A Possible Escape Route for Julian Assange from the UK (UPDATED x2)

So Julian Assange has been granted asylum by Ecuador. The problem that he has though is he is still in the UK (and the UK can theoretically close that embassy down, it’s not a parcel of Ecuador in the middle of London) so the question would be how could he legally get out of the UK?

Here’s my idea (which is probably crazy, but Mark Newton had the same one on Twitter)..

  1. Ecuador makes him a citizen of their country.
  2. Ecuador appoints him to their diplomatic staff
  3. Ecuador makes him a diplomatic courier to courier a diplomatic bag from the embassy in London to Ecuador.
  4. Julian Assange leaves the UK.

So why do I think that will work?

Well I found a United Nations document from 1989 called “Draft articles on the status of the Diplomatic Courier and Diplomatic Bag not accompanied by a Diplomatic Courier and Draft Optional Protocols thereto with commentaries” (PDF) (not destined for commercial success with a title like that) which nicely explains what’s involved.

The important points I read were:

  • The receiving nation (in this case the UK) does not get to approve couriers who are nationals of the sending nation (Ecuador), that’s only for the head of missions.
  • The receiving nation is obliged to “accord to the diplomatic courier the facilities necessary for the performance of his function”, and even to provide temporary accomodation.
  • The receiving nation can declare the diplomatic courier who holds diplomatic rank “persona non grata” and then the sending country is obliged to recall the courier and they must leave the country. It’s only if they fail to recall the courier and they do not leave in a “reasonable period” that the receiving nation (the UK) can take action against them.

Now unless the status of diplomatic couriers has changed since 1989 then my feeling that the process would lead to one of two conclusions:

  1. Julian Assange leaves as a diplomatic courier and travels to Ecuador
  2. Julian Assange is recalled as “persona non grata” and travels to Ecuador

I’ve probably missed something (other than a flagrant breach of the Vienna Convention), but I can’t see what..

Update

It would appear the UK government agrees with this, their webpage on DIPPRIV2400 – Diplomatic Bags and Couriers: Diplomatic Couriers says:

Couriers are entitled to personal inviolability and must not be searched, arrested or detained.

Bingo.. :-)

Update 2

Here is the UK legislation confirming that, the Diplomatic Privileges Act 1964, which says:

5. The diplomatic courier, who shall be provided with an official document indicating his status and the number of packages constituting the diplomatic bag, shall be protected by the receiving State in the performance of his functions. He shall enjoy personal inviolability and shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.

6. The sending State or the mission may designate diplomatic couriersad hoc. In such cases the provisions of paragraph 5 of this Article shall also apply, except that the immunities therein mentioned shall cease to apply when such a courier has delivered to the consignee the diplomatic bag in his charge.