It appears that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has finally found a way to escape from his imprisonment at the Ecuadorean embassy in London: he has apparently been made a member of Ecuador’s diplomatic corps, which, if true, will provide him with legally unassailable diplomatic immunity. If this is the case he will soon be free to leave the Ecuadorean embassy in London and leave England, free to travel to and live in any country where Ecuador maintains an embassy – or to simply establish a new home in Ecuador!
The revelation seems to have been completely missed by all of the world’s press. We have been following developments in the case via the @wikileaks and @JulianAssange Twitter accounts and we missed the story ourselves. This past week, as Assange was observing a strange period of Twitter silence, he sent out a series of cryptic messages that had us guessing along with most of the other WikiLeaks supporters as to what was going on. We found out that Assange had been granted Ecuadorean citizenship on the 10th, but we had no idea what was actually going on until 13 January, when we saw a Twitter reference to an article published in the British newspaper “The Guardian”: “Julian Assange’s Bid for Diplomatic Status Rejected by UK Government”
The article revealed that “The [British – IWPCHI] Foreign Office has turned down a request from the Ecuadorian government to grant the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, diplomatic status as a means of breaking the stalemate over his continued presence in the UK […] An FCO spokesperson, confirming the latest attempt to resolve the impasse, said on Wednesday night: ‘The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter. Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.'”
It is not clear if the Guardian’s reporter or editors even understood the meaning hidden in plain sight in their own article; the only reason the Ecuadoreans would have made this approach to the British Foreign Office in the first place would have been if they had, in fact, already made Assange a member of their diplomatic corps. This is because, under international law, there is no requirement for any nation to request permission from any host country’s government in order to be allowed to make any person whom they choose to be made a member of their diplomatic corps! The Foreign Office was asserting – falsely – that it alone had the right to grant, or not to grant Ecuador “permission” to make Julian Assange a member of their diplomatic corps.
Former British Ambassador Craig Murray pointed this out in commentary on his own website:
“It is for the government of Ecuador, not the UK, to determine who is an Ecuadorian citizen. It is for the government of Ecuador, not the UK, to determine who is an Ecuadorian diplomat […] [t]he Foreign and Commonwealth Office appears to be putting out a story that it has refused to accredit Assange as an Ecuadorian diplomat […] [b]ut [Ecuador] has every right to appoint Assange, now an Ecuadorian citizen, as an Ecuadorian diplomat if it so chooses. Ecuador cannot tell the UK who may or may not be a British diplomat, and the converse applies. ” [Source: craigmurray.org.uk “Ecuador and Assange”, 12 January 2018]
Murray goes on to explain:
“The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations – to which the UK and Ecuador are both party – is the governing international law and determines the obligations to respect diplomatic immunity. It is crystal clear (Article 4,1) that the need to obtain agreement in advance of the receiving state only applies to the Head of Mission – ie the Ecuadorian Ambassador. For other staff of the mission the sending state (in this case, Ecuador) “may freely appoint” the other members of the mission, (Article 7), subject to provisos in Articles 5,8,9 and 11. Plainly the only one of these which applies in the Assange case is Article 9. Julian Assange is persona non grata – unwelcome -to the UK government. That is a legitimate reply to notification, but comes following the appointment; it does not pre-empt the appointment.
“Here is the key point. A member of staff below head of mission can already have entered the country before appointment, and their diplomatic immunity starts from the moment their appointment is notified, and NOT from the moment it is accepted. Article 39 (i) could not be plainer:
1.Every person entitled to privileges and immunities shall enjoy them from the moment he enters
the territory of the receiving State on proceeding to take up his post or, if already in its territory, from
the moment when his appointment is notified to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs or such other ministry
as may be agreed.”
If all of this is true, and if Ecuador has indeed already appointed Assange to its diplomatic corps, then he enjoys full immunity from prosecution as a member of the diplomatic corps and all the UK can do if he leaves the embassy is to declare him “persona non grata” and order him to leave the country!
Of course, as socialists we know full well that when the vital interests of the capitalist classes of imperialist nations are at stake, the capitalists will trample all over the laws of their own nation-states as well as international law. The United States Government has quite pointedly declared its own personnel to be above international law and not subject to any sanctions under it. So will the US – or their imperialist pet poodles in the UK government – respect international law in this instance? We have no idea; we think it is unlikely that they will. If they were to trample on Ecuador’s rights under the Vienna Convention – ratified by all three countries – they would be creating a major international diplomatic incident quite possibly unparalleled in modern times.
It is clear to us that the Assange case is about to take a very interesting turn, and sooner than most people seem to think. We say: US/UK hands off Julian Assange and WikiLeaks!
We have not been able to obtain a clarification from Julian Assange as to his apparent newly granted status as a member of the Ecuadorean diplomatic corps as of the time of publication of this article.