A placard is held by a supporter of Julian Assange outside the Ecuador embassy in west London (Photo : Reuters)
What began as a plea for asylum has set into motion a game of tense political maneuvering between Britain and Ecuador.
Ecuador granted Julian Assange political asylum today, following two months of housing him under the roof of their British embassy. He faces charges of rape and sexual assault in Sweden, a crime that Britain is obligated to extradite the WikiLeaks founder for. Were Assange to exit the embassy, he would be under the jurisdiction of the British government.
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According to Reuters, the Ecuadorean embassy is under 24-hour surveillance by British police.
A British foreign official stated that "Under UK law, with Mr. Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation."
The Geneva Convention prevents British authority from extending to any foreign embassy built on its soil. It seems that an unstoppable force has met an immovable object. However, Britain has threatened to use legislation established in 1987 in order to strip Ecuador of its diplomatic status and thereby free up Assange for arrest. The law was created after a British police officer was shot in front of a Libyan embassy.
Britain's suggestion that they would consider circumventing the Geneva Convention's laws under false pretenses is a dangerous path, no matter the motivation.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, responded to Britain's threats, stating "If we live in a world where governments can arbitrarily revoke immunity and go into embassies then the life of our diplomats and their ability to conduct normal business in places like Moscow where I was and North Korea becomes close to impossible."
Despite Ecuador's rationale for granting Assange asylum, they have a legal right to do so.
Patino asserted that their decision is "protected by international law" and that "[i]t makes no sense to surmise that this implies a breaking of relations [with Britain]."