FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Meaning of Assange’s Asylum

Quito, Ecuador.

The impact of Ecuador’s decision to grant political asylum  to Julian Assange is still quite tangible internationally, a rarity in a world where no one remembers yesterday’s news.

Even hours before it was announced, Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Assange because of the lack of international guarantees of due process of law for the founder of Wikileaks, had the effect of generating an overreaction by the government of Great Britain, which bypassed diplomatic law and threatened to storm the embassy of Ecuador in London to arrest Assange. This aggressive outburst by Britain against Latin America made in the long shadow of the Falklands invasion was immediately labeled as colonialism. It has been a catalyst to unite all countries of the region around Ecuador.

The government of President Rafael Correa has received the backing of the two most powerful Latin American organizations, ALBA and UNASUR. In at least one of these institutions are Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, as well as other countries in the region. In advance of scheduled meetings of both organizations this weekend in Guayaquil to generate a statement of solidarity with Ecuador, several foreign ministers in Latin America have already expressed their opposition to Britain’s threat to enter the embassy of Ecuador by force.

The U.S. State Department said that the United States “does not recognize the concept of asylum as part of international law” because the U.S. not a signatory to the Convention on Diplomatic Asylum of 1954. They added that this is not a matter that should involve the OAS, although almost all of the other OAS member countries think otherwise and voted  to convene an emergency session.

The US stated yet again that it will not intervene in the case of Julian Assange. Yet, the US government’s repetition of “we are not involved” fails to convince. Too many statements by U.S. lawmakers and officials denouncing WikiLeaks and threatening Assange with imprisonment for life and even the death penalty have been widely disseminated in the world press. The fundamental reason that attorneys for Julian Assange believe their client cannot accept extradition to Sweden is because from there Assange will be almost certainly delivered to the U.S. That the U.S. has initiated a secret grand jury proceeding to indict Assange for crimes including espionage and treason is not mere speculation.

According to Assange’s lawyer, Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the internationally recognized Center for Constitutional Rights, a secret grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, was convened to investigate violations of the Espionage Act, where the grand jury received testimony including Twitter messages related to Assange and WikiLeaks. An FBI agent who was a witness in the case of detained soldier Bradley Manning has stated  that the “founders, owners and managers” WikiLeaks were under investigation. Ratner also noted that the FBI has compiled a dossier of 42,135 pages pertaining to Assange.

In this context, Assange’s fears of being extradited, imprisoned and deprived of any right to a fair defense in the U.S. should be considered well-founded and reasonable. And in the same way, the decision to grant asylum by Ecuador should be considered a humanitarian decision viewed within the legal framework of international law governed by the Vienna Convention.

From this context, there arises a unique situation in which a Latin American country now stands as a defender of the human rights of an individual against the will of two European countries, Britain and Sweden, who refuse to give assurances that Assange will not be extradited to the United States. What irony that a small nation which until recently was considered a mere “banana republic” today openly protects a major world icon of freedom of expression from persecution by United States and its allies.

Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa’s grant of political asylum to Assange has opened an international front opposing the ethical/moral paradigm of Britain and the United States. His decision has created some startling opposition in the north. Many still do not believe what they have heard.

Similarly Correa’s domestic opposition has yet to assimilate this sovereign declaration which stands in opposition to the  largest trading partner of Ecuador, the United States. Businessmen and some former foreign ministers and other figures have made the usual statements to The Guardian, The Economist, and Ecuador’s El Comercio, warning of risks to Ecuador for opposing the designs of Europe and America.

So far more than two days after the asylum announcement, these views have been overshadowed by the support generated for the decision and in protest of Britain’s extreme reaction. This was demonstrated in the special session of the Ecuadorian National Assembly. With 73 votes in favor, 7 abstentions and no votes against, Ecuador’s Parliament overwhelmingly endorsed the decision of the President to grant asylum to the creator of WikiLeaks and strongly denounced the British threat to forcibly enter the embassy as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.

On the streets of Quito, the common denominator has been the proverbial caution. At first sight, neither enthusiasm for or opposition to the grant of asylum to Assange could be perceived.  However, everyone seems to be carefully following reports of international reaction. On the radio, on television and in print, there are detailed reports of the reactions of every international government and political institution. People listen attentively, as though it is hard for them to believe that their government has created such an international stir. And that this was not caused by the price of oil or bananas or drug trafficking in neighboring Colombia. Some have abandoned their reserve and openly demonstrate their pride as citizens of a sovereign nation. Others still remain cautiously silent.

Silvia Arana is a former Argentine political prisoner, activist and writer now living in Ecuador. 
More articles by:
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Negin Owliaei
Toys R Us May be Gone, But Its Workers’ Struggle Continues
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail