Could Ecuador Just Mail Assange Home?

As I discussed today on NPR’s Here and Now, the standoff between England and Ecuador is likely to grow worse after the latter country granted asylum to Julian Assange. While the government has threatened to strip the embassy of diplomatic status and grab Assange, it is in my view an empty threat. However, is there a way for Ecuador to get Assange out of the country?

As I discussed earlier, Assange as a reasonable fear of being extradicted to the United States under a sealed indictment for espionage after embarrassing the Obama Administration with Wikileak disclosures. The appearance of the charges in Sweden at the very time that the United States was trying to seize Assange was viewed by many as highly suspicious if not transparent. Assange previously spoke to prosecutors in Stockholm in denying the charges of the two women. Chief Prosecutor Eva Finné notably declared, “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” The attorney representing the two women appealed the decision to drop part of the investigation and on September 1, 2010, Swedish Director of Public Prosecution Marianne Ny reopened the case just as the United States was pushing globally for actions against Assange. In the meantime, Minister of Social Affairs Goran Hagglund seems to be striving to deny the appearance of a neutral forum in Sweden — going to Twitter recently to denounce Assange as a “coward”, a “pitiful wretch” and a “scumbag.”

The assumption is that, once in Sweden, the United States would unseal an indictment and seek his extradiction. Given the increased use of secret evidence and military tribunals in the United States, there is an embarrassing fear among many worldwide whether Assange would receive a fair trial in the United States.

The pressure from the United States is likely considerable despite the denials by officials. The British government has invoked the nuclear option by threatening to use 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.” The use of the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act however would trigger an international outcry and beg for acts of retaliations.

The the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations requires diplomats to comply with the laws of the host country and international law does not expressly endorse diplomatic asylum in such cases. That 1961 convention suggests that Ecuador is legally obligated to turn over Assange.

Assange has indicated that he may make a statement outside of the embassy on Sunday. That could be a fatal mistake if he steps outside of embassy grounds. This is not the time for a stroll if he wanted to stay out of custody. He could make a statement from within the embassy, though that would again raise claims from the British government that the embassy is being used for a non-diplomatic purpose.

So does Ecuador have options? Yes, but they are pretty extreme and will raise some uncertainties.

First, Ecuador could essentially mail Assange home. Under article 27 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, a diplomatic bag or diplomatic pouch is given diplomatic protection in carrying material or communications between a diplomatic mission and its home government or other official organizations. A pouch can be any size including a large container. It was must properly marked and locked. That was the failing in 1984 when Nigeria kidnapped and treated to send a former Nigerian government minister back to Nigeria in a pouch. Since it was not properly marked, the British opened the container and freed the captive minister.

Ecuador previously had problems with such pouches. In January 2012, Italy arrested five people for shipping 40 kilograms of liquid cocaine in a diplomatic pouch from Ecuador. It is not clear how the Italians detected the cocaine or how the pouch was opened.

Another even more radical possibility would be to give Assange Ecuadorian citizenship and then give him diplomatic status under Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961). The problem is that such credentials are generally presented and accepted by the host nation. That could be a problem since Assange would legally appear as a diplomat within the country. Normally, once diplomatic status is established, the nation can only expel a diplomat as a persona non grata — something Assange would relish. However, the question is whether England would recognize him as a diplomatic even if Ecuador and Assange were willing to claim his citizenship and status. The assumption is that England would have to approve the diplomatic status to be certain that he could leave the country.

Ecuador could try to send Assange to the airport in an embassy car with a diplomat. That should protect him on the roads to the airport, but simply walking into the airport would be a problem. There is the possibility that he could ride in a car through to Switzerland via the Eurotunnel, but the problem is that the embassy’s car park is separated from the embassy. He needs to get to the car even if the English are willing to respect the status of the vehicle.

The easiest approach is for England to agree to “safe passage” but that would not please the United States or English officials keen on seeing Assange punished for his disclosures.

That brings us back to the pouch and mailing Assange in a nice container with a comfy chair, bar, and of course wi-fi access.

92 thoughts on “Could Ecuador Just Mail Assange Home?”

  1. TonyC.

    The story publicized here was that they (Ardin and Assange) had had sex earlier with a condom being used at her request. She awoke to his aecond entry and asked “What are you wearing”; whereupon he replied “You”.
    She made no protest nor action to prevent further sex at the time.

    After the fact regrets seem to me to follow the rule of not putting your signature on a document before reading it.
    Too late to complain later.

    But if it was not justice which was sought, if as you say it was wanting a HIV test. Why then the assault complaint?

    Then we cas suspect it was a honey pot coached by a helper.

    In this case the helper was a police officer, female of lesbian persuasion, who helped her for a week, plying her irritation with fuel until it reached a complaint filing stage. The police officer was an old friend to which she has admitted in the press. As a friend she should not have bben involved in her police role.

    Two items more: What or who, if any lay behind this?

    Two items speak for that the Swedish government does. First said a chief prosecutor that no crime was suspected, and this was then overruled. Government fingers at work?
    The other is Sweden’s refusal to interview him anyplace or in any circumstances than effectively in their custody.

    It is obvious who could be behind the whole scheme. America the beautiful. Home of the slaves.

  2. @Brooklin: Yes, there is a filter that did not USED to be there. I used to admire Dr. Turley’s permission of free speech, now it seems he has changed his mind and believes in pointless censorship after all. It is really phucking irritating.

  3. @Brooklin: I am not optimistic, by any means. I believe Assange moved the game up another level, where the rules are different. Ecuador is not as easy to crush or dismiss as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or other dictatorships or failed states. It is an elected-representative democracy, it uses US$ as currency. It is not a drug state. It is a respected member of the United Nations.

    So I don’t know whether it will blow over or not; I just think there are 180 nations on the planet (or so) and the only defense against bullies (the USA and Britain) is a coalition that outnumbers them and refuses to deal with them.

    This would no longer be an offense against Assange, taking Assange by force at this point (or killing him) would be an offense against a fellow U.N. member country in good standing, and that could cause a U.N. crisis if Ecuador pushes it, or gathers other countries to its moral side. Ecuador is known for joining groups of other nations. An offense like this might spur Ecuador to start a group of its own, it could be a rallying cry against the bullies. Shall we have a “middle country economic alliance against US oppression?” Like the OPEC alliance?

    Maybe none of that will happen, but I think the situation now has that potential. Historically, what tips things is often small offenses. World War I was triggered by the assassination of one individual; Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, but the reason that death triggered a World War is because it was against a background of Imperialism by the largest world powers. That one death was essentially a good excuse to fight back.

    We are in a similar situation now; we have large powers exercising dictatorial and imperialist foreign policies. Some spark will set it off. On its own it will seem innocuous and too trivial to cost millions of lives, but I think that is how these things work. A straw breaks the camel’s back, and the world careens out of control for thirty or forty years until some kind of balance is restored. I think that is what happened in WWI and its continuation as WWII, I think that is what is happening now.

    I do not know if Ecuador will be a victim, martyr or hero of this story, or just a footnote leading up to a different spark. I do think that what is happening now is an unstable world political and economic situation, that will collapse into depressions, wars, and eventually a new world order. I think we should know by 2030 or so, I hope we live to see how it all plays out.

  4. The hooker meme may have come from irresponsible resentment at how easy it “appears” to be to get embroiled in sexual harassment charges in Sweden. Added to that, shortly after the incident, rumors appeared that at least one of the women was a conservative that had gotten drawn in by the glitter but that was willing to be used for purposes of entrapment. It is a lamentably easy jump from there to casually referring to the women as w–hores (just as we say b–itch or b–astard) and from there but a small additional jump to the conclusion by some that they are indeed prostitutes.

    I think there is a filter prohibiting use of terms such as w-h-o-r-e-s which is why I use the hyphens above. Apologies if I am treading on any guidelines of etiquette.

  5. All you legal wordsmiths out there. Here is the start of a petition, can you add anything?
    Julian Assange, the 2010 Sam Adams Award Winner is a positive example to Whistleblowers and Citizens who speak out against oppressive activities and behaviors that undermine civil liberties everywhere . With his persecution comes the threat of increasing backlash against anyone who speaks out against same. In short, it undermines the very idea of Law and its application to civil liberty. The manner in which Governments respond to his whistleblowing is a clear indication of the values of those Governments. It was not Julian Assanges ‘outting’ of misdeeds that puts citizens at risk but those misdeeds that undermine the good-will and trust of citizens everywhere. Please consider the positive outcome of granting Julian Assanges safe passage and the positive social climate it creates.

  6. @ALL: These women were not hookers, I do not know where that meme got started. In the original reporting (that link is to a Dec 2010 issue of the Sydney Daily Herald) the two women, Anna Ardin (An officer in the Democratic Party) and Sofia Wilen (an amateur photographer) are both volunteering for Wikileaks. Ms. Ardin is helping Assange organize a speaking tour of Sweden, and Ms. Wilen is a volunteer photographing that tour.

    Over the course of a week Assange stays a few days with Ardin, then stays a few days with Wilen, then returns to Ardin for a party, then returns to Wilen. He had sex with both women. You can read the charges in that story for yourself, but in separate reporting both women DO report that the sex was consensual at the time. Yes, it was condom-less. The two women did not know about each other until the week was over, they compared sexual notes, got angry, and went to the police to demand Assange get an HIV test. The rest of the charges apparently stem from add-ons made by the police during the interview.

    These women were not hookers, or paid sex workers, they were Wikileaks volunteers helping Assange organize and document a speaking tour (on Wikileaks), and they had consensual sexual relations with him.

    Under Swedish law, some of what Assange did is considered “sexual misconduct,” for example, Ms. Wilen asserts that she and Assange had consensual sex one night, and the following morning she was asleep naked beside Mr. Assange and he initiated sex with her without her consent. That is sexual “misconduct.”

  7. But as to the outrage, no, I don’t think there will be that much of it. The world is awash, absolutely awash in corruption and thuggery without borders. Assange will make a brief but fairly intense splash of outrage within a very limited subset of the international community and then it will disappear into the cacophony of other outrages. And just as people are overloaded, countries are cowed. Ecuador will shine briefly and pay dearly. Other countries will take note and remain silent. Even if horrific secrets are exposed, such as that torture is actively pursued in complicit foreign countires or that Obama is actually pissed that he is not getting enough credit for being willing to make cuts to the social safety net, Obama will be re-elected by a credible margin. Wealth will continue to be hoarded and vast segments of the population will dry up, like whole states in the mid-west. The sun will shine on other causes of equal desperation.

    Yet pessimistic as circumstances seem to warrant, I suspect this tragedy is still worthwhile or perhaps more accurately, desperately necessary. You are right, this is a brilliant move by Assange and thank God he has not given up (he is apparently very depressed) and that (for whatever reason) Ecuador granted his request.

  8. If we go back a few years, not prehistoric in surveillance terms, the Australian government was the first to help the USA extablish an international comm surveillannce system named “ECHELON”.

    It was slated to come to Sweden with our governments approval. Indignation arousal attempts failed.

    Probably replaiced by one a hundred times more expensive and intensive and extensive, and more repressive while being completely reprehensible as the first one was.

    Babble while you may. Soon the internet will be forbidden.

  9. I believe the fallout of the USA pursuing a petty vendetta against the embarrassment Assange created will produce far more political damage for us (both politically and economically) than Assange ever did – Tony C.

    I couldn’t agree more, but that doesn’t mean in the least that they will not pursue their petty vendetta, political and economic damage be damned.

    When Obama has his government shovel vast quantities of money at the banks, and make conscious efforts to restrict any relief that might provide to the people caught in the nightmare of illegal robo-signing and other institutional fraud, do you think he looses any sleep over the economic damage it causes to the country?

  10. With regards to the Australian Gov’t walking away from Julian, I cannot help but remember the clip from Breaker Morant where Lord Kitchener and his assistant talk about essentially sacrificing the three accused men to the show trial for what he referrs to the greater good of the war’s conclusion: whereupon the assistant replies that the Australian Men would beg to differ.

  11. When the Assange plane goes down in the Atlantic, expect the first public comment from President Obama to be, “We know for certain that there were no U.S. Navy ships in the vicinity of the plane’s accident”.

  12. I thought highly of the Aussies as a people and as a nation until this round of the WikiLeaks thing came up. Here we have an Australian citizen being ginned up on these false charges of porking two hookers in Sweden without a proper condom and the pukes in Great Britain threatening to breach international law by not honoring diplomatic asylum in an Ecuadorian Embassy. There ought to be a mass of angry Aussies outside the British Embassy in Melbourne, or wherever the Brits hide their Embassy in Australia, calling on the Brits to let Assange go free. They should be throwing rocks through the windows. Meanwhile the Ecuadorians should be shutting down the British Embassy in their country. If a Swedish hooker sets foot on Ecuadorian shores she should be given a crate of condums. This international slogfest needs to be put on a tele sitcom in Great Britain and replayed in the U.S. on PBS right after that dingbat show we are subjected to called East Enders. This show could be called the Rear Enders. Prime Minister Cameron could be played by Mick Jagger and Assange could be played by Dudley Do Right. Music provided by the Great White Hopes. Swedish hookers played by the Kardashian sisters. Failed condums could be dubbed the WikiLeaks.

  13. Folks, yes she did. You saw correctly. It is not a dew technique

    As I previously esplained in re The USA’s reservations to the Torture conventionn gives us free room, AND is a adequate demonstrationn that conventions are up to us to
    interpret as we will. Now and forever. The USA recognizes only one sovereignity, its own.

    Do as I did with our reservations to the torture convention. Go take a look at our reservations to this convention. REad very carefully. Find the clause which frees us. It shuld be there.

    How did they do it in re torture:
    1) ewaweve all interpretation and execution to themselves
    2) say that only torture done consciously and intended as torture would be classed as torture.
    By simply calling it “advanced interrogation”, which Scalie publicly held it to be, then it by our definition is NOT torture

    Slick, huh?!.

  14. Did US envoy
    Carmen Lomellin really say the US did not “recognise the concept of diplomatic asylum as a matter of international law”.

    Is that an exact quote, Guradian? It is a garbled sentence…

  15. Thanks for those ‘snacks’, idealist. so distracting to read Brooklyn Bridge postings on the hard realities


    Foreign ministers from across the American continent will meet next Friday to discuss the impasse between the UK and Ecuador over Julian Assange.

    Ecuador has granted political asylum to the Wikileaks founder who took refuge at Ecuador’s embassy in London in June.

    He faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.

    Twenty-three members of the OAS (Organization of American States) voted to have the meeting in Washington DC. The US was one of three to oppose it.

    On Thursday, Ecuador announced it had granted Mr Assange asylum but the UK has said it will not allow him safe passage out of the country.

    The South American country has said Mr Assange’s human rights could be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over allegations that he sexually assaulted two ex-Wikileaks volunteers in Stockholm in 2010.

    Australian Mr Assange, 41 – whose Wikileaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables embarrassing countries including the US – fears he would then be passed on to authorities there.

    At emergency talks held by the OAS in Washington, US envoy Carmen Lomellin said a meeting of foreign ministers “would be unhelpful and harmful to the OAS’ reputation as an institution”.

    She said the US – which was joined in a no vote by Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago – did not “recognise the concept of diplomatic asylum as a matter of international law”.

    Britain’s permanent observer to the OAS, Philip Barton, said the UK would continue to work with Ecuador “to bring this matter to an amicable and successful conclusion”.

    The UK Foreign Office has said it will follow its obligations, under the Extradition Act, to arrest Mr Assange if he leaves the embassy.

  17. In an interview Assange had with Matt Taibbi, he conceded that should his case against English extradition go badly, he would be in deep trouble. He is in deep trouble.

    Fair, unfair, the United Nations, no United Nations, international scandal, world public opinion, the frightened hatred and anger of small and large counties alike, none of that is sufficient to overcome Obama’s compulsive and destructive fixation with secrecy, with controlling information, with the fact that he is in charge of the most powerful nation on earth and with the fact that the military, most Republicans and an amazing number of Democrats are completely behind him in this authoritarian nightmare of hope and change gone horribly wrong.

    The banking crisis, the mortgage horrors, the health care fiasco, the dismantling of the safety net here and abroad, the open international war on labor, the environmental time bomb and its utter disregard, the coming energy and food shortages, the subjugation and financial rape of entire countries in Europe by the financial elite, the all out war on fundamental, in some cases age old civil and constitutional rights. All of this is playing out openly in front of us with our politicians acting as though nothing were amiss and we expect them to be embarrassed or tethered by a few treaties or by their foul treatment of one individual? We are witnessing the complete breakdown and disregard for the laws of nations and the laws of people, for common decency and for human rights

    The English will do do whatever they are told to do. They will put a good face on it and they will loose no sleep over it. Assange’s only hope is if for some obscure reason the United States and Obama want this to go away.

  18. Wasn’t there a time when we got upset with some country that over ran an embassy that gave ted Koppel employment and secured the victory of a member of a known crime syndicates family…..just saying…… The gifts that just keep on giving…. Like herpes…. You never know when it’s going to crop up…….

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