After the decision of the Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa, to grant Julian Assange diplomatic asylum, the question is how long can he stay in a small one floor suite of rooms in the embassy?
If Assange is driven to an airport, under international law, British police could stop an embassy car but would not have the power to enter the vehicle or to search it, But Assange would still have to leave the car at the airport, to board a plane to Ecuador, then police could take him into custody.
The Ecuadorian embassy, which only occupies one floor of the building it is in, it does not have a garage and has only one entrance, so Assange would have to exit the embassy to get into a vehicle, again leaving him open to arrest on the footpath in front of the embassy, however that is considered unlikely.
The building’s elevators are considered communal areas so if Assange tried to get to the roof to a waiting helicopter, he could be arrested en route.
Could he be taken out in a diplomatic crate or bag? Under Article 27(3) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961, “a diplomatic bag shall not be opened or detained”. Assange addressed the media and public from the balcony of the embassy on Sunday. Prior to the address a crate marked “Diplomatic property of the Republic of Ecuador – Umm…This is NOT Julian Assange” appeared outside the embassy.
However, a diplomatic container – whether it is a bag or crate – “may contain only diplomatic documents or articles intended for official use”. The UK government could also scan the container.
Records for remaining on a foreign embassy:
Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty – US embassy in Hungary – 15 years
Sylvestre Ntibantunganya – US embassy Burundi – 11 months
Chen Guangcheng – US embassy – China – 1 month
Joao Bernardo Vieira – Portuguese embassy – 1 month
Manuel Noriega – Papal nunciature in Panama City – 2 weeks
Morgan Tsvangirai – Dutch embassy Zimbabwe – 1 week
Assange is living (and sleeping) in the embassy in one cramped room, eating take-away and TV meals without exposure to the sun.
Maybe it’s imprisonment by another name?