Former British diplomat slams illegal threat to Ecuador

The statement below was released on August 23 by Craig Murray, a former British ambassador and career diplomat, on the Ecuadorean embassy siege in London. It is reprinted from www.wikileaks.org.

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My name is Craig John Murray. I am a retired British diplomat. I was a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service for over 20 years, and a member of the Senior Management Structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for over six years.

As anybody who works a long time in any one organisation, I have a great many friends there, some of whom are now very senior officials. And as is natural, they sometimes discuss matters with their old colleague.

I arrived in Britain from a trip abroad on August 15 and was immediately contacted by a very senior official within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who was very concerned. He had knowledge that an attempt by the British authorities to force entry to the Embassy of Ecuador was possibly imminent.

I suggested that this must be impossible, and he said that unfortunately it was not. He said that he had been party to formal discussions over a three week period between different British government departments on the legality of such a move.

It had concluded that the provisions of the Diplomatic Premises Act of 1987 gave the authorities the domestic power to do this, in spite of the Vienna Convention of 1961.

My ex-colleague went on to say that he understood the government intended to act quickly to preempt any grant of political asylum to Mr Assange by the government of Ecuador. If there were any formal international recognition of Mr Assange as a political refugee, it might complicate matters.

He also said there was tremendous discomfort at this development within the British diplomatic service because of the potential exposure of British embassies and diplomats abroad to similar action.

I asked how on earth such an illegal decision could have been reached. My ex-colleague said that political pressure exerted by the administration of the United States of America on [foreign secretary] William Hague and [Prime Minister] David Cameron had outweighed the views of British diplomats.

I published a brief account of this conversation on my blog the following morning, in an effort to add to the pressures which might avert the government from such an illegal act.

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