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

1 2 3 4 5 15
  • Dienye Hez. Diri

    It is ridiculous that even Britain will allow the United States to ‘use her head’. I used to hold this country in high esteem until now. I used to think Britain have people in politics who can think independently. But now I know – they’re just robots waiting to receive the next command to act on. The United States is only a bunch of stupid politicians manipulating world affairs in order to reach their selfish goals without recourse to the law. They preach democracy everywhere they go, yet they are a dictatorship! Wolves in sheep clothing! That’s what they are. I’ve lost every single respect and love I have for Great Britain for even coming out to make this threat.

  • Geoff

    People have commented on what precedent this would set for British embassies abroad, but also, where would foreign embassies based in London feel they stood? Will we see embassies being closed in protest? No idea how closely other South American countries may or may not choose to stand with Ecuador on this.

    Out of curiousity, laugh at my naive observation if you will, but my understanding is that any kind of container may be labelled as a diplomatic bag. Surely the ambassador would be able to accompany a large and heavy bag carried by two or three staff out of the embassy and through the airport?

  • Phil

    It would not be an unusual pattern for a DOS attack to fire one short attack and then disappear completely. They would probably persist to be seen as exerting themselves.

    Whereas 100,000 genuine hits could easily be generated by a few tweets from accounts as followed as wikileaks. So I suggest you were probably subjected to a large spike of normal traffic. Be happy about it! Your web host should be able to tell from a quick analysis of the web logs.

  • Phil

    Sorry my above post should have started:

    It would be an unusual pattern for a DOS attack to fire one short attack and then disappear completely.

  • Jon

    Keef, thanks. The story is doing well on Slashdot also, though no direct links from there to here as far as I can see. That’d slow things down a bit too 😉

  • John Goss

    Thanks Jon. It came through after my next comment questioning where it had gone. I’m glad it is under such a heavy load. This is of the utmost importance. The very fabric of everything I hold dear about my country is under threat.

  • technicolour

    Strangely: thanks for finding legislation, if that’s the 1987 act being referred to, it also contains this;

    “ARTICLE 45

    If diplomatic relations are broken off between two States, or if a mission is permanently or temporarily recalled:

    (a)the receiving State must, even in case of armed conflict, respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives;

    Is ‘storming it’ ‘respecting and protecting’?

  • Mark El-Kadhi

    ‘Somebody’ Mills above asked “what about the rights of the accusers? The women claiming rape”. Agreed, but look more losely please before reiterating establishment lines of argument.

    If there was any possibility that this was not politically motivated to get JA into US custody, in a hell-hole lile Bradley Manning and likely heading for a death sentence, investigators could have agreed to come to the uk, but they refused.

    Moreover, have a look at the site :
    “Not one suspect was NOT granted bail for rape in Sweden; even those with previous convictions for attempted murder of their partners are givwn bail; there is a long history of using rape allegations dor political purposes as is clearly happening in the Asaange case.” (paraphrasing as honestly as possible, cant figure cut and paste on new phone!)

    Anyone who believes the UK govt’s commitment to justice is what is driving this, rather than it being a poodle part of the US empire following orders to round up and makw an example of an embarrassing whistleblower, will most likely also appear in the same category as those believing in the story of “humanitarian intervention” in Iraq, Libya and now Syria: all actions to extend US/uk/nato domination of resources and strategic positions

    Cant blame you personally for swallowing the establishment line that permeates the media, but perhaps time to explore other possibilities?

    Try dipping into debates on message board, say

  • Passerby

    Which planet from are you getting in touch with Earth?
    US the whining fucking empire that has been committing every sin under the Sun, is now the paragon of virtue that needs to be defended? Now that is really fucking funny, on Earth, but I suppose on your planet it should be a conspiracy.
    So far Standard Charter has been pushed onto the coals, and that was the opening aperitif, lets see what is for the next course?

  • purple

    We’re seeing the continuing breakdown of international law that began with Iraq. This will lead to the collapse of everything that liberal Weaterners hold dear.

  • technicolour

    Geoff: Article 27: “3. The diplomatic bag shall not be opened or detained.”

    It can refer to crates. Apparently there was an attempt made to kidnap a Nigerian minister in this way, but the crate was not labelled properly and the attempt was foiled.

    But that slightly detracts from the main point – how and why did we get here?

  • DoNNyDarKo

    Time to flood the streets with supporters and whisk Julian to safety, People power could win this yet.
    As you say Craig, the Libdems have shown themselves to be self serving scum.
    No limit to the affrontery they are prepared to accept.
    The only covenant they stick to is the one they made to keep cameron in power until 2015.

  • Komodo

    In the long term, this could destroy Hague utterly. For which God be praised. The FO responds to Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum:
    US authorities were specifically asked if they had any intention to seek Mr Assange’s extradition so they could start legal proceedings against him and what maximum penalty he could face.

    “The response from the United States has been that it cannot offer any guarantees.
    I was a sceptic, but now I believe.

  • Simon Wood

    Thanks for this post, Craig. I wrote a blog post along the same lines:

    As you say, domestic law cannot trump international law in a nation party to a binding treaty. Any raid on the embassy would be a travesty.

    The single defining feature of the Assange case is the misinformation and ignorance surrounding it. Any Assange article attracts more comments than most in the mainstream media, but a large number of those comments betray ignorance of the facts and blind acceptance of some lazy crap they read elsewhere in the MSM. If people actually knew all the facts, the swing towards supporting Assange would be enormous.

    Thanks again.

  • AlexT

    Just one further point that eludes me – why would JA be more in danger of extradition to the US in Sweden than in the UK ? Is there anything specific to the legal system there that would make his extradition more likely ? I can’t fathom the the Swedes are even more corrupt than the Brits !

  • Sebastian Borner

    Thank you Craig,
    A question: Why was your website offline this morning / early afternoon?
    I saw something sinister in it, maybe I am just a little paranoid?
    I’d be glad for a brief response.
    I sincerely hope this will be resolved soon and in a good way. Sad that we have to rely on Ecuador to defend our democratic principles.

    Louise Mensch on twitter: Expel Ecuadorean Ambassador, break off relations, enter former embassy, arrest fugitive, extradite.

    That’s a sad statement.

    Kind regards,

  • David

    And there we all were hoping we wouldn’t need to hear any more nonsense from Louise Mensch.

  • Geoff

    Alext – Sweden has granted extradition in the TOTAL OF CASES in which the prisoner was in Swedish territory. They have yet to refuse a single case, save where the requestee was not in Swedish territory.
    Also, I believe Sweden can make the decision to extradite at a political level, less hampered by the courts than is the case in the UK

  • Jon

    @Sebastian Borner: a DDoS attack is tempting to believe, given that Craig’s access to information. But I think it was just the huge amount of interest – we’ve had incoming links from several very high profile sites (see above) and this just overwhelmed the web server. Once the host rebooted it with more RAM/CPU resources, it was fine.
    A competent DDoS would overwhelm the new configuration, which is why I am not of the view that it is malicious.
    Craig – hopefully you can do a piece on this for the MSM. The Guardian put up a good one at 2pm today:

  • John Goss

    In this video Julian Assange interviews President Rafael Correa. It is a must watch if you have not seen it.
    When asked about kicking out the US from a base in Ecuador Correa tells Assange it is all right for the US to have a base in Ecuador if the Ecuadorians can have a base in Miami. Correa also says there is more difference in my thoughts in the morning and afternoon than there is between Democrats and Republicans in the United States government.

  • technicolour

    Alext; both Sweden & UK US allies – less fuss from UK people (where despite the media there is large sympathy for Assange on the ground and high profile supporters) than if Assange is extradited from Sweden: also this from ‘Justice for Assange’ site:

    “Sweden has in the recent past violated international treaties in relation to surrendering foreign nationals into US custody to be interrogated and tortured (case of extraordinary rendition, Agiza v. Sweden at the European Court of Human Rights). Furthermore, Amnesty International and the UN Committee against Torture criticised Sweden because it rendered two refugees to the CIA who were then tortured under the Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak. (A documentary with the testimony of tortured refugees who had been granted asylum and then rendered to the CIA by Sweden was aired on Swedish television on 5 October 2011.”

  • Passerby

    Think about it, there is more than one way of skinning a cat.
    Assange is taken to Sweden and put to trial, and presto the trial continues based on the Swedish laws that makes thinking about doing something that a woman may not like a rape, it is an easy charge to shove him into a jail and throw the key away.
    Then it is time for Assange to get worked on by the friendly tortures who would be priming him to jump; one or the other way, and presto either he is back doing what he is suppose to be doing, or hie is somehow shanked to death in a Swedish Jail, or best yet, he is extradited to US ie Gitmo for more treatment of the same.
    The options are many and the wishful thinking as yet the order of the day, there has been no decision as to deal with his with extreme prejudice ie bump him off, as in the case of many other poor bastards whom have been bumped off, included the most public bumping off of a Mr. Prezident!
    But don’t forget this is not about Assange alone, it is about rule of law, and respect for contractual obligations. ie Vienna Conventions.

1 2 3 4 5 15

Comments are closed.