Hundreds of people turned out in Quito, Ecuador yesterday to demonstrate their support of the country's decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange. UNASUR met on Sunday to discuss threats to Ecuador's sovereignty.
The demonstrators, including social activists and the general public, rallied in Quito's Plaza Grande, displaying placards reading “Without true freedom of expression there no sovereignty,” and “Viva freedom of expression. Support Julian Assange [photo].”
On the same day, in the country's largest city, Guayaquil, members of the Revolutionary Left Movement also marched, in support of Ecuador's sovereignty, to the British Consulate General.
The U.K. government had threatened to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to arrest Assange for onward extradition to Sweden, causing a diplomatic uproar.
On August 16, after Assange had been holed up in their London embassy for just under two months, the Ecuadorian government made the announcement that Assange would receive political asylum in Ecuador.
The request for asylum came due to the fear by Assange that should he be extradited to Sweden on alleged sexual assault charges, he would then be sent on to the U.S. to be tried on espionage charges for the release of diplomatic cables, which both embarrassed and angered the U.S. government.
Monday's demonstration comes after a meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Guayaquil on Sunday, at which a seven-point resolution supporting Ecuador's right to grant asylum to Assange was unanimously adopted. Members at the meeting further condemned the threats by the U.K. government to raid the London Ecuadorian embassy to arrest Assange.
According to El Telégrafo (Ecuador media - Spanish language), member countries present were Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Perú, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, Guyana and Surinam.
Foreign ministers at the meeting adopted a document reiterating “the inviolability of embassies” and the Vienna Convention, stating that the principles of international law cannot be overridden by domestic laws. This refers to the Diplomatic and Consular Act of 1987, which the U.K. is citing and which would, according to them, revoke diplomatic immunity to ambassadorial premises.
While UNASUR vowed that all parties concerned in the Assange case would continue dialogue to find a solution, the South American foreign ministers reaffirmed the importance of asylum and refuge for the protection of human rights.
Foreign Minister for Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño, noted that while the U.K. was far more powerful in a military sense than Ecuador, the small Latin American country "had the high ground" in relation to its understanding of international law.
Patiño told the media after the Sunday meeting, “Reason does not call for force. The force may be as different and as distant as a small country and a country which has atomic bombs. But here, reason is with us."
However, Patiño said on Monday that he was open to talks with Britain over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Assange.
Patiño stated on the Ecuadorian TV network Gama, "We prefer to continue working on talks with Great Britain."
"Heading to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague would be the path to take after that." However, since the ICJ could take years to reach a decision, "we prefer that this issue is resolved before some years go by," he added.
According to Venezuela’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, the declaration made at the meeting was of “historic character,” continuing that “they [Britain] have threatened one of our brothers [Ecuador] and the difference now is that we have decided to be free, to live as united peoples and that brotherhood and solidarity are imposed”.
Shortly after Ecuador granted asylum to Assange, the U.K. Foreign Secretary, William Hague stated that Britain will continue its efforts to extradite Assange to Sweden, despite the political asylum granted to him by Ecuador. He reiterated that the U.K. does not recognize Assange's asylum status.
Hague stated at the time, "This does not change the fundamentals of the case. We will not allow Mr Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom, nor is there any legal basis for us to do so."
Venezuela Analysis published the complete statement agreed by UNASUR foreign ministers on August 19:
The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), at an extraordinary meeting in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, on August 19, 2012, consider:
That the Ecuadorian minister of foreign relations, commerce and trade informed the Council that the citizen Julian Assange requested political asylum at the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London on June 19, 2012, an issue regarding which the governments of Ecuador, the United Kingdom and Sweden have sustained diplomatic conversations surrounding the request for Assange’s extradition and his request for asylum;
That Ecuador was analyzing the request for asylum in accordance with the principles of human rights protections and international law;
That on August 15 the Government of the Republic of Ecuador publicly announced having received from the United Kingdom an aide memoire threatening “to take actions to arrest Mr. Assange at the current location of the Embassy” and invoking its domestic law in the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987;
That according to article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 – of which the United Kingdom is a signatory – that “The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission,” and that “The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution”;
That according to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, States should abstain from resorting to the threat or use of force or acting in any other manner that is incompatible with the purposes of the United Nations in their international relations, and should solve their differences peacefully;
That the United Nations Security Council, in its Press Release SC/10463 dated November 29, 2011, condemned in the strongest terms violations of diplomatic immunity and recalled the fundamental principle of the inviolability of the diplomatic missions and consular offices of receiving States in relation to what is established in the 1961 Vienna Convention of on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Convention on Consular Relations.
The Council of Foreign Ministers of UNASUR hereby:
1. Manifest their solidarity with and support for the Government of the Republic of Ecuador in light of the threat of the violation of the space of their diplomatic mission.
2. Reiterate the sovereign right of states to grant asylum.
3. Emphatically condemn the threat of the use of force among States and reiterate the full validity of the principles enshrined in international law, respect for sovereignty and strict compliance with international treaties.
4. Reaffirm the basic principle of the inviolability of the spaces of diplomatic missions and consular offices and the obligation of receiver States, in relation to what is established in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Convention on Consular Relations.
5. Reaffirm the principle of international law, by virtue of which domestic law may not be invoked in order to fail to comply with an international law, as is reflected in article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969.
6. Reiterate the validity of the institutions of asylum and refuge that protect the human rights of persons that consider their life or physical integrity to be threatened.
7. Urge the Parties to continue a dialogue and direct negotiation to procure a mutually acceptable solution in accordance with international law.
UNASUR / August 19, 2012