Breaking… Ecuador grants political asylum (let’s hope its of the kind – see below – that will work). Just in case, here are the codes for Wikileaks insurance files now released: 2dc050d5e941edd33f3da337040bccda5dd1f6d3 or the SHA1SUM for the WikiLeaks insurance file (insurance.aes256): cce54d3a8af370213d23fcbfe8cddc8619a0734c (note if you cannot access Piratebay then go here).
There is only one way that Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, can leave the Ecuadorean Embassy in London without being arrested. The Ecuadorean Government will need to appoint him as Hon Consul for another country (other than UK or a country with an extradition agreement with the US) or as their UN ambassador (none of which requires British Govt approval) and issue him with a diplomatic passport. Anything less will not work as the British authorities have upped the stakes and made it patently clear that they will ignore protocol and conventions to arrest Assange even if he is granted political asylum. With his diplomatic immunity of this order, if Assange chose to leave Britain he should do so by private plane, organised by Ecuador and within 31 days. Below, we produce the necessary legislation to dispel a few myths about asylum and embassy status.
First, a summary of recent events… Last night, in preparation for a scheduled announcement by the Government of Ecuador on whether or not it will grant asylum to Assange, around 30 police surrounded the Ecuador Embassy in London and several police officers, together with civilian officials, entered the building. It is not known whether they then entered that part of the building where the Ecuadorean Embassy has its offices. They would only be able to do so if invited by Ecuadorian Embassy staff. After three hours the police left, leaving a smaller contingent outside the building. Around 30 protesters were also outside the Embassy. For a while, a live video feed was available on the Internet, showing what was happening, but this stopped after a couple of hours after a sustained DDoS attack claimed by AntiLeaks. The Ecuadorean Government issued a statement explaining that the British Government had threatened to remove the diplomatic status of its embassy in London. In Australia, Senator Scott Ludlam, the leader of the Greens Party in the Senate, made a powerful speech condemning the British Government and urging the Australian Government to intervene. His motion was carried. Around the world, activists are threatening to invade British embassies if the British Government carries out it’s threat in contravention of the Vienna Convention (see below). Meanwhile, no doubt Assange’s lawyers are advising him on what his next steps should be.
So, let’s remind ourselves of the bigger picture. If Assange does manage to leave Britain, from that point on he will be constantly looking over his shoulder to avoid those who want him dead.. This has to be said. And the US, the UK, the Swedish and Australian governments will be morally complicit as it clear they have collaborated in their attempt to silence Wikileaks and open democracy.
Read more to find out what the UK legislation allows and does not allow…
1. According to Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, under Section ‘Acquisition and loss by land of diplomatic or consular status’ the British Government can:
Subject to subsection (2) below, where a State desires that land shall be diplomatic or consular premises, it shall apply to the Secretary of State for his consent to the land being such premises. A State need not make such an application in relation to land if the Secretary of State accepted it as diplomatic or consular premises immediately before the coming into force of this section. In no case is land to be regarded as a State’s diplomatic or consular premises for the purposes of any enactment or rule of law unless it has been so accepted or the Secretary of State has given that State consent under this section in relation to it; and if—
(a) a State ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post; or
(b) the Secretary of State withdraws his acceptance or consent in relation to land,.
It thereupon ceases to be diplomatic or consular premises for the purposes of all enactments and rules of law. The Secretary of State shall only give or withdraw consent or withdraw acceptance if he is satisfied that to do so is permissible under international law. If a State intends to cease using land as premises of its mission or as consular premises, it shall give the Secretary of State notice of that intention, specifying the date on which it intends to cease so using them. In any proceedings a certificate issued by or under the authority of the Secretary of State stating any fact relevant to the question whether or not land was at any time diplomatic or consular premises shall be conclusive of that fact.
In other words, the British Government has the option of declassifying the diplomatic status of the Ecuadorean Embassy. To do so, would be rare (the only other time it has done this was when it closed the Libyan Embassy down) and would create a major international incident. It would result in all relations between the UK and Ecuador being cut and would also invite criticism from the international community. Further, it would set a precedent and would affect the status if embassies worldwide. But this is a risk the British Government is clearly prepared to take. Either that, or this is one huge bluff.
2. According to the UK Crown Prosecution Service document on diplomatic and diplomatic premises
The immunities granted to diplomatic staff, and their families, are set out in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (“VCDR”) (and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 – CRA 1968) to which the United Kingdom is a party. The relevant provisions of the Convention are applied in the UK by the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964 (“DPA 1964″), section 2. Diplomatic immunity in the UK is conferred on all entitled members of a foreign mission (and entitled family members forming part of their household, provided they are not nationals of the UK) who have been notified to, and accepted by, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as performing a diplomatic function. Immunity is dependent on rank, and ranges from immunity from criminal and civil and administrative jurisdiction to immunity for official acts only. On cessation of their exempt status, diplomats and their dependants have 31 days with privileges and immunity in which to depart the UK. The VCDR obliges diplomats and their families to respect the laws and regulations of the host country. The DPA 1964 confers immunity from criminal jurisdiction on diplomatic agents and their families, who are inviolable.
Also… While diplomatic premises in the UK are part of UK territory, they are inviolable and may not be entered without the consent of the Ambassador or Head of Mission. (See DPA 1964 section 2(1) and schedule 3.) Any offences committed in diplomatic premises in the UK are triable under the ordinary principles of English law, subject to the principles of diplomatic immunity for those who have it. Those who do not have this status (whatever their nationality) can be prosecuted as normal, as for example happened in the case of the terrorists who seized the Iranian embassy in London in 1980.
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