Oliver Miles: Why asylum will not mean a free ride for Julian Assange

 

Share
Related Topics

The British Government has undertaken to implement a court decision that Julian Assange should be deported to Sweden. When I heard that he had taken refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy, my reaction was that the British Government would have to insist on his being handed over, in the last resort being ready to break off relations. The alternative is to say to every criminal in London: "Just pay a small sum to some ambassador and you can have a free ride."

The Ecuadorean government yesterday announced it had granted Assange's claim for political asylum. But asylum there makes no odds when he is stuck here in London. He cannot move without facing arrest; the Ecuadoreans cannot give him diplomatic cover outside their embassy.

The Ecuadoreans say we have threatened them with the little-known Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, claiming it "would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the embassy". This Act seems to originate in the outrage caused by the murder of Yvonne Fletcher in 1984 by shots fired from within the Libyan embassy. But the Foreign Secretary can only resort to the Act "if he is satisfied that to do so is permissible under international law". However, arresting Assange inside the embassy without Ecuadorean permission would be against international law. Like other states we accept the international rules because they are essential for the conduct of business between states. The British Government can of course break the rules, but at a price. If embassy premises were no longer guaranteed immunity, doing normal government business would be impossible. Britain has been a leader in establishing the rules and there seems no good reason why we should break them – since we have other, legal options. The classic case of embassy asylum was Cardinal Mindszenty, who fled from the Soviet invasion of Hungary by hunkering down in the US embassy – for 15 years. Eventually he got out of the country by mutual agreement. The British Government also has the option of doing nothing. Do Assange and the Ecuadoreans have the stomach for 15 years of co-habitation?

So, there is no hurry, and there may well be other factors of which we are ignorant. But I expect the outcome to be that the Ecuadoreans will hand over or be closed down.

Oliver Miles is a former British ambassador to Libya

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

 

Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments