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back to article Assange's fate to be revealed at high noon

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño has reportedly told a press conference that Britain threatened to attack the nation’s London Embassy if it did not hand over WikiLeaker Julian Assange. The threat was apparently made in writing. The document is not present on WikiLeaks at the time of writing. Assange is currently holed …

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Black Helicopters

Legal basis?

The legal basis is cited as a law passed in 1987.

Hmm, what might 1987 legislation have been targeting? Could it be the incident when a London policewoman (Yvonne Fletcher) was shot dead from inside the Libyan embassy? That kind of incident could indeed merit some kind of extraordinary action.

Does that mean Mr Assange is armed and so dangerous as to pose a live threat, AND has the collusion of the Embassy? Or is the government threatening blatant abuse of this extraordinary legislation?

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Re: Legal basis?

This is merely a head game, designed to increase the probability that Assange's eccentric behaviour will result in another silly impulse. Assange cannot win as things stand, irrespective of what any one says. Unless Scotty can beam him to Ecuador he must first pass through UK territory to reach Ecuador. If and when this happens Assange will be nicked. Either that or die in Ecuador's embassy, due to age or ill health arising from his new unhealthy life style.

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Anonymous Coward

Fill the syringe boys he's acoming! Yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaa!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Legal basis?

I read on The Grauniad website that Ecuador could grant Assange a diplomatic passport, which would render him immune to arrest and therefore allow him to leave the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Legal basis?

For the final time: Assange will not become a diplomat for many reasons, not least of which is that DIPLOMATS HAVE TO BE APPROVED BY THE HOST NATION. THE UK WILL NOT ALLOW HIM TO BE MADE A DIPLOMAT.

Has everyone got that now?

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Black Helicopters

Re: Legal basis?

Surely he doesn't need to be made a diplomat, only given a diplomatic passport. It's not the same thing and fuck-all to do with the host nation.

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Devil

Re: Legal basis?

IANAL, but

They could grant him Ecuadoran citizenship,

then appoint him as ambassador to (say) Argentina

1. If a diplomatic agent passes through or is in the territory of a third State, which has granted him a passport visa if such visa was necessary, while proceeding to take up or to return to his post, or when returning to his own country, the third State shall accord him inviolability and such other immunities as may be required to ensure his transit or return. The same shall apply in the case of any members of his family enjoying privileges or immunities who are accompanying the diplomatic agent, or travelling separately to join him or to return to their country

In this case the UK would be the "Third state" and not have an option of not receiving the "Diplomat", but be obliged to not hider their progress.

Pretty sure he already has a visa, which they granted him.

Then they put him on a direct (charter?) flight to Argentina, and from there he can go to Ecuador

So long as Argentina don't deny his diplomatic credentials before he gets there.

Which seems unlikely tbh.

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Angel

Re: Legal basis?

"Surely he doesn't need to be made a diplomat, only given a diplomatic passport. It's not the same thing and fuck-all to do with the host nation."

Passport control and the correct and proper issue of diplomatic passports is everything to do with the host nation. You may have difficulty with this, you may stamp your feet and you may thqweeem and thqweeeem and thqweeeeeeeem, but these are the facts of life. Julie has run out of legal road.

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Megaphone

Re: Legal basis?

Not stamping my feet, but I do know several military people who travel on UK diplomatic passports who are most definitely not diplomats in any guest nation. Does this provide any additional protection to a normal passport? Bono estente.

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Re: Legal basis?

BBC Radio 4's PM programme took a light hearted look into similar situations from the past. On one occasion, an attempt was made to get an individual from an embassy to another country inside a diplomatic bag- which was actually a shipping crate. The plan failed because a mistake was made in the paperwork.

All this talk of diplomatic passports is making me think of the Goon Show...

Greenslade: Very good, sir. We present Baroness Orkesy's masterpiece, Baron Orkesy, or "A Strange Case of Diplomatic Immunity", in which a strange case of diplomatic immunity is recounted. Chapter One, a Strange Diplomatic Case of Immunity, or A Diplomatic Case of Strange Immunity, or through hook, line and blizzard with Ava Gardner.

Neddie Seagoon gets run over by a steamroller driven by Moriarty. Moriarty then explains that his steamroller has CD plates:

"Sapristi yakamacaca. Diplomatic immunity means I cannot be arrested, sued, disfranchised, blackballed, guillotined, run out, left in bulk, charged, hung, drawn or quartered, or needle-nardle-noo! You see, I happen to be the deputy vice pomfrit of the Titicacan delegation."

http://www.thegoonshow.net/scripts_show.asp?title=s06e05_the_case_of_the_missing_cd_plates

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Stop

Re: Legal basis?

"Not stamping my feet, but I do know several military people who travel on UK diplomatic passports who are most definitely not diplomats in any guest nation."

They are accorded diplomatic status by the guest nation. The fact that they are 'legals' or 'military attaches' has to be recognised by the host country: They are not obliged to let them wander around and do what they like, or even let them in. And that diplomatic status can be revoked and the person declared non grata. That's simply the way it works, I'm afraid.

The problem with this case is there seem to be an awful lot of people making statements about diplomatic convention which simply are not true, and people then make judgements as to what's 'fair' based on those. Even the Guardian have been getting stuff wrong.

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Re: Legal basis?

"They are accorded diplomatic status by the guest nation"

What I was asking was does a person in possession of a diplomatic passport have a greater measure of protection against a hostile foreign legal system than a normal passport holder? And if not what is the justification behind their issue?

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FAIL

Re: Legal basis?

"I do know several military people who travel on UK diplomatic passports who are most definitely not diplomats in any guest nation. Does this provide any additional protection to a normal passport? Bono estente."

To reiterate, the host country is responsible for the correct and proper issuance of diplomatic passports, and that is the UK in this instance; as with every host country they will only authorise such an issue to someone if they are not wanted for crimes in the EU and host nation. As it is a European arrest warrant has been issued for an alleged crime in an EU country, the full and proper judicial process for contesting the EAW has been exhausted and, the moment this happened, the alleged perpetrator took refuge in a the embassy of a foreign power, not for the purpose of genuine asylum, but to evade arrest on the grounds of a bona fide arrest warrant, it being that Assange fled jurisdiction (Sweden) when they were about to arrest and charge him and informed his legal advisor so (naive, yes).

Finally, under EU law someone taken from one country to another under an EAW cannot be extradited from the second EU country without prior legal assent by the first country. It would be easier to extradite Assange to the US from here than Sweden, because Assange would be subject to only one set of laws.

HTH.

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FAIL

Re: Legal basis?

What I was asking was does a person in possession of a diplomatic passport have a greater measure of protection against a hostile foreign legal system than a normal passport holder? And if not what is the justification behind their issue?

No, this is what you posted:

"Surely he doesn't need to be made a diplomat, only given a diplomatic passport. It's not the same thing and fuck-all to do with the host nation."

In plain language, it has every fucking thing to do with the host nation who will not permit the issue of a diplomatic passport, because they control their borders, not the guest nation.

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Re: Legal basis?

"To reiterate, the host country is responsible for the correct and proper issuance of diplomatic passports"

The UK issues Ecuadorian diplomatic passports?

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Re: Legal basis?

"The UK issues Ecuadorian diplomatic passports?"

No, but it doesn't have to allow anyone who owns on 'in'.

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He could be issued a diplomatic passport, but...

...that does not automatically grant diplomatic immunity - legally, it carries as much weight and standing as a frequent flyer card.

And if Ecuador claim he has diplomatic immunity, that doesn't give him carte blanche to do what he likes: Hollywood not withstanding, it generally only applies to work-related activities. Article 31(c) of the Vienna Convention specifically leaves him open to legal embuggerment for anything he's done outside of official Ecuadorian business.

Basically, he's stuck in their basement unless he can sneak out - although they could stick him in a crate and lable it "diplomatic baggage" - google "Umaro Dikko".

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Go

Re: Legal basis?

"What I was asking was does a person in possession of a diplomatic passport have a greater measure of protection against a hostile foreign legal system than a normal passport holder? And if not what is the justification behind their issue?"

Yes, they do.

However, the extent of this can also vary to some small degree according to the host's attitude. ie: Borris doesn't think that it extends to the Congestion Charge.

Most importantly is the matter of diplomacy. As a diplomatic passport owner, one could breach laws of the host nation and be kicked out of that nation without real penalty, but such deeds are a major issue diplomatically and it is often in the best interests of the issuing country to punish the abuser in their own nation, after expulsion in order to ease international tensions.

Additionally, it is bad form to issue diplomatic passports to questionable characters, because it causes a lot of international tension. Diplomacy is not simply a matter of following rules, but about not offending others without a bloody good reason.

The system is mostly built on walking softly, diplomacy and mutual respect. It's important for countries to try to not annoy each other over Embassy and Diplomat issues because these are the channels that country's use to negotiate with and talk to each other. Look at the recent China incident: The US essentially 'handed over' the 'fugitive' in their embassy rather than cause the kind of scene that Assange is playing out, and China then acknowledged the US not making them look bad by letting the fugitive go to the US. Result: No massive international incident, and both countries can continue talking.

In comparison, Ecuador have been acting bullish in an area which normally sees much co-operation and softly-softly goings-on. The result has been very bad for both countries.

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Re: Legal basis?

"No, but it doesn't have to allow anyone who owns on 'in'."

Obviously, but JA is already "in" on an Australian passport. So. The question remains. What happens when JA walks out of the embassy in possession of an Ecuadorian diplomatic passport?

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Re: He could be issued a diplomatic passport, but...

"Basically, he's stuck in their basement unless he can sneak out - although they could stick him in a crate and lable it "diplomatic baggage" - google "Umaro Dikko"."

And that was not a legitimate nor legal use of diplomatic baggage, which was why intercepting it was legitimate.

It was also a major diplomatic screw-up that can endanger the entire status of embassies and diplomats, which is bad for everyone.

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Trollface

Re: "Even the Guardian have been getting stuff wrong"

Say it ain't so!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Legal basis?

I believe a Diplomatic vehicle can be used to aid his great escape... maybe

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Legal basis?

"but I do know several military people who travel on UK diplomatic passports "

Diplomatic, or official? There's hell of a difference.

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Facepalm

Re: Legal basis?

"I believe a Diplomatic vehicle can be used to aid his great escape... maybe"

Then it would be the most undiplomatic diplomatic-plated vehicle in history.

The clue is in the word: Diplomacy is supposed to be about easing diplomatic tensions and mutual respect... Not going out of your way to try to piss the host nation off and flicking the bird at their laws while shouting "fuck you, I've got diplomatic plates on this bad boy!".

That's a great way of getting your entire staff kicked out and your embassy closed and no favours from the host nation for a few years.

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Re: Legal basis?

"In comparison, Ecuador have been acting bullish in an area which normally sees much co-operation and softly-softly goings-on. The result has been very bad for both countries."

On one side we have appeals to legalism with rants about HE BROKE THE LAW while at the same time all the "walking softly" approach where said "law" is bent to suit the nations involved behind closed doors.

If the UK government think it is worth a major diplomatic incident in order to satisfy the extradition to a 3rd country of an individual who faces no charges, the ball is actually in their court, not Ecuadors. I would presume the true purpose of political asylum is to protect individuals against mendacious government apparatus, and having the benefit of being a Swedish-speaker who followed the handling of this case in Sweden I see no reason to doubt that this is the case.

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Re: Legal basis?

"On one side we have appeals to legalism with rants about HE BROKE THE LAW while at the same time all the "walking softly" approach where said "law" is bent to suit the nations involved behind closed doors."

The issue of Assange breaking the law is different from the softly-softly matter of diplomatic relations. In fact, the former should in sane diplomatic minds give a great get-out in ceding to the later. Ecuador have not taken that easy-out, nor did they 'quickly' decide on the asylum issue, and are generally making things difficult all-round.

"If the UK government think it is worth a major diplomatic incident..."

No; it's if the Ecuador thinks it's worth a major diplomatic incident to flaunt the normal ways of diplomacy by basically saying "Fuck you" to the UK's courts, and "Fuck you" to the idea of making this all quietly go away.

Here's a clue: It's really not.

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Re: Legal basis?

@ Chris - no it wouldn't. For Assange to have Diplomatic Immunity he would have to have his credentials accepted by "The court of St James'" (ie, the Queen). I'm reasonably confident that even if he managed to get that far, his credentials would not be accepted.

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Re: Legal basis?

I imagine, considering the amount of police surrounding the building, he gets arrested.

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Re: Legal basis?

"What happens when JA walks out of the embassy in possession of an Ecuadorian diplomatic passport?"

He gets arrested. He's broken the terms of his bail, and there is an existing, outstanding warrant for his arrest. A diplomatic passport does not give him immunity to arrest as the warrant and the breach of bail terms occurred when he was not on official Ecuadorian business.

The UK are legally bound to enforce that warrant, which is why they warned the embassy of what options were open to them. They are trying to come to an arrangement with the Ecuadorians as to how this can be resolved without resort to more extreme measures.

In the mean time, there's a fair chance Mr A has finished reading Friday and is now trying to emulate her (fictional) techniques to cross borders...

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Re: "Even the Guardian have been getting stuff wrong"

Does that imply that you think you know of an occasion when the Guardian got something right?

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Re: Legal basis?

"The UK issues Ecuadorian diplomatic passports?"

Without their authority one for use in the UK cannot be issued. It therefore follows that, irrespective of how many diplomatic accreditations the tin foil brigade would like Ecuador to give in different countries, the one that matters is an accreditation in the UK, and ONLY the UK can authorise it. If you are holding your breath I have to tell you that you are out of luck.

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FAIL

Re: Legal basis?

"Obviously, but JA is already "in" on an Australian passport. So. The question remains. What happens when JA walks out of the embassy in possession of an Ecuadorian diplomatic passport?"

Because the UK won't accredit him for UK diplomatic status he goes to gaol. He does not pass go, he does not collect his £80,000 salary and, unless Scotty can beam him aboard, he goes to Sweden.

His Australian passport is an irrelevance because of crimes that Assange allegedly committed in Sweden.

This is the end of the road.

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Devil

Re: Legal basis?

No. Even if you want to argue that CD plates prevent police stopping him (since they would be carrying a wanted man I doubt it, and in these days of Police Cams I suspect the Ecuadorian government will be careful here), he has to tread on the soil between the ground floor flat in which the embassy is housed and the car outside; in between Julie and that car you will find several burly constables.

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FAIL

Re: Legal basis?

"On one side we have appeals to legalism with rants about HE BROKE THE LAW while at the same time all the "walking softly" approach where said "law" is bent to suit the nations involved behind closed doors."

I am sorry to disappoint you but Assange is not a diplomat, and the 'walking softly' phrase is completely bizarre, irrelevant and non sequitur in the case of this convict, who is wanted in another EU jurisdiction.

HTH

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Re: "Even the Guardian have been getting stuff wrong"

"Does that imply that you think you know of an occasion when the Guardian got something right?"

They thought they were right about the sinking of the General Belgrano, until the appropriate heads of Argentinian service agreed that it was at the start of an attack manoeuvre, beginning with the away pass prior to turning. They fully intended to sink our ships, and that is the way war goes.

You will probably the current imbroglio has an obvious explanation, inasmuch that the current descendants of Hispanic colonists do not like the British one bit, and Ecuador is clearly no exception:

http://en.mercopress.com/2012/05/31/ecuador-calls-for-an-end-to-colonialism-in-malvinas-puerto-rico-and-guantanamo

Heh.

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Re: Legal basis?

"I am sorry to disappoint you but Assange is not a diplomat, and the 'walking softly' phrase is completely bizarre, irrelevant and non sequitur in the case of this convict, who is wanted in another EU jurisdiction."

I didn't make the "walking softly" reference in the case of this person who you know is not convicted of *these* crimes. Or even charged for that matter.

Anyway, let the games begin. He got political asylum. Sorry about that old bean.

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Boffin

Re: Re: Legal basis? @ Steen Hive

You are both right in that the idea - Ecuador makes A$$nut a diplomat for some fictional role in Argentina, the Argies say "yes" and the Brits then stand aside - would work in normal circumstances but probably wouldn't work here IF the British authorities really want to grab A$$nut. It is not normal circumstances as A$$nut is now a fugitive from British law, therefore he still risks arrest in trying to pass over British territory as the crime (bail jumping) occurred BEFORE the diplomatic immunity could apply. Diplomatic immunity covers you for events AFTER the granting of diplomatic status. For example, if A$$nut had a speeding ticket before being granted diplomatic immunity he would still have to pay the fine, but after being granted DI he could speed as much as the granting country was willing to accept.

But, if I was in the Home Office I'd be telling the coppers to stand aside and telling Ecuador to get St Jules on a plane pronto. Why? Well, this way he remains a wanted criminal in Europe and subject to extradition from many countries that have treaties with the UK. What better way to curtail his future activities and also has the bonus to be able to continually refer to him as "Julian Assange, a previously convicted criminal wanted for bail violations and suspected rape"? The UK no longer has to waste time and money on the A$$nut issue and can leave it to the States to carry on hounding him. A$$nut further digs a grave for his own credibility as a "journalist championing free speech" by hiding behind a regime notorious for their oppression of the press. A$$nut probably has a daydream about hiding out in the Ecuadorean's London embassy for years, keeping his profile high, but that might not sit well with the Ecuadoreans. Hence I think the British half-threat to "invade" the embassy was to push the Ecuadoreans in the direction of getting A$$nut on a plane ASAP.

Either option - A$$nut makes a break and gets nicked and passed to the Swedes, or A$$nut goes in the diplomatic mail - are pretty much win-win for the UK.

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Thumb Up

Re: Legal basis?

Simple answer for the UK Government declare the Ecuadorian diplomats persona non grata for harboring a fugitive. Then starve Assange out.

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Mushroom

Re: Legal basis?

"Obviously, but JA is already "in" on an Australian passport. So. The question remains. What happens when JA walks out of the embassy in possession of an Ecuadorian diplomatic passport?"

He gets arrested. It would hold zero weight, as it would not have been legitimately issued.

Ecuador are already pushing the boundaries, and that would cause a MAJOR incident diplomatically, as it would far, far outreach the ideals behind the Vienna Convention. It's like someone wiping their arse with the rulebook... and not someone with a UN veto either, for a change.

Remember that a Israeli diplomat got kicked out on his arse for his country "allegedly" copying UK passports a couple of years ago? This is far, far worse diplomatically. You'd expect their Ambassador to be whisked into have a word with a senior minister, dressed down and declared PNG in the wake of such an incident. At minimum.

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Stop

Re: Legal basis?

"No. Even if you want to argue that CD plates prevent police stopping him"

Which they don't.

"he has to tread on the soil between the ground floor flat in which the embassy is housed and the car outside"

Not that that is Ecuadorian soil anyway. We have legal recourse to enter. It wouldn't be "playing nice", but Ecuador have already thrown the rules of diplomacy out of the window.

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Re: Legal basis?

"If the UK government think it is worth a major diplomatic incident in order to satisfy the extradition to a 3rd country of an individual who faces no charges...."

This "no charges" thing is dishonest. People who know very well that this is simply a normal attribute of a different legal system are using it to try muddy the waters.

It is a fully in-order extradition request that has been exhaustively tested in UK courts. End-of as far as the UK is concerned. This should move to Sweden and be argued there.

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@AC re 'Yeeeehaaa!"

I didn't realize that the Swedes were fond of yelling 'Yeee Haaa!'.

Maybe its from watching old Bruce Willis movies?

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Boffin

@ Psyx, spot on...Re: Legal basis?

The question is how far will the UK Government go to stop Assange from leaving?

I think if you weigh the repercussions with Ecuador versus the repercussions with the EU and potential issues down the road... The UK will stop Assange from leaving.

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Devil

@mike2R Re: Legal basis?

I think he was attempting to say that the UK are the pawns of the US and that by enforcing their laws, the laws of the EU, they are effectively sending him to the US, even though the US haven't yet charged him with anything.

I agree with you and your point. I was merely pointing out the twisted logic some A$$nut followers have in trying to make this a US is evil kind of thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Legal basis?

> Diplomacy is supposed to be about easing diplomatic tensions and mutual respect...

Or, as Will Rogers put it, diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggy" while you look for a big rock.

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Re: Legal basis?

I've read the Act.

The Secretary of State, according to the Act, has to stay within the limits of International Law.

There's nothing about serious criminal actions by diplomats. Mostly, it's about keeping track of property ownership, which is so very 1987. I suppose it might be invoked if an Embassy's front garden was needed to widen a road.

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Re: Legal basis?

The interesting thing is that a good many diplomats really are spies, and once these people are on the list, the worst you can do when you catch them is chuck them out. But we don't have to let Assange get on the list in the first place.

WWTBOFHD?

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Re: Legal basis?

And when the host nation is threatening to shut down the Embassy, withdrawing diplomatic status and sending the Police in, how is that any different?

You might be able to get a motor-cycle through the front door.

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Meh

Re: Legal basis?

In very very short terms, "diplomatic passport" <> "diplomatic immunity". Ecuador can give him a certificate declaring him a God for all it matters, as soon as he walks out of the embassy he's on UK soil and they can do what they like to him. So he's effectively in prison.

Plan B is the UK let him go to the airport, effectively barring him from ever entering Europe again as he's now a wanted criminal (bail dodging, suspicion of sexual assault etc), Jemima Khan loses her bail bond.

Unfortunately, what will likely happen is the Plan C will happen - the UK will challenge Assange's right to political asylym (as I understand it, the right only applies if your own or host country is persecuting you - the US is neither) in international court, thus dragging it out another 12+ months meaning we never hear the end of it.

I'm all for Wikileaks, but this is very little to do with them, and all about a man scared to face up to his accusers.

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