Julian Assange asylum to be discussed by OAS

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Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate outside the UK Supreme Court prior to Mr Assange's extradition appeal on May 30, 2012 in London, England.

Credit:

Oli Scarff

The Organization of American States (OAS) has called a meeting of foreign ministers next week to discuss the impasse between Ecuador and the UK over Julian Assange's legal status.

Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador on Thursday. He is currently taking refuge in the country's embassy in London.

Following Ecuador's decision, the permanent council of the OAS decided to meet in Washington DC on Friday. The United States, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago opposed the resolution, but 23 members voted in favor of the meeting, the Guardian reported.

The OAS secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, said the meeting would not be about Assange but the "the problem posed by the threat or warning made to Ecuador by the possibility of an intervention into its embassy in London. The issue that concerns us is the inviolability of diplomatic missions of all members of this organisation, something that is of interest to all of us."

Ecuador has said that Assange's human rights could be violated if he is sent to Sweden to be questioned over allegations that he sexually assaulted two ex-Wikileaks volunteers in Stockholm in 2010.  They have granted the Australian diplomatic asylum, which is uniquely recognized in Latin America, where many countries are signatories to the Convention on Diplomatic Asylum. The UK is not a signatory, and therefore not bound by its terms.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that the UK does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum. 

But, according to Matthew Happold, a professor of public international law at the University of Luxembourg, assange remains outside the reach of the UK authorities so long as he remains within the Ecuadorean embassy."

But Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said Assange would remain in Quito's embassy as long as Britain refused to give him safe passage, the Herald Sun reported.

"The problem is that they aren't going to give him the safe conduct," Correa said in a radio interview, adding that "Mr Assange can stay indefinitely in our embassy".

Meanwhile, an "extraordinary meeting" of the Union of South American Nations has been convened in Ecuador on Sunday to discuss the situation.