Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: "London ready to extradite Assange"

*The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, the National Defense University, or the U.S. Department of Defense. Las opiniones aquí expresadas son las de los autores y no reflejan necesariamente la opinión del CHDS, NDU ni la del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.

Londres dispuesto a extraditar a Assange a Suecia pese a asilo (London ready to extradite Assange to Sweden despite asylum)

A few hours ago, the British newspaper “The Guardian” surprised both Australian Julian Assange the government of Ecuador with the announcement that Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa had authorized asylum for Assange. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London  since the middle of June as a result of his application for asylum that he submitted in order to avoid extradition to Sweden. The news that Ecuador has granted asylum to Mr. Assange has been denied by President Correa, who has said that he is still analyzing the situation.

At first glance, many would perceive this case as a mere legal strategy to evade the hand of the Swedish judicial system in a sordid case of sexual crimes.  The circumstances in which this story has developed, such as a lack of a legal instrument capable of regulating situations like this, has brought us to include this article as a theme of the week.

Regardless of the real possibility of Assange’s guilt as a sexual offender, in perhaps an act of God,  the accusations against him came about  just as the United States  clamored for the prosecution of Mr. Assange for having continuously revealed classified information on American foreign policy. Practically every week, the world’s most prestigious news publications highlighted more information from “Wikileaks”, the organization with which Assange is associated. Among this information, the world could read American diplomats’ impressions of foreign heads of state, their perceptions of the states in which they worked, the inner workings of state affairs, and even jokes about foreign ministries.

After a series
of legal actions by Assange's lawyers to prevent his prosecution in Sweden, and recalling the words of President Rafael Correa, who published the information coming out of Wikileaks and used it to denigrate the sincerity of American government, and having no one more cards to play, Assange came to  the Andean country's embassy in London and requested asylum on the grounds that the causes of these lawsuits are due to political interests of the United States as a result of Wikileaks.

The fact is that no single solution exists for this case because, regardless of the apparent universal idea of “asylum”, Latin America has been the only region in the world that has regulated of asylum through multilateral conventions. In the case of the European Union (EU), the term “asylum” has evolved in both definition and usage, developing from the case of territorial asylum (using terminology from the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Paragraph 2, Article 14), which expressly excludes asylum for common crimes and leaves it to the State granting asylum to define the reasons for which a person may apply.

As part of the European Union, the United Kingdom  is governed by all instruments  which apply to the EU, such as the Treaty of the European Union (“Treaty of Maastricht” modified by the “Treaty of Amsterdam”, which establishes Foreign Policy at the EU level and makes reference to the cooperation that should exist on issues of immigration and the broad lines of asylum in broad terms(in Title VI).

In addition to these common rules, the UK, having signed both the Geneva Convention and the New York Protocol, has established various regulations for asylum. These include the "Immigration Act 1971", the "Immigration Act 1988", "Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993", "Asylum and Immigration Act 1996" and "Immigration and Asylum Act 1999". However, we must note that most of these provisions relate to the process of the asylum when it is requested by a foreigner to enter British territory, and does not resolve situations, as in the case of Mr. Assange, of a person who is in British territory and is requesting asylum from a foreign country.

In view of this situation, and, we repeat, understanding that no legal instrument exists that combines and balances the application of rules of asylum on behalf of Ecuador and the UK, the decision of the Latin American government—a case in which it practically granted asylum—would cause a series of unpredictable consequences not only in diplomatic relations between both countries, but in regard to the existence of the right toasylum and its application as a manifestation of sovereignty of States.

Not recognizing diplomatic asylum and under the veiled threat by the UK government to not grant Assange safe passage from the Embassy to the airport to travel to Ecuador, Assange risks being arrested and extradited to Sweden the moment he steps foot outside the embassy. Furthermore, Assange’s entrance into the Ecuadorian Embassy allegedly violates the terms of bail granted by the British authorities.

Likewise, if Assange is granted asylum by Ecuador, he would have no alternative to staying indefinitely in the Ecuadorian Embassy until the British authorities accept and recognize Ecuador’s sovereign decision. The latter circumstance, by  British government is hardly likely, if we consider the declarations of the British authorities and the conduct that has traditionally characterized Britain’s relationships with Latin American countries, principally in cases like that of the Falkland Islands. Together with the extremist foreign policy that President Correa has established with the United States and the United Kingdom, the hope that Mr. Assange will arrive at a happy ending seems to disappear.

Just recall Correa’s refusal to recognize Libya’s transitional government and his disapproval of NATO’s intervention in the country. Let's consider Correa’s promotion of a “Latin American blockade” of England in response to Falkland Islands, his boycott of the Cartagena Summit if Cuba’s government wasn’t invited, and the consideration that  Gaddafi’s death was a murder to understand that the Ecuadorian leader might not be very well regarded by English authorities or that his decision to grant asylum would be respected.  

Beyond what the Ecuadorian leader may or may not represent,  the Assange case serves to reevaluate  a theme of international politics which, like the concept of asylum, has neither a single interpretation nor a single solution. As of today, the Assange case calls into question the truth about the act of sexual crimes.  Tomorrow, there could be much more solid facts amongst the political circumstances, which will likely be met with the same fate, which is the refusal of a sovereign decision to accept the application for asylum, versus the right (also sovereign) of countries, including the UK, to have a different view of things.

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