The Union of South American States (UNASUR) threw its support behind Ecuador in its diplomatic dispute with Britain over Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, after a meeting of UNASUR foreign ministers yesterday in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
UNASUR unites 12 South American nations (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela).
On August 16, Ecuador granted Assange diplomatic asylum in its London embassy due to fears his human rights could be violated if extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.
The day before, Ecuadorian foreign minister Ricardo Patino read out a British diplomatic letter which informed the Ecuadorian government “You need to be aware that there is a legal base…that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy”.
On August 19, foreign ministers of the UNASUR bloc released a statement calling for “respect for sovereignty and strict compliance with international treaties”.
The statement also noted that the ministers “manifest their solidarity with and support for the Government of the Republic of Ecuador in light of the threat of the violation of the space of their diplomatic mission”.
Venezuela’s foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, declared the declaration of “historic character,” continuing that “they [Britain] have threatened one of our brothers [Ecuador] and the difference now is that we have decided to be free, to live as united peoples and that brotherhood and solidarity are imposed”.
The minister also expressed his hope that the Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes the United States as a member, would be able to agree a similar declaration of support for Ecuador in the dispute.
Below is the complete statement agreed by UNASUR foreign ministers.
* * *
The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), at an extraordinary meeting in the city of Guayaquil, Ecuador, on August 19, 2012, consider:
* That the Ecuadorian minister of foreign relations, commerce and trade informed the Council that the citizen Julian Assange requested political asylum at the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London on June 19, 2012, an issue regarding which the governments of Ecuador, the United Kingdom and Sweden have sustained diplomatic conversations surrounding the request for Assange’s extradition and his request for asylum;
* That Ecuador was analysing the request for asylum in accordance with the principles of human rights protections and international law;
* That on August 15 the Government of the Republic of Ecuador publicly announced having received from the United Kingdom an aide memoire threatening “to take actions to arrest Mr. Assange at the current location of the Embassy” and invoking its domestic law in the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987;
* That according to article 22 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 – of which the United Kingdom is a signatory -- that “The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission,” and that “The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution”;
* That according to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, States should abstain from resorting to the threat or use of force or acting in any other manner that is incompatible with the purposes of the United Nations in their international relations, and should solve their differences peacefully;
* That the United Nations Security Council, in its Press Release SC/10463 dated November 29, 2011, condemned in the strongest terms violations of diplomatic immunity and recalled the fundamental principle of the inviolability of the diplomatic missions and consular offices of receiving States in relation to what is established in the 1961 Vienna Convention of on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Convention on Consular Relations.
The Council of Foreign Ministers of UNASUR hereby:
1. Manifest their solidarity with and support for the Government of the Republic of Ecuador in light of the threat of the violation of the space of their diplomatic mission.
2. Reiterate the sovereign right of states to grant asylum.
3. Emphatically condemn the threat of the use of force among States and reiterate the full validity of the principles enshrined in international law, respect for sovereignty and strict compliance with international treaties.
4. Reaffirm the basic principle of the inviolability of the spaces of diplomatic missions and consular offices and the obligation of receiver States, in relation to what is established in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the 1963 Convention on Consular Relations.
5. Reaffirm the principle of international law, by virtue of which domestic law may not be invoked in order to fail to comply with an international law, as is reflected in article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969.
6. Reiterate the validity of the institutions of asylum and refuge that protect the human rights of persons that consider their life or physical integrity to be threatened.
7. Urge the Parties to continue a dialogue and direct negotiation to procure a mutually acceptable solution in accordance with international law.
UNASUR / August 19, 2012
[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]