Dec 5th 2012
The Drum Opinion
Australia can help Julian Assange negotiate his legal problems while remaining consistent with the norms of international law and with the level of assistance that would be offered to other Australians, writes Donald Rothwell.
This week Julian Assange, the Australian founder of Wikileaks, passed the second anniversary of his legal troubles arising from a Swedish issued European Arrest Warrant.
However, notwithstanding the twists and turns in his legal battles, and ultimately his success in seeking diplomatic asylum from Ecuador, Assange’s situation is no closer to resolution. He remains at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and refuses to leave because he fears being eventually extradited to the United States to face various charges associated with the publication by Wikileaks of US diplomatic cables.
To date there is nothing on the public record to suggest the US has commenced legal proceedings against Assange and his extradition to the US has not been sought. The US Ambassador to Australia, Jeffrey Bleich, has publicly stated the US is not seeking Assange’s extradition.
Provided Assange remains in the Ecuadorian Embassy, he enjoys certain protections under international law. The 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations provides under Article 22 that diplomatic premises such as an embassy are ‘inviolable’. As such, the embassy cannot be entered by the British authorities without consent.
However the UK has indicated that it does not recognise Ecuador’s granting of asylum and if Assange were to leave the Embassy he is liable to arrest and extradition to Sweden.