Safe Passage for Assange

August 23, 2012

In justifying the nuclear option – withdraw immunity from the Ecuadorian Embassy – the UK government claims, in a menacing letter it handed embassy staff,  that such protection is not available to harbour “alleged criminals, or frustrating the due legal process in a country”.

Recent history suggests that this is untrue.  In the UK, diplomats from Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone were suspected of being involved in human trafficking, one from Saudi Arabia was accused of sexual assault, and a member of the Pakistan embassy was accused of issuing death threats.  None of these incidents resulted in the UK surrounding their embassies and demanding that the alleged perpetrator be surrendered.  Nor was there even a hint that embassy ground might be invaded to take them into custody. In all these cases, the UK did grant safe passage.

In Assange’s case, it seems that the rules of the game have been changed, as the UK government threatens to invade the Ecuadorian embassy to get its man.  While they are deciding whether to employ a battering ram, police have surrounded the embassy, so that they can grab Assange should he go out for a breath of fresh air.  And they have refused Assange safe passage out of the country.

2 Comments for this entry

  • Whilst I agree with you up to a point, wouldn’t the difference be that the two diplomats were already subject to diplomatic immunity prior to the alleged offences and that that status remained unchanged, whereas Assange has been granted virtual immunity only after the alleged offences took place.

    • Harry says:

      Technically you are right. But he way the UK framed its letter to the Ecuadorian embassy is that it would not tolerate the premises being used to harbor wrongdoers. It does not distinguish between those with diplomatic immunity and those without. It the case that triggered the legislation permitting immunity to be breached, the Iraqis that shot the policewomen probably did have immunity.

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