Rudimentary rights-based analysis of the Assange affair
Posted on 13:55, August 16th, 2012 by Lew
It looks like the British government is going to consider storming the Ecuadorean embassy in London to arrest Julian Assange and extradite him to Sweden to face sexual assault
Without getting into the validity of those allegations, or of the extradition process, I’d like to look at how the schedule of rights breaks down for Assange and the states in question, from weakest to strongest:
1. Julian Assange’s right to avoid extradition for an alleged crime on the grounds that he’s doing good things.
2. Sweden’s right to request Assange’s extradition to face questioning.
3. The UK’s right to undertake its own judicial process in deciding whether to extradite.
4. Assange’s right to seek political asylum.
5. Ecuador’s right to consider and grant asylum requests.
6. Ecuador’s right to the integrity of its sovereign territory, including its embassies.
As I say, I’m no expert on such matters, but my view is that the chain of rights I have outlined here is pretty sound. I believe the correct position from a rights perspective is for the British government to concede Assange’s right to claim asylum, and Ecuador’s to grant it if it chooses, despite its misgivings. As terrible as the acts that may or may not have been committed by Julian Assange, it seems evident that he retains the right to seek asylum, that the Ecuadoreans retain the right to grant it, and that the UK is on, at best, shaky ground attempting to arrest Assange once succour has been granted by the Ecuadoreans. While respecting some of what Wikileaks has done, I do not much like Assange, nor do I have much tolerance for the legions of his supporters who have sought to absolve him of responsibility for his alleged sexual assault by recourse to character assassination, intimindation and vilification of his alleged victim.
But there are bigger things at stake here than a criminal, even a celebrity criminal, fleeing justice — how host countries respond to diplomatic gameplaying like this is one of them.