Britain's threat to Ecuador 'without precedent', says international law expert

Britain's threat to Ecuador 'without precedent', says international law expert

August 16, 2012

BRITIAIN'S threat to revoke Ecuador's diplomatic immunity and arrest Julian Assange is "extraordinary and without precedent", an Australian international law expert has said.

"It highlights how serious the United Kingdom government is about extraditing Assange to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over sexual assault," the Australian National University's Don Rothwell said in a statement.

"If the United Kingdom revoked the Embassy's diplomatic protection and entered the Embassy to arrest Assange, Ecuador could rightly view this as a significant violation of international law which may find its way before an international court."

The WikiLeaks founder sought refuge in Ecuador's London embassy on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault.

But Britain is now threatening to revoke the embassy's diplomatic immunity and take Mr Assange into custody for breaching his bail conditions.

Britain's Foreign Office has issued a statement citing a 1987 British law it says permits the revocation of diplomatic status of a building if the foreign power occupying it "ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post."Ecuador says it will announce its decision on the WikiLeaks founder's asylum application at 10.00pm AEST on Thursday.

The British Foreign Office said in its statement that it hoped a "mutually acceptable" solution could still be found, but warned it would do all it could to extradite the former hacker.

"We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture," the spokesman said of the letter.

"Throughout this process have we have drawn the Ecuadorians' attention to relevant provisions of our law, whether, for example, the extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or to the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK.

"We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."

Professor Rothwell says Mr Assange's chances of finding safe haven in Ecuador are rapidly diminishing.

"Irrespective of the outcome of this diplomatic impasse between Ecuador and the United Kingdom, the prospects of Assange enjoying any level of protection, even if he was granted asylum by Ecuador, now appear very remote given the determination of the UK to extradite him to Sweden," Prof Rothwell said.

Mr Assange, a 41-year-old Australian national, fears he could be extradited to the United States from Sweden to stand trial for espionage over the leaked US diplomatic cables and military logs he published on his whistleblower website.

Ecuador's president has previously expressed support for Mr Assange and WikiLeaks, and says his asylum application letter impressed him.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange's mother Christine Assange has said it would be an act of war for police to enter Ecuadorian embassy in London where he is seeking political asylum.

Mrs Assange is furious the police may be sent in to arrest her son and said they would be acting on behalf of the United States.

She said it is a threat to a sovereign country and is a way to intimidate Ecuador into not to grant alyssum.

"This is a sort of declaration of war," she told AAP.

"The US has degenerated into a rogue state.

"What the US wants, the US gets from its allies, regardless of if it's legal or if it's ethical or in breach of human or legal rights."

"We're all lackeys."

She called on Attorney-General Nicola Roxon to protest the threat but said she wouldn't because she too is a "simpering sycophant" of the US.

"Her job is to represent Australia as a sovereign country, not to represent US interests as the 51st state of the US which is all they've done ever since they've been in government," she said.