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. oh gad, idealist, now that would be a fine choice. Assange/Manning Nobel Peace Prize, what a novel idea! hahah

    and thanks for the background on the interview lawyers. I find when a documentary interviews people who know a subject in depth it captures my imagination.

  2. I’m thinking of converting to Islam. Just so I can throw shoes at Romney. But they hate dogs and Romney does too. Does not go together.


    Jointly with Manning.

    Just hoping. If so, will Obama give his back? Hope so on that too.

  4. Their operations are for the use of whistleblowers, much like the NYTimes, the Washington Post, and other media outlets. They publish on their own as well as making the information available to other media outlets for publication.~bettykath
    all the more reason, but I must say, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence is a nifty recommendation. I believe his function as media outlet also qualifies him personally as a whistleblower…and a nifty ballsy reporter….all for which he is being threatened. The benefactors of his actions are the same.

  5. Idealist

    I meant those who are subject to rumors enough to jump to the conclusion that the two women involved in the rape charges should be called w-hores . No specific people in mind.

  6. Shano,

    It is seldom that I find anything interesting enough to watch it for 48 minutes. The Four Corners report was fascinating. For many reasons other than to have my suspicions confirmed and my comments here also confirmed.

    I sincerely say that anyone who is serious about justice and how it is NOT being done in Sweden should take the time to look at this reportage.

    I was particularly impressed with the fact that Four Corners had taken the trouble to examine the “stipulation of agreed upon facts between the parties” to assure equal and fair balance in the facts presented. Also the interviews with the respective lawyers in Sweden was important to me. Per E. Samuelsson enjoys currently the highest repute of all lawyers in Sweden. He is called, just as Turley is, when questions of law is a news item on TV and elsewhere. He is also jewish, as is his mentor. Men of rectitude both of them.

    To gloat I add: I told you all soL; and said it first here!!! And Four Corners confirms my points.

  7. BettyKath,

    Thanks for reminding that Wikileaks functions essentially as the press does. The gov. alleges of course otherwise.

    Not that Sweden. Once a journalist did 2 years for disclosing that the Socialist party had a version of the security police for investigations for party purposes.
    The journalist was Jan Guillou, now very rich writer of novels.

    But now, anyone who attempts to inquire into leaks appearing in the press is banned by the ombudsman.

  8. BB,

    “Whether or not there was any truth to the rumor that one of the women was being prepped, does not affect the result it had on those who are predisposed to such , though I assume ultimately they would have reached the same conclusions with or without such excuses.”

    Can you clarify for me who and what you are pointing at?

  9. Shano, my understanding of what changed is, after the first prosecutor said ”nothing here,” a SECOND one was brought in to say ”wait a minute, we must nab this evil rapist immediately and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the US law!” (quotes of course are my version!)

  10. Tony C.,

    I did not realize that Ecuador was such a stable Democratic country. Indeed, screwing Assange and thus Ecuador might well cause serious problems for the United States. That is quite plausible as is the darker observation you make that tiny incidents in times like these can unravel into major events. I’m still thinking about your splendid Wyoming project which might be a good antidote.

    2030 may not be enough to get a vantage on where things are going. You’re the scientist, we need something we can “take”, short of a trip at the speed of light, or getting up close and personal with a black hole, that will get us through to 2075.

    Back to Assange, I sincerely hope you are right that getting him out of the UK is feasible. But that one I doubt nevertheless.

  11. Even Naomi Wolf is defending Assange on the ‘sex’ issues, and she has been a rape victim advocate for decades.

    She states Assange went to the Swedish police, was questioned, took a blood test (negative HIV) the charges were dropped and he was free to go. He then left Sweden for London with the consent of the Swedes….

    I have to ask what changed?

  12. Shano, thanks very much for that clip. It was very good. Always helps to be familiar with what is REALLY going on, instead of believing whatever we’re fed!

  13. It would not have required much imagination on the part of the CIA operative to see the “potential” for exploitation of the situation. If one looks at posts by Digby or Greenwald before Assange even left Sweden, to mention just two sites, it’s obvious right away that the blogs were full of speculation about US manipulation of the events for the purpose of nailing Assange to the wall. I suspect that he was extremely lucky to get out when he did or that one of the prosecutors was unwilling to bow to pressure. Other than that, I agree with the assessments above.

    Whether or not there was any truth to the rumor that one of the women was being prepped, does not affect the result it had on those who are predisposed to such , though I assume ultimately they would have reached the same conclusions with or without such excuses.

  14. Woosty’s still a Cat 1, August 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

    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 .

    Wikileaks is not a whistle blower, nor is Assange. Neither Assange nor Wikileaks directly accessed the government databases for the material. I also believe Assange when he says that they did not solicit the material beyond a general willingness to accept material from whistleblowers, identities unknown.

    Their operations are for the use of whistleblowers, much like the NYTimes, the Washington Post, and other media outlets. They publish on their own as well as making the information available to other media outlets for publication.

  15. Tony & Brooklyn:
    I recall somebody (I think it was Gene) telling me there were only four (4) words in the filter. Without checking with our host, I suspect those filters are there so this blog will not be auto-blocked by libraries, colleges and employers. It has less to do with censorship of your “free speech” as keeping the blog available to more people. Just use asterisks, ampersands and currency signs instead of some letters. That way, comments will not be sent to moderation and your meaning will still be clear.

  16. TonyC.

    You have it right. He would/could not have left if it was a conspiracy from the beginning. There went that idea.

    I still suspect influence by the lesbian police officer who also functioned initailly as lead investigator, until the press called her out on thet.
    Nothing against lesbian police or lesbians for that matter.

    Swedish women, if concerned about STDs would have not let
    him complete the second intercourse. I could say more in the way of condemnation of her groupie behavior but won’t go that way.

    As for Assange and his chance taking, he does what most men do—take his chances and hopes he is immune!!!!!
    He is contemptible for going the groupie route.

    One twist of her hips, he would be out, slap his face, throw him his clothes, and say “Fix your own damn tour”.

    Stupid he was. A shame. We need a functioning Wikileaks.

  17. @Idealist: I presume it was the USA after the fact; logically speaking Sweden would never have released him and let him leave the country if the USA instigated it from the start. Assange turned himself in, after all, and was released.

    I would not put much credence in the idea that the ENTIRE thing was orchestrated, I think the USA found out about this peccadillo and chose to exploit it, but a day late and a dollar short, I believe Assange had, without any knowledge of a conspiracy, already routinely left the country for England or whatever. THEN the incident came to the attention of the CIA (oops, I mean USA) and the conspiracy starts then.

    I believe the two women were sincere in their outrage, Assange was a reckless player, at minimum exposing each to a sexually transmitted disease the other may have had, by becoming a carrier, and failing to inform them of his promiscuity (or perhaps, as other reports I read have said, even misleading them on the topic of his promiscuity).

    I think if the two women were manipulated into a complaint, the manipulation was not motivated by geopolitics, just moral outrage. These women are not spies, or hookers, or tacticians, and the police let Assange walk out, the Swedes let him leave the country without any hassle whatsoever. I think the entire extradition intrigue had to occur after all that happened, I believe the situation was “found gold” by some CIA analyst toiling away in a cubicle somewhere.

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