The standoff between authorities from foreign nations and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been going on now for longer than some of you can probably remember. (It’s been almost half a decade at this point.) Assange has been living in Great Britain’s Ecuadorian embassy along with his cat while Sweden and the United States both tussle over who should get their hands on them first if he emerges. That may finally be about to change but it all depends on the outcome of the upcoming Ecuadorian elections. Guillermo Lasso, the candidate from the Creating Opportunities party who is currently leading in the polls, has stated that if he won the election he would be giving Assange the boot. That may not have played very well the public because he has now softened his stance and said that he actually plans to work to find some other country’s embassy who would be willing to take him. (Miami Herald)
WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange may be able to keep a diplomatic safe haven after all.
Guillermo Lasso, the frontrunner in Ecuador’s presidential election, says he intends to evict Assange from that country’s London embassy if he wins the April 2 runoff against ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno.
But he also said he will work with other governments to find Assange a new home — which may keep the controversial free-speech advocate from being extradited.
“We will ask Mr. Assange, very politely, to leave our embassy, in absolute compliance with international conventions and protocols,” Lasso said in an email exchange with the Miami Herald. However, “we vow to take all the steps necessary so that another embassy will take him in and protect his rights.”
I’m not sure how much of a “solution” that works out to be for anyone. All it really does is shuffle the problem from Ecuador’s desk to the doorstep of some other nation. And particularly given the rather tense climate in international relations these days, especially in light of President Trump’s publicly stated attitude toward Assange, what country really wants to take on that headache? Also, such a move doesn’t get us any closer to finding out whether or not Assange will be going to Sweden to face sexual assault charges or heading to the United States for something much worse.
This doesn’t help the Brits out any either. Keep in mind that roughly one year ago we were already seeing reports about the fact that the municipal police have run up a bill in excess of $12 million just to keep watch over the embassy in case Assange chose to step outside the door. (BBC)
Scotland Yard has spent about £10m providing a 24-hour guard at the Ecuadorean embassy in London since Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claimed asylum there, figures show.
Mr Assange, who denies allegations he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden, faces arrest if he leaves the embassy.
A Wikileaks spokesman said the policing costs were “embarrassing”.
Here’s one question to consider. Let’s just say that Lasso wins the election and actually finds another host country willing to take on this problem. That still means that a method has to be found to transfer the subject from his current residence to the new location. With cops and international observers keeping an eye on the Ecuadorian embassy 24 hours a day, how do you do that? Does the diplomatic protection and immunity the Ecuadorians enjoy inside their embassy extend all the way out to the edge of the sidewalk? Does it apply to any vehicles that they own and drive on the public streets? Whether Assange is walking or traveling in a car or truck, it seems to me that the British police could immediately nab him as soon as he’s off the property.
With all of that in mind, I will frankly be surprised if this actually happens. The challenges of “safely” getting Assange to a new location combined with the problematic question of who would be willing to take him could very well scuttle this plan before it even gets off the ground.