British authorities forcefully entering the Embassy of Ecuador in London where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge would not only be illegal but also set a frightening precedent, putting embassies around the world at risk. Thankfully, Britain has other options.
The temperature is way up in London with the decision of the government of Ecuador to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange political asylum. Some have suggested that Britain could use its Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987 to revoke the diplomatic status of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to enable British police to enter the premises and arrest Mr. Assange.
What would this mean to diplomatic premises around the world? What would be the best strategy for London to follow in order to put Assange back in police custody? Now is the time to sit back a little and explore some options and their implications.
Under international law, Britain has a clear legal obligation to observe and respect the immunity and inviolability of foreign diplomatic missions in Britain. Article 22 of the Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations (1961) states: “The premises of the (diplomatic) mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.” Also under international law, a state cannot use its municipal or national law as a justification for a violation of international law.
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