Analysis

UK Missteps on Assange Case Threaten Security of Embassies
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the news media from the balcony of the Ecuadoran embassy in London, August 19, 2012. Assange is currently living inside the embassy after being granted political asylum while facing extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault. (Rosie Hallam/Getty Images)
August 20, 2012
| Security
| Europe, The Americas
Summary
The British government’s implicit threat that it could raid Ecuador’s London embassy to seize Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was a serious mistake that allowed Assange and the leftist Ecuadoran government to use charges of British bullying to overshadow Swedish rape charges against Assange and possible American charges for compromising classified U.S. government documents. More important, however, may be the effect that the British threat to forcibly enter the Ecuadoran embassy may have in weakening international legal protections for embassies and consulates.

Julian Assange skipped bail and sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy last June in the middle of a legal process to extradite him to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault charges.  Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa granted “asylum” on August 16, one day after British authorities delivered a diplomatic note to the Ecuadoran embassy stating that the United Kingdom reserved the right under a 1987 law to take action to enter the embassy to arrest Assange.  In his first public statement in two months, Assange spoke to the media yesterday from an embassy balcony to call on President Obama to stop a “witch hunt” against him over Wikileaks disclosures of U.S. government documents and to praise President Correa’s “courage” for granting him political asylum.

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