Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Assange situation

The live feed from the Ecuadorean embassy in London is both heartening and disheartening. I am heartened to see so many average citizens express their disapproval. What distresses me is the obvious comparison one must draw between the British protesters and their American counterparts. The Brits seem so much more intelligent and articulate.

If something like this were to happen in the U.S., half the protestors would be demanding Assange's blood. Everyone would be grunting out weird, barbaric conspiracy theories involving the Illuminati, the New World Order and the imminent return of Jayzuss Crass.

While some of the British police have displayed the Tough Guy attitude one expects from cops the world over, others have shown flashes of bemusement and humor as they dealt with a hostile crowd. Don't tell me it doesn't happen: I've seen it. (I'm watching an example right now.) In America, the cops would have enveloped that entire block in a cloud of capsaicin, just to show who's boss.

The British government's threat to Ecuador was vile. But the Brits themselves deserve applause.

Shortly after British activist Craig Murray published a post on the Assange standoff, that site was hit with a Denial of Service attack. Murray has invited other bloggers to republish his text, just in case the site goes down again.

So here it is. All the words below the asterisks are his:

*  *  *

I returned to the UK today to be astonished by private confirmation from within the FCO that the UK government has indeed decided – after immense pressure from the Obama administration – to enter the Ecuadorean Embassy and seize Julian Assange.

This will be, beyond any argument, a blatant breach of the Vienna Convention of 1961, to which the UK is one of the original parties and which encodes the centuries – arguably millennia – of practice which have enabled diplomatic relations to function. The Vienna Convention is the most subscribed single international treaty in the world.

The provisions of the Vienna Convention on the status of diplomatic premises are expressed in deliberately absolute terms. There is no modification or qualification elsewhere in the treaty.

Article 22

    1.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.
    2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises
    of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the
    mission or impairment of its dignity.
    3.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.

Not even the Chinese government tried to enter the US Embassy to arrest the Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen. Even during the decades of the Cold War, defectors or dissidents were never seized from each other’s embassies. Murder in Samarkand relates in detail my attempts in the British Embassy to help Uzbek dissidents. This terrible breach of international law will result in British Embassies being subject to raids and harassment worldwide.

The government’s calculation is that, unlike Ecuador, Britain is a strong enough power to deter such intrusions. This is yet another symptom of the “might is right” principle in international relations, in the era of the neo-conservative abandonment of the idea of the rule of international law.

The British Government bases its argument on domestic British legislation. But the domestic legislation of a country cannot counter its obligations in international law, unless it chooses to withdraw from them. If the government does not wish to follow the obligations imposed on it by the Vienna Convention, it has the right to resile from it – which would leave British diplomats with no protection worldwide.

I hope to have more information soon on the threats used by the US administration. William Hague had been supporting the move against the concerted advice of his own officials; Ken Clarke has been opposing the move against the advice of his. I gather the decision to act has been taken in Number 10.

There appears to have been no input of any kind from the Liberal Democrats. That opens a wider question – there appears to be no “liberal” impact now in any question of coalition policy. It is amazing how government salaries and privileges and ministerial limousines are worth far more than any belief to these people. I cannot now conceive how I was a member of that party for over thirty years, deluded into a genuine belief that they had principles.
From comments this helpful pdf

Forgot Juan Cole.

Where's the evidence for the claim that Sweden will send Assange on to the States? Where's the evidence for the claim that the US could put him to death? Who benefits from these unsupported claims besides Assange? Don't Sweden's laws prevent it from sending someone to a country where they could face the death penalty? How could Correa's Ecuador possibly be a better guarantor of human rights than Sweden? Why should Assange not have to respond to possible (not certain) charges of rape in Sweden? Yes, Britain under Cameron is behaving badly. But don't let that become yet another smokescreen behind which some basic and essential questions remain unanswered.
Hey. I'll keep feeding you until hunger pangs dissipate.


Craig Murray is a good guy, but just because someone in the Foreign Office tells him the Brits will raid the embassy, that doesn't make it true. He can be a bit boasty. Have you read about him and the 'queen'? I repeat - he's a good and nice guy, but really he should know not to accept anything anyone at the Foreign Office tells him at face value. He might think his contacts in the FCO and maybe even SIS are his friends; they don't think he's theirs.

He underlines what I emphasised in an earlier comment, namely that part of this 'storm the embassy' threat is to project the view that might is right, or what I call the "Eat Shit, Punks" message of the US brand, and of the minor brands it also runs. This kind of message is also very strong in the way the Israeli brand is managed.

Of course this doesn't mean the Brits aren't going to raid the embassy. But most of the British diplomatic service will be opposed to such an action for obvious reasons.

Is that part of the point? Is part of the aim to get a completely servile British diplomatic service, even more servile than it already is, where no-one even dreams of not saying 'yes sir' to Langley and Washington and Tel Aviv, even if they're not consulted at all and they receive their orders with 5 minutes' notice? Y'know, a bit like it already is in most of Whitehall, and in the leaderships of all main political parties? It might be. Don't have embassies around the world any more - just have military bases? Well maybe.

If that's so, then one could draw parallels with the 'MPs' expenses' job, by which influential forces pushed the envelope to get the kind of parliament they wanted, in these times that they are changing.

(Anyone who is sceptical about what I say in that last paragraph should look at Commons Select Committees and their relationship with lobbyists now. Try telling me it's become less corrupt. If anything, it's more blatantly corrupt; ditto the Speaker's Office.)

Ditto with the Murdoch job, which I am beginning to see as the same kind of animal as the 'MPs' expenses' job.

With the threat against Ecuador, the UK government just like its master across the Atlantic does. Look, no law of a host country can give the host government the authority to enter a foreign country's embassy without permission from the foreign country's head of mission. Britain signed and ratified the Vienna Convention and must abide by it. Never mind what any fucking British judge or parliament says. It's very very simple. No US law can give US forces authority to ignore the Geneva Convention either. So long as you don't resile from a treaty, you can't be a judge in your own cause. Most sensible critics have long supported bringing Blair, Bush, etc. to trial in an international court. But enough of this fucking lawyer shit already! You gotta attack schizoid culture to get a handle on this - and the 'paid to be loyal' oppositional structures too.

Incidentally...if Ecuador or one of the other ALBA countries wants to give me asylum, I will gladly take it. Come on, Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia! Offer citizenship and residence to anti-big-business, anti-capitalist, socialist individuals from abroad - whatever you want to call us or we want to call ourselves. Tens of thousands of us would accept it. We could help set stuff up in various different languages. We could do lots of stuff. You would become a beacon for the whole fucking world. You could bring hope. Perhaps eventually you could break all relations with the US, permanently - no diplomatic relations, no US dollars, no US media presence. How about it?
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
More pushing of the envelope...

threatening to raid an embassy (which everyone knows would be unlawful) and...arresting a legal advocate for not handing over a sealed envelope her client gave her.

Seems the wind is blowing the same way in both the embassy threat and the latest Ian Brady story. Executive and judicial agencies are exercising powers, or threatening to exercise powers, which no-one thought they had.

The question to ask is why Channel 4 went to the police, and why they did it now. They have even brought their broadcast forward. I don't buy the line that this was out of care for the wishes of the elderly and ill mother of a victim whose grave has not been found. TV execs tend to be far too ruthless to care about other people's suffering.

(Had I been the legal advocate, I would have passed the letter to the victim's mother or other family member, and let Ian Brady complain to my professional body about me if he wanted. Of course, this is why people like me would not be welcome in any professional body.)

'Everyone knows' that lawyers can keep shtum, although not when doing so would help a client commit a crime, although there's wriggle room over what's meant by 'help', lawyers help clients commit crimes all the time, and the bigger crime you've helped a client commit, the more kudos you get from your fellow lawyers. But still. Lawyers don't get arrested for keeping shtum much more often than priests do.

You would expect the police to take legal advice before they approached the legal advocate in this case. The legal advocate would either know that the legal position was clearly that she had to hand the envelope over (which is very unlikely, I think, although I haven't checked), or she would know it was very clearly that she didn't have to, or she would herself seek advice, perhaps from her professional body. The police would not say 'hand it over now, or we get a warrant in 5 minutes time'. This is not a terrorism case, or a case of clear and present danger, or where there's any reason to think someone would destroy evidence.

But no...they get a warrant and they arrest her and search her place.

Interesting, that.

The message goes out to any petty bureaucrat, adviser, whatever: don't bloody think you can keep information from us when we want it, quoting any of your 'client confidentiality' crap!

And to minor-country foreign governments: don't bloody think you can do what you like in your embassy, quoting any of your 'Vienna Convention' crap!

I close with a little-known fact about Brady: at the time of the Moors murders, he was a neo-Nazi Satanist.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is 

powered by Blogger. 

Isn't yours?