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Why Assange's bid for Ecuador asylum may dismay supporters

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Even if Ecuador does grant Assange asylum, he is still likely to be arrested by British police for breaching his bail conditions. Diplomatic convention prevents British police from entering the embassy without authorization from Ecuador. But Assange cannot leave the embassy without treading on British soil on the way out, thus exposing himself to arrest.

“Various deranged theories have emerged, like, Ecuador could protect Assange by making him a diplomat,” said Matthew Happold, professor of public international law at the University of Luxembourg. “But no, it couldn’t, because Britain would not recognize that.”

“I have no idea why he’s done this,” he added. “I don’t think any lawyer who had researched this would have advised him to.”

Although Ecuador briefly offered Assange residency in 2010, it is thought to be unlikely to meet his request for asylum. Under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — of which Ecuador is a signatory — countries don't give asylum to those accused of nonpolitical crimes.

Most observers conclude, therefore, that Assange’s dramatic bid is an act of desperation. Last month, Britain’s highest court upheld a ruling that his extradition to Sweden was legal. Last week, it rejected an attempt by him to reopen his appeal against extradition, saying it was “without merit.”

Assange has until June 28 to ask European judges in Strasbourg to consider his case and postpone extradition on the ground that he has not had a fair hearing from the British courts.

“If I were to speculate, I would say his legal advisers have told him Strasbourg wouldn’t stop him being extradited to Sweden,” said Mr. Happold. Some legal experts wonder if Assange is planning to bargain with Sweden for assurances they will not hand him over to the US.

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