America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally 437



I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries – arguably millennia – of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.

The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms. There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty.

Article 22

1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter
them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises
of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the
mission or impairment of its dignity.
3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of
transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen. Even during the decades of the Cold War, defectors or dissidents were never seized from each other’s embassies. Murder in Samarkand relates in detail my attempts in the British Embassy to help Uzbek dissidents. This terrible breach of international law will result in British Embassies being subject to raids and harassment worldwide.

The government’s calculation is that, unlike Ecuador, Britain is a strong enough power to deter such intrusions. This is yet another symptom of the “might is right” principle in international relations, in the era of the neo-conservative abandonment of the idea of the rule of international law.

The British Government bases its argument on domestic British legislation. But the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law, unless it chooses to withdraw from them. If the government does not wish to follow the obligations imposed on it by the Vienna Convention, it has the right to resile from it – which would leave British diplomats with no protection worldwide.

I hope to have more information soon on the threats used by the US administration. William Hague had been supporting the move against the concerted advice of his own officials; Ken Clarke has been opposing the move against the advice of his. I gather the decision to act has been taken in Number 10.

There appears to have been no input of any kind from the Liberal Democrats. That opens a wider question – there appears to be no “liberal” impact now in any question of coalition policy. It is amazing how government salaries and privileges and ministerial limousines are worth far more than any belief to these people. I cannot now conceive how I was a member of that party for over thirty years, deluded into a genuine belief that they had principles.

437 thoughts on “America’s Vassal Acts Decisively and Illegally

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  • Mary

    Huge thanks to the Guardian for their comprehensive coverage of Craig’s speech. NOT.

    13:59 BST Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who is an Assange supporter, is responding to questions about suggestions that British law allowed for police to enter the embassy legally and arrest Assange.

    “You cannot legislate domestically to opt out of international law,” says Murray, who also claims that there has been much unhappiness among British staff about Foreign Office moves in recent days.”

    “It also makes us look very very stupid, because not one country has come out in support of Wiliam Hague’s interpretation of internaitonal law”

    13:44 BST Some more speeches are taking place outside the embassy by prominent supporters of Julian Assange. They include Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and Tariq Ali, the left-wing author and activist.

  • Russell

    “UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.”

    Three days later and this still hasn’t happened. It’s almost as if the entire scenario has been concocted in the minds of people who think it’s okay to shelter alleged rapists.

  • Yitzhak

    ‘the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law’.

    Quite right. So we can presumably now expect anti-Semites like you to stop whingeing that the Israeli Supreme Court is somehow competent to declare Judea & Samaria ‘under belligerent occupation’, in direct violation of _inter alia_ the San Remo Declaration, the Treaty of Sèvres and Article 80 of the Charter of the United Nations.


  • doug scorgie

    William Hague said in late August:
    “We cannot have a foreign policy without a conscience. Foreign policy is domestic policy written large. The values we live by at home do not stop at our shores. Human rights are not the only issue that informs the making of foreign policy, but they are indivisible from it, not least because the consequences of foreign policy failure are human”.
    In early September he was ‘outed’ in the media as a possible bi-sexual.
    If you look at his statements on foreign policy since, you could be forgiven for thinking that he’s been got at by the powers that be.

  • Chris

    To Yithak
    Oh you mean that Treaty of Sevres, the one which says:
    …favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine…
    Is that the one you mean?

  • Chris

    What I don’t understand is why the US didn’t ask the UK government to extradite Assange directly without sideslipping him through Sweden

  • Yitzhak

    Yes, Chris, that’s the one I mean. Now be a good boy and tell us all how ‘civil and political rights’ entails the creation of an Arab state west of the River Jordan.

  • Chris

    Sorry, all. Made a mistake and answered a troll.
    Back to the point, though. If the USA really wanted Assange, why didn’t they simply put through an extradition request directly to the British government. I just can’t understand why they should go to all the trouble of involving Sweden, a country that surely can’t be as subservient to them as the UK.

  • Mary

    Do leave us alone Yitzhak. I thought you had been assassinated anyway by one of your people who did not like you signing the Oslo accords.

    This is the best that Luke Harding could come up with today.

    ‘Julian Assange, the balcony Bolívar of Knightsbridge’

    ‘Before Assange appeared at the balcony – in scenes that might have sprung from Monty Python’s Life of Brian’

  • Yitzhak

    Hahah … ‘a troll’. How amusing that anyone who asks a question you can’t answer, is ‘a troll’.

  • Yitzhak

    … especially considering that this article contains (at last count) 73 occurrences of the word ‘Israel’. Let’s see… Australian bloke blows whistle on US cables… wanted in Sweden… arrested by the UK…..

    … but it’s the fault of Israel.

    [Mod/Jon: partially redacted – please stick to arguments, reduce the ad hominem]

  • Rachel


    I watched you speak today in front of the Ecuadorian Embassy. I found you to be very articulate, and your honesty and integrity are refreshing. I love your passion for truth. I’ll be following your writing from now on.

  • nevermind

    After this speech in front of many Met officers, outlining international law and the situation they would face,should even so much contemplate to enter the territory of another country by force.

    Since this lecture on what they can and cannot due by someone who is learned in foreign affairs, THEY CANNOT CLAIM TO HAVE NOT KNOW, that’s one excuse they cannot bring should they ever have to defend the indefensible.

    well done Craig, billy 14 pints ‘ll hate your guts for it.

  • John Goss

    Thanks Hatari and Mark Golding for posting two great videos of Craig supporting Julian Assange. We need more people like the two of them who have both suffered for genuine integrity.

    Meanwhile I’ve gone into movie production. ‘The ghost of Dr David Kelly’. A bit naiive, especially to think it will be big box-office, but well meant. It’s only two minutes long.

  • Yitzhak

    @Nevermind. I’ve yet to see Mr Murray speak on that YouTube video, but I do hope that he hasn’t been expounding on ‘international law’, when as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, his higher education credentials begin and end with history. You see, Mr Murray has, elsewhere on this quite frankly *hilarious* website, stated on several occasions that Israel ‘occupies the West Bank’, or that there is ‘Occupied Palestinian territory’ in the aforementioned jurisdiction.

    This is wrong on so many counts that it would take me hours of writing to list every one of them, but a brief selection will suffice:

    There is no such thing as a ‘Palestinian people’. This is not only the opinion of many Jews, but is also the historical position of the Arabs who use that name in English, but who admit to their genocidal and revisionist aims when addressing their own populations in Arabic.

    There is no ‘occupation’. Several criteria are necessary for a territory to be called ‘occupied’, and at the risk of stating the obvious (which ranting anti-Semites like you lot like to gloss over), there was no legal or lawful sovereign of the area you know as ‘the West Bank’ prior to 1967. Nor is it legally possible to ‘occupy’ a people. Only territory can be occupied, and as I have just pointed out, the seizure of that area by Jordan in 1948 followed on from a crime. To quote Professor Stephen Schwebel (Professor of International Law and Oganization at the John Hopkins University and former International Court of Justice judge)…

    ‘Where the prior holder of territory had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense has, against that prior holder, better title…’

    And I have already cited the international laws which grant the Jewish people full right of abode in Judea & Samaria. If you can cite for me a binding law, treaty or other organ which rescinds San Remo, then we can discuss in what way Israel is in the wrong.

    But neither you nor Mr Murray will be able to do so. Instead, you’ll just keep chanting your mantra of ‘illegal occupation’, hoping that it will eventually become accepted ‘truth’ (and you’re right to believe that it eventually will), and in the meantime, hoping to your god that the Hamas finishes what H*tler started.

  • Charles Crawford

    In response to the argument above that Ecuador might make Assange a diplomatic courier and try to use Article 27 of the Vienna Convention and the courier’s ‘inviolability’ to get him out of the UK, I don’t think Assange or Ecuador will risk it.

    It would be a trivial abuse of the Embassy’s diplomatic privileges to try to avoid the UK’s (receiving state’s) proper legal jurisdiction in this way and so could be caught by Article 41(3), a general call for polite behaviour.

    HMG would be entitled to refuse to accept that he WAS a legitimate diplomatic courier for that reason and nab him. No other sensible country would take Ecuador’s ruse seriously, and indeed it would undermine the general principle of immunity for real diplomatic couriers.

    This no doubt is why they have gone for the ‘diplomatic asylum’ route, a weak idea that is NOT accepted as part of international law, but the best they could find by scraping the bottom of the legal barrel.

    Interested in Craig’s view.

  • Jon

    Hi Charles. I should be interested to get your view on my reply above, [18 Aug, 2012 – 3:31 pm]. From a purely technical angle, I think the unanswered issues about the Swedish case make the whole thing look very suspicious indeed.

  • Jon

    @Yitzhak – you’ll not be deleted here if you stick to topics, and be civil. I’ve trimmed a couple of items from you, since they were well off-topic and/or abusive, but your substantive views have been preserved. I’m not entirely sure Israel/Palestine is on-topic here – this post is about Assange. Your views on that story are welcome.

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