UK overlooks diplomatic immunity
By Colton Darger
An advocate for freedom of speech and a propagator of the truth today sits confined to the walls of a foreign embassy. A looming threat of police brutality and subsequent extradition torment him: he suffers the inevitable retribution for exercising his rights guaranteed to him by The Universal Declaration of Human Rughts. While this may sound like the plot of a George Orwell novel, it has become a stark reality for WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who was recently granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK. The resulting political crisis has put the deteriorating relationship between the UK and South America on the global stage, and demonstrated to the public the meaninglessness of diplomatic immunity. As the events of this crisis play out, we ought to feel compelled as a people to stand against those who would threaten the diplomatic process.
WikiLeaks was first launched by Assange in 2007, with the publication of an unprecedented number of classified diplomatic cables. The leaked documents triggered a massive uproar internationally: They exposed sensitive information and embarrassed a myriad of nations, primarily the United States. Moments after launching the website, WikiLeaks received condemnation from targeted nations, which claimed that many of the documents contained sensitive information pertaining to military operations, and therefore would threaten domestic security. WikiLeaks responded to these arguments by espousing Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states every person has the guaranteed right to “Impart information and ideas through any media.”
During debates about what protections were due to Assagne and to what extent, allegations began to emerge accusing Assange of raping two former coworkers in Sweden. Failing to investigate the questionable legitimacy of the rape charges, the Swedish government appealed to the UK for Assange’s extradition. Despite adamant denials by Assange of sexually assaulting the former WikiLeaks employees, the UK began the extradition process.
In June, after Assange had finally exhausted his arsenal of appeals, it was ruled that he would be extradited. The court decided that he would be given two weeks before his extradition, but Assange had no intention of leaving the UK. Instead, he covertly took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, where he pleaded for political asylum. For two months, Ecuador considered Assange’s request, until the final announcement was made by President Rafael Correa that Julian Assange would be granted to him.
Although Correa was praised by WikiLeaks supporters, as well as by those who support freedom of information, he was quickly admonished by the UK government. Not only was Ecuador publicly reprimanded, but it too was announced the UK had sent a threatening letter to Correa, drawing his attention to an obscure 1987 agreement, which gave the UK the right to revoke diplomatic immunity from any embassy within its territory, and raid the embassy with law enforcement. This clearly contradicts the 1961 Vienna Convention, which established that no nation has the right to enter an embassy with police personnel. Despite the obvious irregularities between these two policies by which the UK supposedly abides, law enforcement now stands guard outside the Ecuadorian embassy.
For the moment, the situation remains fluid. However, it remains apparent that the primary reason for Assange’s freedom from custody is due to the outrage of the UK’s own citizens over their country’s willingness to break international law and perpetuate a primeval witch-hunt.