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

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
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