Thursday, August 16, 2012

Because They can

The British government threatened to violate the Ecuadoran embassy and arrest Wikileaks founder Julian AssangeFormer British Ambassador Charles Crawford offers his thoughts on this matter.  Unlike the Iranian seizure of the US embassy in 1979, this time, the British are going after a criminal, not someone with diplomatic status.  That said, during the Cold War, US embassies in Eastern Europe and the USSR harbored various dissidents also charged with crimes by the host governments.  Despite furious diplomatic protests, none of them dared to violate US embassy grounds.  The reason why Britain may dare to do to Ecuador what the USSR never dared to do to the US is simple: Britain can.  Ecuador is not the US.

I'm no aware of any international law that can justify British invasion of the Ecuadoran embassy that, in terms of international law, is Ecuadoran sovereign soil.  If the assault does take place, there is little that Ecuador can do.  Protests are unlikely to be heeded.  Economic sanctions are meaningless as the volume of trade between the 2 countries is minuscule and nobody seriously thinks that Ecuador will declare war on Britain.  The most likely course of action will be a suit at the World Court which is likely to rule in favor of Ecuador.

I'm not sure Ambassador Crawford is correct in suggesting that Ecuador wishes to find a face-saving way of surrendering the fugitive.  If the British does assault the Ecuadoran embassy, it will be a godsend to Ecuadoran President Correa who can get a lot of propaganda mileage out of a follow-up international law suit and cries about how evil British imperialists violated Ecuadoran sovereignty and invaded Ecuadoran soil.  On the other hand, this is no small favor to the US.

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