WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted political asylum. Assange is has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June 19. He is trying to avoid extradition from the UK to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning for alleged sexual misconduct.
The British government has suggested that it may move in on the Ecuadorian embassy and could find itself hauled before an international court if it does. According to Temple University international law professor Peter Spiro, under International law “without the consent of the state whose embassy is implicated, the host state may not enter those premises.”
According to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations international treaty, of which Britain is a signator. “the premises of the mission shall be inviolable” and agents of the home country “may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.” Exceptions may be permitted where there is a physical threat emanating from the embassy such as a fire or a sniper. Obtaining custody over someone seeking asylum, not one such exception.
A little-known law, however – the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 – may allow British authorities to arrest Assange within the embassy premises.The law gives Britain the power to revoke the status of a diplomatic mission if the state in question “ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post” — but only if such a move is “permissible under international law.”
The Diplomatic and Consular Act of 1987, however, may be given little credence in an international court, where Ecuador could go to seek some sort of recourse.
Spiro noted that, “The downside for the U.K. if they are perceived as violating international law is that they are perceived as being an international lawbreaker and that has potential consequences in reciprocal situations.” That is, according to Spiro, “the next time the U.K. is protecting someone from a host state’s jurisdiction, that country could barge right in and say ‘hey you guys did it in London.”
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