Ecuador has accused the UK of violating Julian Assange’s human rights by refusing to allow the WikiLeaks founder to take shelter in South America, which granted him political asylum nearly a year ago.
“By not granting him safe passage they are violating the human rights of a citizen, and every day that passes the effects of that violation hurt the person more and more,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told Reuters.
The Australian has been stranded at Ecuadorian embassy in London for almost 12 months. It was reported that Assange had developed a chronic lung condition “which could get worse at any moment.” In November Assange’s lawyer warned that the 41-year-old’s health could deteriorate if he remains confined much longer. He requires constant medical attention at his refuge in the embassy.
“It’s a whole year that this gentleman has spent without feeling the sun and that’s really serious … because this decision has been taken by a state that says it protects human rights.”
According to Patino, Ecuador is working on a document which allegedly proves that the UK is legally ‘obliged’ to allow Assange to leave the embassy and travel to South America, Reuters reported. Patino hopes to broker an agreement over Assange’s fate with the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in “a matter of weeks or months.”
A British court ordered that Assange be extradited to Sweden, where authorities want to question him on sex-related allegations. The whistleblower has refused to travel there unless Sweden guarantees that it won’t extradite him to the US, where he faces espionage charges over confidential data released by WikiLeaks.
Ecuador has given Assange asylum and houses him in a small basement room in its London embassy as UK law enforcement keeps a close eye on the embassy, keen to arrest Assange the minute he leaves the diplomatically-protected building.
The cost of the surveillance, which reportedly involves two police vehicles and eight officers on duty 24/7 is said to be over $16,500 a day, Scotland Yard reported. Surveillance operation has already cost British taxpayers over $5 million since Assange took refuge on June 19, 2012. By the time of the one-year anniversary, the sum is expected to reach over $6.3 million.
Ecuador fears that Assange’s deportation to Sweden is part of the US government plan to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to America, where he would be charged over the website’s release of secret diplomatic files.
Journalist Vaughan Smith, who hosted Assange for more than a year while he was on bail, says Britain will not be swayed by Ecuador’s accusations.
“I think there is a miscarriage of justice going on,” he told RT.
Smith believes that the British government is trying to please Washington on this matter. “The Americans – I don’t think – will be very pleased if Mr. Assange is allowed to go to Ecuador as he should be allowed to.”
“Lots of people have lots of views on Mr. Assange. I know him extremely well – he stayed with me for 13 months in my house. He is certainly not a quitter – he is not going to give up on this.”