Let Ecuador Not Become a Precedent

Paulina Astroza

4 mins - 8 de Abril de 2024, 07:00

The main role of the UN Security Council is to maintain international peace and security. We know that this role has not always been fulfilled and the consequences have been terrible for many people in the world. Today, one of its non-permanent members, Ecuador, has flagrantly violated one of the oldest rules of international law: the inviolability of an embassy. It is worth remembering that Ecuador is one of the Latin American and Caribbean states holding the post for two years and has been elected with the votes of the Latin American and Caribbean group (GRULAC), so the call for an urgent CELAC meeting to address the issue comes as no surprise.

“The premises of the mission are inviolable”. This is established by the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which declared a rule that already existed as a customary rule. It is a rule that is based on the assumption that sovereign states have privileges and immunities in their representations in the territory of other states for the proper functioning of their mission. Therefore, there is no justification for the accredited state (in this case Ecuador) to violate this rule and enter the embassy without the authorisation of the accrediting state (Mexico). Not even the quality, the criminal record, the accusations made against a person who is forcibly removed from a diplomatic compound are justification. There are rulings by the International Court of Justice, doctrine, and long-standing practice, as well as obligations arising from custom and international treaties.

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What Ecuador has done cannot be allowed to set a precedent in international relations. That is why one would have expected a swifter, clearer and stronger condemnation from states and international organisations. This is not a question of right or left. This is a matter of international law. An involution in this sense could have consequences that could further aggravate the crisis of the international system that we are experiencing. Although President Andrés Manuel López also violated a traditional rule of international law - the prohibition of meddling in the internal affairs of another state - this does not authorise Ecuador to bypass the rules of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Article 27 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties clearly establishes that no state can invoke norms of its internal law to justify its non-compliance with a treaty (or any international norm). International law takes precedence over domestic law. Pacta sunt servanda, what has been agreed is binding and must be complied with in good faith.

One of the long-standing and very important international institutions, especially for Latin America, is the right to asylum. A key factor in making asylum work - and saving lives as has happened in many dictatorships around the world - is the inviolability of diplomatic premises. Let us recall just three examples. Julien Assange spent seven years in Ecuador’s own embassy in London. He was under an international arrest warrant issued by Sweden and the United States. The United Kingdom never ordered Scotland Yard to enter to arrest him. It waited for Ecuador’s authorisation to proceed with his arrest. The second case is that of Leopoldo López when he was declared a “guest” by Spain when he entered the Spanish ambassador’s residence in Caracas. Even a dictator like Nicolás Maduro did not even dare to order the inviolability of the Spanish ambassador’s residence to be bypassed. It was political negotiations that allowed López to leave Venezuela. In Chile, after the coup d’état, many persecuted by the regime found asylum in foreign embassies, mainly Latin American and European. This saved their lives. Not even Augusto Pinochet had the military enter diplomatic compounds to arrest dissidents of the dictatorship.

What has happened is very serious. The severing of diplomatic relations between two Latin American countries not only strains their bilateral ties but also has effects on the region and the world. If we are talking about the fight against drug trafficking, organised crime and their disastrous consequences, President Noboa has just given AMLO the opportunity to cut those necessary bridges for the cooperation that is so necessary at this time when the scourge of these threats is real in Latin America, with direct consequences for the population, especially the most vulnerable. Let us not allow it. Let us not further weaken the international system, which is already being put to the test by pressures from different sides.

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