Ricardo Patiño said a letter had been delivered through a British embassy official in Quito that informed the Ecuadorian government: “You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the embassy.”
The letter added: “We need to reiterate that we consider the continued use of the diplomatic premises in this way incompatible with the Vienna convention and unsustainable and we have made clear the serious implications that this has for our diplomatic relations.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walked into Ecuador’s embassy in London on June 19 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape charges.
Assange fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, he will then be turned over to the US, where he will likely face serious charges for helping to leak US government cables.
Patiño said he was “deeply shocked” at the letter, which he perceived to mean that Britain was threatening to “storm” the embassy.
After reading aloud parts of the letter in a press conference, he later told reporters: “The government of Ecuador is considering a request for asylum [from Assange] and has carried out diplomatic talks with the governments of the United Kingdom and Sweden. However, today we received from the United Kingdom a written threat that they could attack our embassy in London if Ecuador does not give up Julian Assange.
“Ecuador, as a state that respects rights and justice and is a democratic and peaceful nation state, rejects in the strongest possible terms the explicit threat of the British official communication.”
He added: “This is unbecoming of a democratic, civilised and law-abiding state. If this conduct persists, Ecuador will take appropriate responses in accordance with international law.
“It would be a dangerous precedent because it would open the door to the violation of embassies as a declared sovereign space.”
Under international law, embassies are considered the territory of the foreign nation.
However, the Foreign Office downplayed the idea that British Forces would ‘raid’ the embassy.
A Foreign Office spokesman told The Guardian newspaper that “We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.”
However, a spokeswoman added: “The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences and we remain determined to fulfil this obligation.”