The Ombudsman of Ecuador, as a National Human Rights Institution, expresses its deep concern at the decision adopted by the Ecuadorian State to withdraw the nationality of Julian Assange, as well as to terminate the diplomatic asylum he maintained at the Embassy of Ecuador in the United Kingdom.
With this decision, in the opinion of the Ombudsman’s Office, the rights to nationality (art.6), asylum (Article 41), the principle of non-refoulement (Article 66.14), and guarantees of due process have been limited (Article 77) provided for in the Constitution of the Republic, the Human Mobility Law and in international human rights instruments.
Although according to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility this decision would have been based on the principle of state sovereignty, it is important to point out that sovereignty is not absolute when human rights are put at risk, because precisely these limit its scope.
It is necessary to remember that the Ecuadorian State granted a naturalisation letter to Julian Assange, which can only be annulled by observing the provisions of art. 81 of the Organic Law of Human Mobility, which provides that:
“Without prejudice to the corresponding criminal sanction, prior to lesividad action, the human mobility authority will declare void the naturalisation of a person when it has been granted on the basis of concealment of relevant facts, false documents or the commission of fraud to the law in the granting procedure. The decision must be motivated; for its declaration, due process must be followed and it will be notified to the corresponding authorities.” In the present case, it has not been clearly determined if this procedure was complied with, and if within it effective due process was guaranteed.
In this regard, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has determined that any procedure that may have an impact on the rights to nationality or legal personality must observe the guarantees of due process, including: “1) prior notification of the existence of the process, 2) have a hearing to determine the rights at stake, 3) the right to be assisted legally, 4) to exercise a defence and to have a reasonable time to prepare and formalise the allegations, and to evacuate the corresponding evidence, 5) right to the actions and decisions of the process are written, 6) the reasonable time of the procedure, 7) the right to effective judicial review of administrative decisions, 8) a decision founded, 9) advertising of the actions of the administration, among others.”
If the Ecuadorian State fails to comply with these guarantees, and Julian Assange has been handed over to the police authorities in the United Kingdom, a de facto extradition would have been committed, which contradicts Article 79 of the Constitution, which prohibits the extradition of Ecuadorian people.
On the other hand, it must be taken into account that the status of asylee demanded from the Ecuadorian government respect for the principle of non-refoulement in the face of obvious risks to life, liberty or integrity, which have justified the prolonged stay in the embassy Ecuadorian in the city of London, and that the Ecuadorian State has not proven that they have ceased.
In this regard, the Office of the Ombudsman recalls that Advisory Opinion 25-2018 requested by Ecuador from the Inter-American Court, which has binding effects, states “that the host State must, therefore, arbitrate all necessary means to protect the person in case of a real risk to life, integrity, freedom or security if it is delivered or removed to the territorial State or if there is a risk that the State in turn may expel, return or extradite the person to another State where there is that real risk. ” For this reason, the Ecuadorian State, in accordance with the principle of non-refoulement, should analyse all viable alternatives in order not to jeopardise the rights of the asylee.
Beyond the criminal and disciplinary accusations and political convictions that Julian Assange may have, it is worth remembering that every human being has the right to be treated with dignity and a fair procedure must be guaranteed.
Faced with this situation, the Ombudsman regrets that the Ecuadorian State has incurred in this decision that could entail international responsibility and set a worrying pre
cedent regarding the protection of people in situations of asylum and / or Ecuadorians abroad.
Finally, it calls on the State and Ecuadorian society to reaffirm the principles of solidarity, acceptance and respect for human rights, maintaining the long and recognised tradition of asylum and respect for the constitutional principles regarding human mobility.
Gina Benavides Llerena – Ombudsman