The law is an ass! Especially when it serves as a tool to suppress the people and real justice. We don't want your 19th Century justice. You speak for the 1% filth.

I dare say the cowards are

I dare say the cowards are both the United States and Britain, neither of which want the gory truth about our illegal wars to be known. I suspect the 'rape' charges that Sweden is trying to pin on Assangne are an excuse to reel him in before more 'truths' about war crimes are revealed to the people. I have yet to see where Assange as revealed any 'military information' that would endanger our troops or our National defense. Wilkileaks is merely shining a light on the dirty politicians and bankers that have created world turmoil. For one, I'm glad Ecuador has offered Assange refuge. The best of luck to Julian Assange for having the courage to shine a light on the corruption of our leaders worldwide. I hope he is successful in taking them all down. May he arrive in Ecuador safe and sound, ready to resume his role as whistle-blower in his efforts to expose the truth behind our Governments antics (on both sides of the pond).

can't take the light shined

can't take the light shined on you and your mates, right you authoritarian ass licker. British law holds about as much respect as American law. Both bought and paid for by the wealthy. People need to wake the fuck up.

Totally agree with our

Totally agree with our comment Whitemellon

Britain reserves the right to

Britain reserves the right to invade another country, as needed.

Britain is still acting like

Britain is still acting like a colonial power but when countries like Equator stand up to a former super power, one must wonder if it has any clout left without its bullying partner -the US- to come to its rescue.

kangaroo court in the US

kangaroo court in the US ??????????? ask chevron about eucador courts

Perhaps there are kangaroo

Perhaps there are kangaroo courts in eucador wherever that is. We are however, discussing Ecuador.

sorry about my typo causing

sorry about my typo causing your pannies to bunch

That's good. Correct a

That's good. Correct a "typo" with another "typo". What are "pannies"?

And I suppose Bradley Manning

And I suppose Bradley Manning will get a fair trial after Obama already accused him of being a traitor? Manning, Assange, and other whistleblowers must be protected so what's left of our fuctioning democracy can be protected.

There is nothing left of our

There is nothing left of our democracy. We are busy disenfranchising citizens, taking away women's rights, allowing our elected officials and Supreme Court to sell our country to the highest bidders in order to amass obscene personal wealth, protecting corporate criminals from prosecution for bringing the world to its economic knees, etc., etc., etc., and now jeopardizing the sovereignty of embassies around the world. America has erased its standing in the world and paved the way for a powerful descent. It seems that when a country loses its way, there is no way to go but down.

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