Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

This morning, Thursday 16 August, 2012, in a press conference streamed from the website [1]of the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Minister Ricardo Patino (@RicardoPatinoEC [2]) declared that the country would grant asylum to the Founder and Editor of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange [3].

Patino said that Assange's fears of being persecuted in the United States were justified, therefore he satisfied all legal requirements for political asylum under international human rights and humanitarian law. Still, there is no guarantee that Assange will not be extradited to the United States after a long consultation process. Patino explained the legal reasons in detail in a number of points.

Assange was facing imminent extradition to Sweden [4] for interrogation about sexual allegations he has not been charged for, where he would have been detained upon arrival in solitary with no right to bail, according to Fair Trials International [5]. At the last minute he decided to exercise his right of seeking asylum [6]. He walked into the Embassy of Ecuador and has stayed under diplomatic protection while the country's President Rafael Correa reviewed his case.

The Ecuadorean government based its decision on past [7] and current [8] attacks on WikiLeaks, its founder and even volunteers, which have been unprecedented both in scale and severity. At least seven [9] civilians are being investigated by the FBI, in a Secret Grand Jury that might or might not be taking place in Virginia, US, as it is secret and no official can talk about it.

Indeed, WikiLeaks and individuals who have worked with the project have faced various threats and challenges from both private and public entities. US government officials issued a subpoena [10] to Twittter, requesting that the company disclose personal information and past twwets of activists and computer experts such as Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror [11]) from Tor Project, who once collaborated with Wikileaks. There have been institutional prohibitions on viewing WikiLeaks documents in public libraries, such as the Library of US Congress [12], and calls for execution and espionage trial from public officers. Another pressure point on Assange and Wikileaks is the extrajudicial banking blockade [13].

US army officer Bradley Manning [14], who is suspected of leaking the classified materials to WikiLeaks, has been arrested and placed in solitary confinement, an extreme measure [15] that even UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez called torture. Over 200 law professors have signed a letter [16] denounced Manning's treatment.

The Embassy controversy

After rumors that asylum had been granted began circulating and President Correa announced that he would study the case on Wednesday 15 August with experts, United Kingdom authorities responded saying that they would respect the Swedish extradition order and send the police to arrest Assange, even if he was protected by Correa's decision.

Officials said they could claim the authority to walk onto Embassy premises, news that sparked anger from many arguing that it would violate the Vienna Convention [18] on Diplomatic and Consular Relations. More

All governments need civilian oversight. Given that it has just come to light in a press conference this morning that Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj say they were forcibly flown back to Libya with Jack Straw's authorization. The two Libyan opponents of Muammar Gaddafi claim they were the victims of rendition and torture because of the actions of a British minister and an MI6 officer have been interviewed for the first time by Scotland Yard detectives. See The Guardian

We should all therefore be very thankful for Julian Assange's Wikeleaks and their ability to bring events like the killing in Baghdad of 22-year-old Reuters photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Both were employees of the Reuters news agency. It must be remembered that states are also perpatrators of terrorism. Editor