Just a short post to outline a couple of things as I understand them, as of Saturday morning.
You can watch a 24/7 video feed from outside the embassy at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/aejkohl. This will broadcast until Sunday, I believe.
Embassies are not sovereign territory. This is a commonly held misconception. According to the citations (4 and 5) in the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassy:
Contrary to popular belief, diplomatic missions do not enjoy full extraterritorial status and are not sovereign territory of the represented state. Rather, the premises of diplomatic missions remain under the jurisdiction of the host state while being afforded special privileges (such as immunity from most local laws) by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
While embassies are not sovereign, ambassadors can enjoy inviolability.
The most fundamental rule of diplomatic law is that the person of a diplomatic agent is inviolable. Diplomats may not be detained or arrested, and enjoy complete immunity from criminal prosecution in the receiving state, although there is no immunity from the jurisdiction of the sending state.
So, staff of the ambassador can be arrested and tried for crimes, but according to the Vienna Convention, the ambassador him/herself cannot be. This is very different to sovereignty, meaning Ecuador’s embassy in London can be entered by UK authorities.
But why hasn’t the UK done so yet?
What Does This Mean?
It means that while it may enjoy various immunities from British Laws, the Ecuadorian Embassy is on British Territory, and may be entered at any time in accordance to British Law.
If it was as easy as that – and the UK have said that they are determined to carry out their extradition, regardless – surely they should have done that by now? The fact is the Ecuadorian Embassy is still surrounded, has not been entered by the UK authorities, and Julian Assange is still a “free man” within.
It appears there is more going on behind the scenes than we can see.