|Editorial Comment: The British should observe rule of law|
|Monday, 20 August 2012 00:00|
What is the bigger picture which prompted London to issue such a threat that it would invoke the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, claiming that it allows it to revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy on British soil thereby allowing it to arrest Assange?
Before Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy, was he not on house arrest in London?
Why did the British government react the way it did after a developing country decided to grant him asylum? Would they have done the same if he had sought asylum in a European embassy?
We also wonder why Australia, which is usually quick to act on matters regarding its citizens’ welfare abroad, has not objected to London’s threats. Is Assange no longer an Australian citizen?
But Britain’s threats are not only a show of hypocrisy and double standards, but they are typical actions of a wounded animal.
The UK knows that it no longer enjoys imperial power so the best it can show its muscle is to use the diminished glory to make small nations squirm.
But it is the international reaction, which should tell the UK and its allies like the United States of America that it is not every nation that they can pulverise. Small as it is, Ecuador took time to study the Assange case. Even the pleas from Assange’s mother did not push them to arrive at a decision as soon as most people wanted.
Before granting him asylum, they weighed the pros and cons, and they knew that there would be some backlash, since they were dealing with a very controversial figure.
Thus Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said last Saturday that Britain’s threats to remove Assange from their embassy were not only “vulgar”, but that as long as he was president, his country would not accept such threats. He also described them as “inconsiderate and intolerable”.
It does not need Assange for the British and Americans to realise that in as much as they want to uphold their sovereignty and self-determination, so do other nations too, irrespective of the power they yield on the international arena.
They might believe that they have the right to get whatever they want, and that whoever is in their way should be eliminated, but Ecuador and other civilised members of the international community have shown them that the Vienna Convention was enacted to create order, not chaos.
South American nations in particular have stood united behind Ecuador and are willing to talk about the Assange case as a regional bloc.
It is clear that there are more strands than the fears that if Assange is extradited to Sweden, there are greater chances that he will be send to the United States for Assange’s popularity does not arise from the alleged sexual assault, but from the fact that he became the world’s well-known whistle-blower who embarrassed the US administration by publishing diplomatic cables and military logs which he received from US citizens.
If the world had kept quiet, this was going to be another attack on sovereignty and a selective application of the Vienna Convention.
Thus the precedent that Britain wants to set is dangerous for international relations — dangerous for itself and the international community as a whole. Every country would apply their laws the way the British wanted to.
Many citizens from various parts of the world have sought asylum in the United Kingdom, some of them using fabricated justifications.
Would the United Kingdom want those countries to attack it or they would want the letter and spirit of the law to be applied?
At the end of the day, we ask who the victor is in this saga that is not likely to end soon?
Why has Assange become the victim when all that he did was to publish material that was given to him? How about the other media organisations like The New York Times? Why are they not being hounded as well?
By over-reacting, Britain was unaware that it will be sitting on the Assange case for some time, and that the threats they issued would not only dent their already damaged image, but that it would be seen as the United States’ proxy in attacking journalists’ freedom of expression, choice and association.
We are glad that small countries like Ecuador now realise that the Western powers, who claim to be champions of democracy, are actually hypocrites of the highest order.
Zimbabwe has been subjected to worse things for over a decade for alleged human rights violations and lack of rule of law, but we all know that this was all a farce because the real reason Harare has been under illegal Western sanctions is that it demanded to control its natural resources.