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2012-08-20

Tariq Ali, Ex-U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray Praise Ecuador for Granting Asylum to Julian Assange

Guests

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was removed from office in 2004 after he exposed how the United States and Britain supported torture by the Uzbek regime.

Tariq Ali, British-Pakistani author and activist. He is editor of New Left Review and author of many books, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope.

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Shortly before Julian Assange spoke on Sunday, a number of his supporters spoke outside the Ecuadorean embassy. Speakers included writer and activist Tariq Ali, as well as Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Murray, a whistleblower himself, was removed from office in 2004 after he exposed how the United States and Britain supported torture by the Uzbek regime. "The fact that [British Foreign Secretary] William Hague now openly threatens the Ecuadoreans with the invasion of their sovereign premises is one further example of a total abandonment of the very concept of international law by the neoconservative juntas that are currently ruling the former Western democracies," Murray says. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: There have been a number of developments surrounding the Julian Assange case over the weekend. The Organization of American States has voted to hold a meeting next Friday to discuss the diplomatic crisis between Ecuador and Britain. The OAS vote was 23 to three, with five abstentions. The United States, Canada, and Trinidad and Tobago opposed the resolution. On Friday, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa defended his decision to grant Julian Assange asylum.

PRESIDENT RAFAEL CORREA: [translated] The fundamental factor for granting political asylum to Mr. Julian Assange was because there was no guarantee that he would not be extradited to a third country—nothing to do with blocking the Swedish criminal investigation over the supposed crime. Nothing. It is not that I agree with everything that Julian Assange has done. But does he deserve the death penalty, life imprisonment, to be extradited to a third country for this? Please, what’s the balance between the crime and the punishment, the offense and the punishment? What about due process? I want to point that out because they’re already misrepresenting things. I look for when I said that the only thing that Julian Assange did was use his freedom of expression, etc. We aren’t denying that he might have committed an offense, but he should be tried with due process.

AMY GOODMAN: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa speaking Friday. Shortly before Julian Assange spoke Sunday, a number of his supporters also took to the microphone outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. Among the speakers, writer and activist Tariq Ali, as well as Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Murray, a whistleblower himself, was removed from office in 2004 after he exposed how the United States and Britain supported torture by the Uzbek regime. On Sunday, Ambassador Murray criticized the British government for threatening to raid the embassy to arrest Julian Assange.

CRAIG MURRAY: The Vienna Convention is absolutely plain. The Vienna Convention of 1961 is the single most subscribed international treaty in existence, and it states in Article 22, Section 1, that the diplomatic premises of an embassy are inviolable. Full stop. Are inviolable. You cannot invade the embassy of another country. As Tariq rightly said, there were times when I sheltered Uzbek dissidents from their government within the confines of the British embassy in Uzbekistan. Even during the height of the tensions of the Cold War, the opposing parties never entered each other’s embassies to abduct a dissident. The fact that William Hague now openly threatens the Ecuadoreans with the invasion of their sovereign premises is one further example of a total abandonment of the very concept of international law by the neoconservative juntas that are currently ruling the former Western democracies. [...]

And I can tell you something else for certain: the position I’ve just outlined, that the invasion of a diplomatic premises is a crime in international law and a crime in the state whose premises are invaded, that is the position which is taken by virtually every country in the world, and it is a crime which is eminently extraditable. So any policeman who forcibly enters the premises of the embassy of Ecuador will find himself liable for extradition to Ecuador as soon as he leaves the United Kingdom.

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you all for coming here to listen. I thank deeply and from my heart those of you who have come to support Julian Assange and support his continuing struggle for freedom and to support the continuing cause of whistleblowing and revealing that which government does not want you to know. We are here today for freedom. Here we stand. We thank the Ecuadorean government for their support, and we stand with Julian Assange. Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. He was a whistleblower himself, removed from office in 2004 exposing how the United States and Britain supported torture by the Uzbek regime. He was speaking outside the Ecuadorean mission—the Ecuadorean embassy in London. We now turn to Tariq Ali, the famed British-Pakistani author, who also spoke outside the embassy, praising Ecuador’s decision to grant Julian Assange political asylum.

TARIQ ALI: And so, these social—radical social democratic governments in South America are today—in my opinion, offer more social and human rights to their citizens than the countries of Europe, leave alone the United States. And that is why Julian Assange applies for asylum to Ecuador, because this is a country which is determined to be independent. It has asked the American military base in Manta to leave the country. And when the United States objected, Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, said, "OK, if you want a base here, let’s have equality. Why can’t we have a military base in Florida?" To even ask the question is considered crazy. And there was no agreement. Out went the base.

A new constitution that defends human rights. A serious attempt to defend the ecology of the country. Social spending has doubled. And, for me, human rights mean nothing unless there’s social rights, as well, for the ordinary people of a country. The two go hand in hand. And it is these changes in South America which have now come to the fore in a big way by this one event, but that is why Julian Assange appealed to Ecuador for asylum, and that is why I think in this week that lies ahead he will receive the backing of a large majority of the South American continent.

And the Europeans, European governments and European citizens, if they wish to, could learn a lot from South America today. Just change your gaze. The gaze of Europe is constantly fixed in the direction of North America. They should just shift it, at least for a year or two, to South America, and maybe conditions in the lives of ordinary people who live in Europe would be improved as a result. Instead, despite this huge social and economic crisis, they go on as if nothing’s happened. Well, for them, nothing’s happened. For ordinary people who live in this country, whatever their class, their creed, their color, they suffer. And they react angrily sometimes. And South America offers the beginnings of a model against that.

AMY GOODMAN: British-Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali, speaking outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London. And you can go to our website at democracynow.org to get the full addresses outside the embassy.

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