Julian Assange remains in the UK, but on Ecuadorian territory

 

After the UK Supreme Court denied Julian Assange's appeal and ruled that he could be extradited to Sweden for questioning over allegations of having raped and sexually assaulted two women, few thought that the Wikileaks founder would calmly submit himself to the authorities.

However, whilst many were under the impression that his next step would be to try to get the European Court of Human Rights to hear his case, he instead decided to enter the embassy of Ecuador in London and apply for asylum.

Hiding in an embassy - a short-term solution?

Assange is hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy because he believes that there is a risk that Sweden will extradite him to the United States, where he fears that he will face the death penalty. He will be able to stay at the embassy whilst his application for asylum is being considered. However, he will struggle to leave the premises without getting arrested, regardless of whether he is granted asylum or not.

Assange has for some time been living under bail conditions which, amongst other stipulations, required him to stay at a certain location approved by the court. He initially decided to reside with one of his friends and supporters in the English countryside. However, by moving to the embassy he has effectively violated his bail conditions. This means that UK authorities can arrest him as soon as he steps out of the premises.

There has been speculation that Assange would try to get an Ecuadorian diplomatic passport, but this wouldn’t prevent him from being arrested on leaving the embassy.

Unlikely that US would get their hands on Assange

Assange is wanted for questioning by the Swedish authorities over allegations of having raped and sexually assaulted two women on separate occasions in the winter of 2011. He has not yet been charged. The notion that he would simply be extradited to the United States and there face the death penalty is rather unfounded in light of Sweden's human-rights obligations.

It is unlikely that the Assange-extradition saga would end with Sweden extraditing him, not least because they would need UK approval to do so, but also because they would need to ensure that he would not face the death penalty.

They are legally bound to do so thanks to the European Court of Human Rights' interpretation of member states' obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Do you need protection under Human Rights Law?

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