Three weeks before the U.S. deadline to file its final extradition request for Assange, Ecuadorian officials are travelling to London to allow U.S. prosecutors to help themselves to Assange’s belongings.
Neither Julian Assange nor U.N. officials have been permitted to be present when Ecuadorian officials arrive to Ecuador’s embassy in London on Monday morning.
The chain of custody has already been broken. Assange’s lawyers will not be present at the illegal seizure of his property, which has been “requested by the authorities of the United States of America”.
The material includes:
- two of his manuscripts, as well as
- his legal papers,
- medical records and
- electronic equipment.
The seizure of his belongings violates laws that protect medical and legal confidentiality and press protections.
The seizure is formally listed as “International Assistance in Criminal matters 376-2018-WTT requested by the authorities of the United States of America”. The reference number of the legal papers indicates that Ecuador’s formal cooperation with the United States was initiated in 2018.
Since the day of his arrest on 11 April 2019, Mr. Assange’s lawyers and the Australian consul have made dozens of documented demands to the embassy of Ecuador for the release and return of his belongings, without response.
Earlier this week the UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, who met with Mr. Assange in Belmarsh prison on 25 April, asked to be present to monitor Ecuador’s seizure of Assange’s property. Ecuador inexplicably refused the request, despite the fact that since 2003, Ecuador has explicitly committed itself to granting unimpeeded open invitations for UN special rapporteurs to investigate any aspect of their mandate in Ecuadorian jurisdiction.
The seizure and transfer of Mr. Assange’s property to the U.S. is the second phase of a bilateral cooperation that in January and February saw Ecuador arranging U.S. interrogations of past and present Ecuadorian diplomats posted to the embassy of Ecuador in London while Mr. Assange was receiving asylum.
The questioning related to the U.S. grand jury investigation against Assange and WikiLeaks. As part of phase one of the cooperation, the United States also asked Ecuador to provide documents and audiovisual material of Assange and his guests, which had been gathered during an extensive spying operation against Assange inside the embassy.
On Friday, President Lenin Moreno initiated a state of emergency that suspends the rights of prisoners to “inviolability of correspondence, freedom of association and assembly and freedom of information” through Executive Decree 741.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks said:
“On Monday Ecuador will perform a puppet show at the Embassy of Ecuador in London for their masters in Washington, just in time to expand their extradition case before the U.K. deadline on 14 June. The Trump Administration is inducing its allies to behave like it’s the Wild West.”
“Ecuador is run by criminals and liars. There is no doubt in my mind that Ecuador, either independently or at the behest of the US, has tampered with the belongings it will send to the United States”
Baltasar Garzon, international legal coordinator for the defence of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, said:
“It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the the agent of political persecution against him, the United States. It is an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information exposing massive human rights abuses and corruption. We call on international protection institutions to intervene to put a stop to this persecution.”
Lawyer for Mr. Assange, Aitor Martinez, whose confidential legal papers were photographed with a mobile phone by embassy workers as part of a spy operation against Mr. Assange in October 2018, said:
“Ecuador is committing a flagrant violation of the most basic norms of the institution of asylum by handing over all the asylee’s personal belongings indiscriminately to the country that he was being protected from–the United States. This is completely unprecedented in the history of asylum. The protecting country cannot cooperate with the agent of persecution against the person to whom it was providing protection.
Ecuador has now also refused a request by the UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Joe Cannataci, to monitor and inspect the cooperation measure. Ecuador’s refusal to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur defies the entire international human rights protection system of the United Nations. Ecuador will from now on be seen as a country that operates outside of the system of safeguards of rights that defines democratic countries.”
Ecuadorian defence attorney for Mr. Assange, Carlos Poveda, said:
“In the face of countless abuses, and acting on provisions in domestic legislation and international human rights instruments, the defence has challenged the execution of this measure. All applications have been rejected. While the prosecution office proclaims its commitment to human rights protections, there has been no transparency and the investigation is conducted in secret. Without justification, and absent of all legal criteria, the measure shows the interest in obtaining information that the United States can use to proceed with its flagrant persecution. Meanwhile Ecuador has hinted that it too intends to proceed with investigations. Meanwhile, to date our criminal complaints of espionage against Julian Assange remain unprocessed, despite the gravity of the facts reported.”
Press release from Wilikeaks