Ecuador Foreign Minister: Assange Can’t Enjoy ‘Eternal Asylum’ in London Embassy
The top diplomat’s remarks come amid reports that the WikiLeaks founder may soon be stripped of his asylum at the Latin American country’s London mission.
“Ecuador has been very clear” on Assange’s asylum status, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told Spain’s ABC newspaper on Thursday. “It is an issue that should be dealt with in the framework of international law by three parties: the British government, the Ecuadorian government and Assange’s lawyers,” the Foreign Minister said.
According to the top diplomat, the asylum agreement which was granted in its own time requires some sort of resolution, “because it cannot be an eternal asylum. But it’s difficult to predict how long it will take to find a solution,” he said.
Valencia doesn’t believe that Quito’s request that Assange doesn’t make political statements while residing at the embassy, including comments on the Catalan independence movement, to be evidence of any sort of censorship.
“Ecuador granted Assange asylum on the basis of agreements providing him with protection by our country in the diplomatic headquarters. These conventions determine that the person seeking asylum cannot make political pronouncements or put the host country’s relationship with third parties (in this case Spain) at risk.”
Earlier, media reported that British and Ecuadorian officials had engaged in secret talks to expel Assange from its London embassy. In turn, Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said he would not discuss Assange’s fate during his trip to the UK and Spain this week.
Julian Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012 after being accused of sexual assault in Sweden. The whistleblower maintained that the charges against him were false, and that they served as an excuse to extradite him to the United States, where he is accused of espionage and of leaking thousands of classified documents related to US military operations.
Swedish authorities dropped their investigation into the sexual assault case against Assange in May 2017.
However, the outstanding UK arrest warrant against him, issued for breach of bail conditions related to those charges, remains in force, and Assange would be subject to arrest if he stepped foot outside the Embassy, according to London Metropolitan Police.
Assange’s internet connection was cut off in March, with a WikiLeaks adviser and Assange ally saying the move may have been connected with the activist’s tweets about the Skripal poisoning case.
To add onto Assange’s growing list of woes, has a lung condition that could get worse, the South American country’s envoy to Britain said on Wednesday.
“He has a chronic lung condition that could worsen at any time,” Ambassador Ana Alban told reporters ahead of an annual gathering of Ecuador’s diplomatic corps with President Rafael Correa in Quito.
Mr Assange’s team of lawyers claimed doctors have confirmed his protracted confinement in the Ecuador’s London embassy is having a severe impact on the journalist’s physical and mental health.
Calling for the intervention of the UN’s Human Rights Council, they argued the UK is forcing Mr Assange, 46, to make an “impossible” choice.
Human rights barrister Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, representing the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said:
“The UK shows a deliberate disregard for his medical needs by forcing him to choose between his human right to asylum and his human right to medical treatment.
“No-one should ever have to make this choice.
“We call upon the special rapporteur to give immediate attention to Mr Assange’s case, to plan an official visit to the Ecuador Embassy and to urge the UK to give the assurances required for him to leave the embassy to obtain the medical treatment he requires.”
Alban said Ecuador was “covering his medical expenses” and arranging “regular medical checkups,” noting that Assange has been living “in a confined space” since seeking asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden on frivolous charges of rape and sexual assault.
She did not give further details on his health.
A spokesman for WikiLeaks in London, Kristinn Hrafnsson, declined comment on Assange’s health.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
July 26th, 2018