Thursday, 16 August 2012

Breaching International Law?

I've commented on the case of Assange before, here and here. And the case still rumbles on. Currently Assange is trying to claim asylum in Ecuador via their embassy in London, and in a rather unusual and controversial move, the UK Government is threaten to revoke the status of the Ecuadorean Embassy in order to arrest him - using a little known law passed in 1987 in response to the shooting of Yvonne Fletcher.
Carl Gardner, a former government lawyer, said the law was specifically designed to stop acts of terrorism of other breaches of international law within a foreign embassy, which Ecuador was not guilty of. 
The fallout to Britain's diplomatic reputation should such actions be taken would be enormous and hugely damaging:
Sir Tony Brenton, who served as the United Kingdom's ambassador to Russia between 2004 and 2008, said "arbitrarily" overturning the status of the building where Mr Assange has taken shelter to avoid extradition, would make life 'impossible' for British diplomats overseas.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "I think the Foreign Office have slightly overreached themselves here, for both practical and legal reasons.
"The Government itself has no interest in creating a situation where it is possible for governments everywhere to arbitrarily cut off diplomatic immunity. It would be very bad."
So why would they even contemplate creating such a situation? Well a clue can be found in the document presented to Ecuador by British diplomats in Quito (my emphasis):
We are aware, and surprised by media reports in the last 24 hours, that Ecuador is about to take a decision and proposes to grant asylum to Mr. Assange. The reports quote official sources. We note that the (Ecuadorean) President (Rafael Correa) has stated that no decision has yet been made.

We are concerned, if true, that this might undermine our efforts to agree a joint text setting out the positions of both countries, allowing Mr. Assange to leave the Embassy.

As we have previously set out, we must meet our legal obligations under the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision and the Extradition Act 2003, to arrest Mr. Assange and extradite him to Sweden. We remain committed to working with you amicably to resolve this matter. But we must be absolutely clear this means that should we receive a request for safe passage for Mr. Assange, after granting asylum, this would be refused, in line with our legal obligations.
Thus the priority is we must meet our EU obligations above and beyond our own country's interests even if it means international ridicule, condemnation and isolation. Happy days.


  1. Poor Hague stumbles from one absurd position to another. Is it the EU or is it Obama and his Americans who so terrify Hague. Why on earth would we want to negate the principle of sovereign right in embassies, using the pretext of an absurd law passed by our idiot HoC a few years back?

  2. I'm confused now. Is it the EU or the USA which issues the Orders to the UK puppet-Government these days - or both?

    I guess it's both?

  3. Does Britain have any ambassadors now - isn't that Catherine Ashton's department.

    Either way Britain looks bad and our EU masters remain distant.

  4. I think Assange is a poseur. On past evidence, he is far more in danger of extradition to the US from Britain than he is likely to be from Sweden. He wants to get off rape charges and his followers are daft enough to excuse him, as the arty farty types did with Roman Polanski.

    It is, of course, appalling that Hague should allow threats against the extra territoriality of a foreign embassy when no act of terrorism is involved.

    Even communist countries respected this convention during the Cold War. Cardinal Mizdenty (? spelling) took refuge in the American embassy in Hungary for many years and the communists did not threaten to raid it.

    The appalling Cardinal Stepinac of Zagreb did likewise in Yugoslavia. He had supported (or at the very least not opposed) the murder of Serbs in wartime Croatia and the forced, gunpoint conversion of others to Roman Catholicism under the Ustache regime, which made even the SS queasy. The Vatican has since beatified him and put him on the road to sainthood but the Yugoslav communists did not breach international law and raid the US embassy.

  5. Sebastian Weetabix18 August 2012 at 16:08

    I hate the EU and all it's works as much as the next chap, but I cannot object to the government declaring it intends to meet its legal obligations. Better that than arbitrarily deciding not to, whenever it suits the gov. of the day.

  6. Sebastian Weetabix18 August 2012 at 16:25

    @Edward Spalton: I think you have unjustly mis-characterised a lot of Cardinal Stepinac's actions. He did welcome the puppet state of independent Croatia (understandable since we have seen over the last couple of decades that Croats, Serbs, Slovenes etc had no desire to be yoked to one another) but he was critical of the ustase, critical of the Nazi's race laws, sheltered and helped Jews to escape and condemned the concentration camp at Jasenovac as a stain on Croatia. As for forced conversions at gunpoint - he actually told priests to admit orthodox believers whose lives were in danger to the church, advising they were not true conversions and could return to orthodoxy as soon as the danger passed. He was convicted after the war in a classic show trial because of his opposition to Communism. He was a man of great moral courage who was traduced by Tito.

  7. Sebastian,
    I may have overstated the case against Stepinac. My understanding is that he was a personally pious man but you just cannot get away from what the institutional Roman Catholic Church, under his responsibility if not direct command, did in wartime Croatia. Priests and other religious actually commanded death squads and concentration camps which were so horrendous that they made even the SS queazy.

    There are plenty of extant photos showing massed groups of nuns and other religious taking part in Ustache parades, sometimes with the Papal Legate giving the fascist salute.

    I studied a number of translated Church papers, equivalent to diocesan, deanery and parish publications. Now admittedly they were translations and I cannot tell how accurate they were but they had the ring of truth from circumstantial evidence. There was no doubt in my mind that the RC Church, as an institution, was thoroughly behind the Ustache government and its policies. The Vatican was fully aware of what was being done in its name almost on its doorstep.

    The Vatican also facilitated the post war escape of Ustache war criminals and the transfer of assets of the Croatian treasury to South America where it helped to fund the post war break up of Yugoslavia. Probably this would have happened anyway but it had the full backing of the German secret service and additional funding from the Sovereign Order of the Knights of Malta.

    In 1999 I wrote an article on the West's unprovoked attack on Yugoslavia. My study was part of the background reading for this and I have to say that what I read made me feel really ill for some weeks. I did include the following "Courageous individual Catholics, lay and clerical, performed many acts of mercy at great risk...Official Church publications of the time show beyond all reasonable doubt that the Croatian hierarchy was politically committed to fascism, genocide and forced conversions."

    It is interesting that the post war Croatian leader, Franjo Tudjman, included the following in his book "Wastelands of Historical Reality" (a book with some similarities, as an Apologia and world view, to Mein Kampf)
    "Genocide is a natural phenomenon. It is not only commended but commanded by the Almighty in defence of the One True Religion".

    Isetbegovic, the Muslim leader in Bosnia, was equally frank about his intentions to overturn all non Muslim institutions of government. The West supported him too!

    Now I may not have given adequate weight to the Vatican's account in the case of Stepinac. I was frankly so disgusted and furious about both the recent Western aggression and the appalling previous history. The Cold War got many Nazis and fascists off the hook. They were anti communist and therefore useful to the Americans. But there was no Western book on Croatia and Yugoslavia , equivalent to (say) Tom Bower's "Blind Eye to Murder" on the Nazi war criminals who were rehabilitated and put in influential positions in Germany.

  8. It would indeed be a dangerous precedent to set if Mr. Vague were to ignore the sanctity of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Let him go.
    They can pick him up later if need be, Mossad style.

  9. Sebastian Weetabix19 August 2012 at 11:14

    @Edward Spalton: oh dear. You're in the anti-Catholic equivalent of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" territory. Tin foil hat wearing bonkers bigotry.

  10. Dear Sebastian,

    I responded to your criticism with partial agreement, courtesy and statements for which I have a great deal of evidence (which, for reasons of space, cannot be displayed here)

    As an unfashionably early Eurosceptic from the mid Seventies onwards, I have got quite used to ad hominem responses from people whose arguments don't stand up ("He's just a nasty person/fascist who hates foreigners so don't take any notice of him")

    My interest in current Balkan affairs led me to the wartime history and I have had various papers printed in respectable journals. One entitled "Kosovo - the Balkans Today, the West Tomorrow" appeared in the Quarterly Review and is also available on . It's amongst the ones which scroll up on the right hand side of the screen. Another one of mine is "The EU's Evil Pedigree - Berlin 1942" which contains translations I made of two papers which originally appeared in a German publication entitled "European Economic Community" (1942).

    I am not anti-Catholic, as several articles of mine will testify. One, refuting the alleged co-operation and ideological convergence of the German RC hierarchy with the Nazis, appeared both in the very Protestant British Church Newspaper and the ultra-traditionalist Roman Catholic monthly Christian Order at the same time. The only difference was the introductory paragraph which referred back to different previous articles in each publication.

    Nonetheless, the record of the Roman Church in wartime Croatia is gruesome in the extreme and cannot be separated from the Ustache regime which so many clerics supported. I know I don't have all the evidence and don't claim infallibility but the balance of available proof is overwhelming. It was this which actually made me feel ill when I consulted the records.

    Best wishes and kind regards,


  11. Sebastian Weetabix20 August 2012 at 11:18

    If you are as well informed as you claim to be, you did not "overstate" the 'case against Stepinac'; being polite, you actively perpetrated an untruth - what is known impolitely as lying. Your comments about the activities of clergy sickening even the SS are tendentious nonsense. Over 200 Catholic clergy were murdered in Croatia in WW2, some by the Nazis and many by the communists. You would do well to look up contemporaneous reaction to Stepinac's show trial - most prominent in his defence were Jews and Orthodox religious. He did not preside over a morally corrupt institution - to put it in Mafia terms, this fish didn't rot from the head.

  12. Sebastian,

    Stepinac had command responsibility for the Church, like it or not. I do not believe that what happened in wartime Croatia could possibly have occurred against a determined public stance by the RC Church hierarchy.

    The Church was prominent in promoting the Ustache movement before and during the wartime regime. It organised swearing in ceremonies and even provided absolution for the death squads.

    And, of course, it encouraged and financed the movement's post war resurrection, resulting in the massacre and/or expulsion of some 300,000 Krajina Serbs in our time - as testified by Princess Patrica's Canadian Light Infantry. I have discussed this episode with the then Canadian ambassador to Yugoslavia.

    No doubt there are official Church statements deprecating this activity too. Sadly, as a political institution, the Church in this unhappy part of the world is quite adept at doing one thing and saying another - as politicians so often do, regardless of which way round they wear their collars.

    RC Church organisations also helped administratively in the reallocation of vacant Serb property arising from the wartime " policy of thirds" (Kill one third, expel one third, convert one third).

    As a contemporary reminder of this achievement, the post war Croatian government included the figure 3 in the identity documents of Serbs - just as effective as the Nazis stamping "Jude" on Jewish identity documents.

    Croatia is now the most ethnically and religiously "pure" state in Europe. With Western assistance, this Ustache wartime objective was achieved in our time.

    I mentioned RC Croatian clergy and laity who dissented and provided assistance to the oppressed, doing great works of mercy. They certainly deserve a mention and I frequently include them in my prayers.

    No doubt quite a few clergy were also killed leading Ustache forces in which they were senior officers.

    It seems to me that the record has been doctored. In this, the Church's reputation was actually helped by Tito, himself a Croat, who wished to obliterate the memory of the horrors which had been done in order to forward his slogan of "unity and brotherhood". Many Ustache units went over to the Communist Partisans at the end of the war and continued massacring Orthodox Royalist Serbs and other "enemies of the people" under communist orders.

    Sadly, British forces were involved in that episode, handing over thousands for this treatment in 1945.

    Nobody comes out of it very well - but Stepinac least of all in my opinion.

  13. Edward may be right but they still enter that embassy at their own peril. The ramifications would be interesting.