This week, the Ecuadorian regime of Lenin Moreno not only deprived Julian Assange of his asylum but also of his Ecuadorian citizenship. Whilst this move is profoundly disgraceful and likely illegal, the equal and opposite treatment of Assange at the hands of an influential government could prove to be crucially beneficial.
Although Assange is currently in a prison referred to as the “British Guantanamo Bay”, if an influential nation decided to give Assange citizenship, there would be certain international obligations that any country imprisoning Assange would have to meet. Not only would consular officials from a nation that would give him citizenship be allowed to have private visits with Assange in prison, but under most circumstances they could provide him special medial and legal services. Perhaps most importantly in the medium and long term, if an influential country sympathetic to Assange were to grant him citizenship, even in the event of a conviction in the United States, a prisoner swap may be possible if arranged at a diplomatic level.
While Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was and remains a humanitarian of the first order, sadly, Ecuador was not in an influential enough position to exert leverage on the powerful countries that for years have antagonised and persecuted Julian Assange. This was made all the more clear when a corrupt regime that sided with Assange’s enemies replaced the ethical government of Correa in 2017.
Therefore, it is imperative for a country that has political stability, is able to exert meaningful international leverage and one that could conduct a desired prisoner swap with the US, to grant Julian Assange citizenship and use all available consular and diplomatic channels to help restore the freedom that the United Nations has emphatically said he deserves and requires.