Early on August 16, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, announced that his country is granting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum—that is, if he can get there.
Since the end of the London Olympics, Patiño and his boss, leftist President Rafael Correa, have been in a panic, warning that their embassy in London is under imminent threat of attack by the British government for sheltering Assange since June 19, when Assange ducked into the embassy and requested asylum.
Patiño launched a fresh campaign to whip up nationalistic sentiment and foreign support by claiming that Britain is acting like a bullying, colonial power in flagrant violation of international law. The hysterical Patiño says that Ecuador will carry its case to the U.N. Security Council. As threats to world peace go, this must be one of the smallest.
In the eyes of British justice (where, unlike Ecuador, there is genuine rule of law), Assange is a fugitive with an outstanding extradition request properly issued by Sweden. Yet the British have not wavered in their intentions to carry out their “legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences.”
Recently, the British government informed Ecuador that it will consider applying national law—the Diplomatic and Consular Premise Act of 1987, which was designed to protect the British public from flagrant abuses of diplomatic immunity. Under the act, if diplomatic premises are misused, their diplomatic or consular status may be lost, together with all concomitant rights (including inviolability). This is a step above breaking diplomatic relations, which is also an option.
It is indeed ironic, although little noted in the press, that Ecuador—with its ever-increasing ties to (and potential U.N.-sanctions-busting deal and money laundering with) Iran—would even dare protest orderly enforcement of national law. Did Ecuador lodge a protest when its friends in Tehran, in total disregard of all diplomatic conventions, allowed a mob to overrun and loot the British embassy in November 2011?
The Assange asylum case constitutes just a small piece of the anti-Western, pro-Iran strategy propagated by Correa, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, and others. It is both selective and hypocritical. It aims to show the West in an unfavorable light while ignoring the gaping illegalities of friends.
The retrieval of Assange to face justice either by enforcement of the 1987 act or by the breaking of diplomatic relations will once more demonstrate British determination and prevalence of the rule of law. Such an action merits the full support of the U.S.