Hounding Assange

Ecuador’s decision to give WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum has kicked up a storm in Britain, the US and other western countries. He is wanted in Sweden for questioning on rape/sexual abuse allegations levelled by two WikiLeaks volunteers two years ago.

However, his hounding by British authorities over the past year is not so much about ensuring justice in the sexual abuse cases as it is about using this to silence him. Diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks revealed to the world several dark decisions and deeds of the US-led alliance in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, on Iran, etc.

 

It became imperative therefore for them to silence Assange. They tried measures to shut down WikiLeaks but Assange was not a man to be cowed down easily by bullying. In the circumstances, the sexual abuse allegations came in handy to lock him up. Since then, the WikiLeaks founder has been put under relentless pressure. It is not our argument that Assange should be let off the hook for his sexual crimes, if any.

 

However, the political angle in his persecution by US/British authorities cannot be overlooked. Ecuador is well within its rights to grant him asylum. Its decision is hardly ‘disgraceful,’ as Britain claims.


Britain has threatened to storm the Ecuador embassy in London to prevent Assange’s exit from the country. Some have suggested his removal from the vehicle he takes to the airport. These are steps that are in nobody’s interest. Besides, embassy premises and cars enjoy diplomatic immunity. Of course, Britain will find some loophole in the laws to justify storming the embassy. Still, it could end up setting a bad precedent. As one expert has pointed out, what happens if a woman facing stoning in Iran seeks political asylum at the British embassy in Teheran?


The US, Britain and Sweden are countries that routinely lecture the rest of the world on democracy, human rights and rule of law. In their determined persecution of Assange they have stripped themselves of the right to even call themselves democracies. If Britain storms the Ecuador embassy it amounts to an extreme violation of international law and diplomatic conventions. It is an invasion of the sovereign territory of another country. Assange is fleeing political persecution by the US and Britain. The international community must stand by him.

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