Foreign Embassies are not, contrary to popular belief, small parts of foreign soil in the land where they are situated, but are places where the law of the host nation does not run and where the police of the host nation cannot enter. This is a rule of international law and one which every nation exploits. For example the United States of America refuses to pay its diplomats’ congestion charges, claiming that the London Congestion Charge is a Tax. Throughout the world, for good or evil, embassies have shielded persons of interest to the police, for better or worse, whether they be political opponents of a regime or whether they be plain murderers.
Diplomacy must always act like this. It would be impossible for diplomats to conduct business otherwise. Mr Julian Assange has taken advantage of these rules of diplomacy by seeking sanctuary and obtaining it, like some medieval person suspected of crime. But Mr Assange could not in modern times obtain sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. He found sanctuary in the small embassy of the Republic of Ecuador and I have nothing but praise for Ecuador in providing Mr Assange with sanctuary.
Mr Assange is suspected of crime – some kind of sexual molestation- in Sweden. An arrest warrant was issued and upheld by the courts of England, which Mr Assange applied to set aside and failed. The arrest warrant required Mr Assange to go to Sweden and be interrogated about the allegations. He ultimately skipped bail and hid in the Ecuadorian Embassy. So far this sounds simple but the case has many political connotations that go beyond the simple accusation of crime. Mr Assange has caused the publication of many secret communications particularly those of the USA, many of which exposed the callous and illegal abuse and war crimes of the USA. Mr Assange got the information from Bradley Manning, a serving soldier.
Mr Manning was arrested in the USA and now faces trial for his crimes. He claims that he has been abused in prison awaiting trial. The evidence seems overwhelming and if you want to read how it is alleged that the USA treats some of its accused awaiting trial you can do so at http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/
Mr Assange suspects that his arrest warrant in Sweden has been engineered by the USA who wants to get him to Sweden and thence seek his extradition to the USA where after a long trial they can put him in prison and throw away the key for exposing, courtesy of Bradley Manning, the USA’s war crimes in Iraq.
If the sole motive for the Swedes requiring Mr Assange was to interrogate him then there would be no need for Mr Assange to go to Sweden. The Swedish prosecutors could have interrogated Mr Assange in England and no doubt could also interrogate him in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The Swedish Government could also rule out the further extradition of Mr Assange to the USA and then the allegations of sexual molestation could be properly investigated and justice done, whatever justice may be in this case.
However the Swedes have many reasons, none of them to my mind persuasive, why their prosecutors could not travel all the way to London to question Mr Assange. Certainly that would be the speediest and cheapest way to investigate this matter. The USA remains silent. It would love to prosecute Mr Asssange for publishing its secrets, notwithstanding that as I understand it, the publication and all of Mr Assange’s involvement with it, was conducted outside US territory. The USA however regards the whole world as its fiefdom as far as its laws are concerned, as we have seen from many recent events. Mr Assange is rightly concerned that he will be treated like Bradley Manning should he end up in the USA.
We would do well to remember that.
This matter of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and the extradition proceedings brings shame on the USA, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, all of whom run away from the pursuit of justice, just as Mr Assange is seeking to run away from justice. Ecuador has provided a haven, and has acted with courage that seems curiously lacking in the much larger nations involved in this case.