Julian Assange: Haunting Persecution and The Quest for Diplomatic Asylum

Published by Career-Organizational Development on

Source: abc.net.au


According to De Haas et al. (2019), migration is a fundamental phenomenon in human social life, dating back to ancient times when humans survived through nomadic lifestyles. In this modern era of development, the migration phenomenon has evolved with various push and pull factors, making it a globally pervasive phenomenon. De Haas et al. (2019) contend that migration is not solely a response to challenges faced at home; instead, it is primarily motivated by the pursuit of a preferred lifestyle or better opportunities in other locations.

Fundamentally, individuals who engage in migration are referred to as migrants, and this applies to anyone who leaves their original place of residence. The factors driving migrants to migrate are highly diverse, and one that often captures international attention is migration based on political threats.

Political factors, such as state or government oppression, persecution, or even genocide, frequently compel individuals to migrate, as they seek asylum to safeguard their families or themselves in pursuit of what the United Nations describes as “freedom from fear.” A relevant example is Julian Assange, a man who is trying to escape from persecution.


Who is Julian Assange?: WikiLeaks and Sexual Assault

Assange was born on July 3, 1971, in the locality of Townsville, Queensland, Australia. He showed early aptitude for programming and hacking. Using the hacker alias “Mendax,” he broke into several secure networks as a teenager, including those operated by the Pentagon and NASA. Thus, he pleaded guilty to 25 charges at only 20 years old when the Australian Government charged him.

In 2006, Assange created WikiLeaks, an organization dedicated to disseminating information which is political, ethical, or historically significant but is either classified, censored, or otherwise restricted. Its first publication was a message from a Somali rebel leader encouraging the use of hired gunmen to assassinate government officials. In 2010, WikiLeaks gained international attention after disclosing a number of information obtained from the U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (later called Chelsea Manning) including the “Collateral Murder”,  the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs, and the US diplomatic cables. These publications raised questions about government transparency, the ethics of whistleblowing, and people’s right to information.

A short time later, in Sweden, Assange faced charges when he was accused of sexually assaulting two women. Assange denied the allegations. Many believe that the sole reason behind the claims was WikiLeaks’ disclosure of information previously in the same year.

Assange’s Migratory Path: From Ecuador’s Diplomatic Asylum to the Future of Uncertainty

After a complex legal battle of his assault case, Assange sought sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in June 2012 following the Supreme Court’s denial of his extradition petition. He claimed in his asylum application that if he was extradited to Sweden, he may end up facing charges in the US for his WikiLeaks-related activities.

Ultimately, Assange obtained diplomatic asylum status from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. According to the UNHCR, the term “diplomatic asylum” broadly refers to the granting of asylum by a state outside its territory, particularly in its diplomatic missions (diplomatic asylum in the strict sense), consulates, on board its ships in the territorial waters of another state (naval asylum), and even on board its aircraft and military or para-military installations in foreign territory. The other form of asylum granted within a state’s borders is generally known as “territorial asylum.” Although the legitimacy of granting asylum based on humanitarian grounds is questioned, Ecuador used it as a reason for their decision, something rarely done by non-Latin American countries (Gupta, 2016).

Furthermore, Assange’s premise for seeking asylum was based on the “fear of political persecution,” which is covered by Article 33 of the Refugee Convention concerning the principle of non-refoulement. This article prohibits the expulsion or return of refugees to a territory where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Additionally, Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights regarding the right to seek asylum states that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum in another country to avoid persecution.

The granting of asylum to Julian Assange by Ecuador was met with disapproval from both the UK and Swedish authorities. The Swedish government, in response to Ecuador’s decision, released an official statement expressing their concerns that Ecuador’s actions were impeding the Swedish judicial process and European judicial cooperation (Gupta, 2016). According to international law, specifically the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961), Article 22 regarding diplomatic immunity, the British government cannot intervene or force the Ecuadorian Embassy. It states that the premises of the embassy are inviolable, and the host state officials cannot enter the embassy building without permission from the head of the diplomatic mission. Concurrently, the British authorities reacted by implementing round-the-clock police presence to prevent Assange from attempting to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy premises.

Assange’s Current Life

Assange remained in the embassy for nearly seven years from 2012-2019. Assange’s life in the Ecuadorian Embassy was characterized by extreme isolation. He was unable to leave the premises, and strict surveillance by the British government prevented any physical interaction. Unfortunately, in 2019, his relationship with Ecuador deteriorated when President Lenin Moreno decided to revoke his asylum status. This created an opportunity for the British authorities to apprehend Assange. On April 11, 2019, Assange was arrested and detained at Belmarsh Prison in London.

The Latest News is that Julian Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, is making every effort to appeal to the British authorities to cancel the extradition demands to the United States. She has even commented on Joe Biden’s decision to “consider” dropping the charges against the founder, particularly based on his deteriorating health condition.


Undoubtedly, migration has become an inherent part of human life. Almost every individual engages in migration at some point in their lives, and the reasons for migration vary with the changing times. However, politically motivated migration often attracts international attention, as seen in the case of Julian Assange. Despite being classified as an elite individual, the migration process faced by Assange has proven to be anything but easy. Based on the fear of persecution, Assange continues to endure a long and arduous journey, both physically and mentally, despite the existence of international laws such as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and Refugee Conventions. Ultimately, Assange’s fate rests upon the decisions made by the Ecuadorian embassy, which can change in unimaginable ways. Through this case, we come to understand that migrants are always confronted with uncertainty, and those who lack access to what the United Nations refers to as “freedom from fear” experience even more harrowing circumstances.


De Haas, H., Castles, S., & Miller, M. J. (2019). The age of migration: International population movements in the modern world. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Gupta, R. (2016). Concept of diplomatic asylum: study in the light of Julian Assange’s case (Doctoral dissertation, UPES, Dehradun).

Putri, J., & Arsika, I. M. B. (2022). Pemberian Suaka Diplomatik dalam Hukum Internasional: Dilema antara Aspek Kemanusiaan dan Tensi Hubungan Bilateral. Undang: Jurnal Hukum, 5(2), 293–323. https://doi.org/10.22437/ujh.5.2.293-323

Ray, M. (2019). Julian Assange | Biography & Facts. In Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Julian-Assange

Värk, R. (2012). Diplomatic asylum: theory, practice and the case of Julian Assange. Sisekaitseakadeemia Toimetised, 11, 240-257.

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