Britain says Julian Assange will not be given safe passage to Ecuador, ‘may storm’ embassy
The diplomatic and political minefield that is the fate of Julian Assange is expected to come a step closer to being traversed when Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, gave his decision to grant the WikiLeaks’ founder asylum on Thursday.
Wednesday Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, raging against perceived threats from Britain to “storm” the embassy and warning that such a “dangerous precedent” would be met with “appropriate responses in accordance with international law”.
The dramatic development came two months after Assange suddenly walked into the embassy in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual assault.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Patiño released details of a letter he said was delivered through a British embassy official in Quito, the capital of the South American country.
The letter said: “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 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,” the letter continued.
Patiño said he was “deeply shocked” by the diplomatic letter. Speaking to reporters later, he said: “The government of Ecuador is considering a request for asylum and has carried out diplomatic talks with the governments of the United Kingdom and Sweden. However, today we received from the United Kingdom a written threat that they could attack our embassy in London if Ecuador does not give up Julian Assange.
“Ecuador, as a state that respects rights and justice and is a democratic and peaceful nation state, rejects in the strongest possible terms the explicit threat of the British official communication.
“This is unbecoming of a democratic, civilised and law-abiding state. If this conduct persists, Ecuador will take appropriate responses in accordance with international law.
“If the measures announced in the British official communication materialise they will be interpreted by Ecuador as a hostile and intolerable act and also as an attack on our sovereignty, which would require us to respond with greater diplomatic force.
“Such actions would be a blatant disregard of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations and of the rules of international law of the past four centuries.
“It would be a dangerous precedent because it would open the door to the violation of embassies as a declared sovereign space.”