Assange issued ‘Ecuadorian ID’ as UK rejects bid to grant him diplomatic status – reports
Assange’s ID was issued on December 21, Ecuadorian outlet El Universo reports, citing “reliable sources” and providing the civil registry number to check on the government website. The document number 1729926483, upon checking on the Internal Revenue Service, is indeed registered to one Julian Paul Assange.
In the meantime the Government of Ecuador “recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK,” a Foreign Office spokesperson told British media.
“The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter,” the FCO spokesman added.“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice.”
The mystery of what happens next was further fueled by Assange himself, after he cryptically uploaded a picture of himself dressed in a yellow, blue and red shirt, the colors of the Ecuadorian flag.
The post was his first activity on the platform since his strange message on New Year’s Day, which featured a 60 character code and a link to the popular song ‘Paper Planes’ by British rapper MIA. The tweet sparked widespread speculation over what, if anything, the seemingly random string of letters and numbers meant.
RT is trying to verify whether the document in question is indeed related to Julian Assange and to determine the status of his alleged Ecuadorian citizenship.
It appears the Ecuadorian government has granted Julian Assange some kind of formal documentation such as an ID card, human rights activist Peter Tatchell told RT. If that’s the case, it could pave the way for giving him a passport and even diplomatic status, he added.
“The granting of an identity card is of course potentially the first step towards being granted citizenship of Ecuador, and beyond that, the possibility that he could be granted diplomatic status, which would give him diplomatic immunity,” Tatchell explained.
“And the suggestion might be that if he was granted diplomatic immunity he would therefore be free to leave the embassy and travel to Ecuador, and the British government would not be able to lay a finger on him. That is of course speculation, it’s a long way down the road yet, but clearly the granting of an identity card is a new development which may open the door to further things in the future.”
Earlier in the day, the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry issued a statement reiterating it is seeking a solution to the problem with the British government, but did not mention anything about an official ID number, passport, or any changes to Assange’s asylum status.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, when he was accused of sexual assault in Sweden. Although Swedish prosecutors have since dropped the charges, British police remain outside the embassy ready to arrest the WikiLeaks co-founder for breaking his 2012 bail conditions. Assange refuses to surrender to the British authorities, fearing they would extradite him to the United States where he will be prosecuted for his whistleblowing activities.
Assange getting Ecuadorian ID could be ‘first step’ to diplomatic immunity – rights activist
10 Jan, 2018
“Granting an identity card is potentially the first step towards granting citizenship of Ecuador. And there is a possibility that he could be then granted a diplomatic status, which would give him diplomatic immunity,”Tatchell, who is a human rights campaigner and the director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said. He added that diplomatic immunity would mean that the WikiLeaks co-founder would be “free to leave the embassy and travel to Ecuador and the British government would not be able to lay a finger on him.”
Ecuadorian media reports Assange was given an ID card issued on December 21, citing “reliable sources” and providing the civil registry number of the document. The whistleblower also uploaded a photo of himself on Twitter wearing a yellow, blue and red shirt, the colors of the Ecuadorian flag, but made not comments on the issue.
Ecuador usually issues such ID cards for people claiming residency status, which are called cedulas. It is, however, unclear whether Assange was granted residency status or full citizenship.
However, Tatchell says “the Ecuadorian government has made it very clear that it wants a resolution [of this whole situation around Assange] and they are prepared to negotiate [to give] a way for Julian Assange [to leave] the embassy.” He added that “granting him [Assange] an identity card is a new development that can open the door for further things in the future.”
The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations states that someone who holds a diplomatic passport is immune from prosecution, the activist explained. It is still no guarantee, however.
“There is still a possibility that, even if he was granted diplomatic immunity by the Ecuadorians, the British government might still try to snatch him,” Tatchell said, although “many British officials would be glad to see Assange getting a diplomatic passport and leaving [the UK],” he added.
Mads Andenas, a Professor of Law at the University of Oslo Institute of Legal Studies, agrees that an Ecuadorian ID, passport or any other change of status will not protect Assange from being arrested unless the Ecuadorian and the British governments strike a deal.
“I don’t think it’s up to the Ecuadorian authorities, I don’t think they will manage to give him a status which will mean that the British authorities are bode from apprehending him. So this is something that has to be agreed and that’s why the Ecuadorian authorities have started this process with arbitration,” Andenas told RT.
He pointed out that Swedish prosecutors dropping their sexual assault investigation into Assange last year and the UN’s calls for his release have not changed the UK stance on the issue. He said there is no reason to think they will change it now despite having “a very weak case and a very clear ruling by the UN body”that found Assange’s imprisonment “arbitrary.”
“They still maintain they want to apprehend him and he clearly will be apprehended if he steps out of the embassy with an Ecuadorian identity card, a passport or whatever.” He said Assange is rightly afraid of eventual extradition to the US if the British police get hold of him.