Prodding a man-shaped Assange bag with a pitchfork

Thursday, 23 August, 2012

After nearly three decades in the UK’s Diplomatic Service, Charles Crawford retired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the end of 2007. So, when it comes to matters consular and tactful, he knows the score. In his blog post, “Diplomatic Bags (Assange)“, Crawford points out that, “… if a man-shaped diplomatic bag is seen emerging from the Ecuadorean Embassy and we prod it with a pitchfork to confirm that it contains only diplomatic items, a squeak of ‘Ouch!’ would give us all the legal options we need to ask the Ecuador Embassy politely to undo it and show us what or who is therein.”

But the alleged rapist might still be able to escape the justice that awaits him in Sweden as Carl Garnder noted back on 26 June in “Julian Assange: can he get out of this?” Snippet:

“Ecuador could theoretically appoint Assange one of its representatives to the United Nations, under rule 25 of the UN General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure. It’s true that a Credentials Committee (on which the United States sits at the moment, as a matter of interest) would consider and report on Assange’s appointment, and that the General Assembly would then make a decision on it – and could presumably reject him. But under rule 29, he would be “seated” provisionally until the General Assembly made its decision — and crucially, would have the same rights as other representatives. That presumably includes the special kind of diplomatic immunity granted by article IV, section 11 of the New York Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which says:

Representatives of Members to the principal and subsidiary organs of the United Nations and to conferences convened by the United Nations, shall, while exercising their functions and during their journey to and from the place of meeting, enjoy the following privileges and immunities:

(a) immunity from personal arrest or detention and from seizure of their personal baggage, and, in respect of words spoken or written and all acts done by them in their capacity as representatives, immunity from legal process of every kind.”

This would be an extraordinary abuse of the UN system, but given that the UN system is extraordinarily indifferent to public opinion, the prospect of Assange acting as a UN bagman for Ecuador cannot be ruled out. What then with the pitchforks?

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