Embassy In London Under Siege, IP A ‘Neo-Liberal Pillar’, Ecuador Minister Says 29/06/2016 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)A top Ecuadoran official said today at the United Nations in Geneva that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s health is deteriorating after four years confined in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, while the United Kingdom and Sweden are ignoring the findings of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which called for Assange’s release. The Ecuadoran Minister of Foreign Affairs also said Ecuador will carry on issuing compulsory licences for medicines as it sees fit, underlining the increasing role of intellectual property and the greater privatisation of knowledge. Guillaume Long, Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility Guillaume Long, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, who was fresh from a three-day visit to the UN in Geneva with several meetings, including with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said during a press briefing that he paid a visit to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on 19 June in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, on the 4th anniversary of his taking refuge in the embassy. Four years ago, Long said, Julian Assange walked into the embassy and asked for asylum. Wikileaks had leaked a massive number of highly sensitive documents including among other things internal US military documents from Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, with materials from Chelsea Manning that contained a video of US military killings of civilians. After two months of studying his request, Ecuador decided to grant Assange asylum on human rights grounds, Long said, in particular because there were fears of significant political persecution of Assange, he said. In particular, Ecuador was unable to obtain a guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to a third country, he said. Ecuador is not seeking to interfere with the Swedish judicial system but have been told by the United Kingdom government that it can neither confirm nor deny that Assange would be extradited. Ecuador, he said, offered several times that Assange be interrogated in the Ecuadoran embassy by Swedish police, which is common practice, but the offer was systematically refused, he said. In December 2015, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found that Assange was arbitrarily detained by the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom, and recognized that Assange “is entitled to his freedom of movement and to compensation.” According to Long, the UK, in a political statement, said it would not abide by the findings of the UN Working Group. “We are very disappointed by this,” he said, in particular when the UK and Sweden on so many occasions and with so many countries call for others to abide by the UN Working Group findings, such as for the arbitrary detention of Aung San Suu Kyi. “It is a clear case of double standards, which Ecuador denounces,” he said. To a question of whether other countries are supporting Ecuador on this issue, he said he has met with many country representatives in Geneva, in particular the like-minded countries, and countries from the global South, and “generally speaking, we have a huge amount of support,” he said. “It is a great shame” that when he talked about Julian Assange at the Human Rights Committee, “nobody wanted to talk about it,” he said, but the case is different when Ecuador talks to individual countries, he added. There is a lot of support for the Ecuadoran position, he said, because no matter how “you want to frame it, Ecuador’s position is about avoiding political persecution, and guaranteeing the basic human rights of an individual,” he said. The conditions under which Assange is arbitrarily detained are very precarious, he said. The Ecuadoran embassy in London is a very small space with limited light and no outside space at all, there is no patio or place where Assange can breathe fresh air, and his health has deteriorated, he said. One of his arms is impaired and although he is getting the medical care that the Ecuadoran embassy can provide, this does not replace visiting a health facility, and getting proper checks and having access to a hospital, he said. “The Ecuadorian embassy in London is virtually under siege,” he said. “True, we do not have the 60+ police officers standing out there as we had for the first few years of Assange’s detention, but there are cameras everywhere, it is one of the most spied-on embassies in the world, you are very fortunate if you get to make a phone call inside the embassy, the internet collapses all the time, everything is hacked, it is a pretty hostile context” for Assange but also for the embassy staff. The personnel in the embassy are under extreme stress and duress and are facing a state of siege, he said. Access to Health a Pillar of Ecuadoran Policy On a separate issue, access to health and access to medicines are pillars of Ecuadoran policy, Long said today, answering a question from Intellectual Property Watch on the leading role that Ecuador has said it wanted to have in the management of intellectual property policy. In particular, Ecuador has issued a number of compulsory licences, allowing the production of generic versions of expensive brand name drugs. When criteria for compulsory licences are met, Ecuador will carry on issuing compulsory licences when the country has to do so. “We are in the confines of the WTO [World Trade Organization] and other bodies,” he said, as he underlined the country’s “progressive approach to IP.” “Intellectual property is the new free trade agenda, the new neo-liberal pillar,” he said. In most trade agreements, “intellectual property is massive.” “We are in a knowledge economy and a science and technology age, and a patenting age,” he added. Unfortunately, since the 1980s, he said, patenting has become much more recurrent and more lenient. There is a greater privatisation of knowledge which affects countries that are low producers of knowledge and do not have an innovation economy, he said. The more knowledge circulates, the more it becomes a public good, and the more innovation you can have, he explained. Although intellectual property is legitimate, the right balance should be struck, he said. It is not a coincidence that all the countries that acquired a high level of development did this through public knowledge approaches, he noted. “Until the early 20th century you could copy pretty much anything in the world, as long as it was foreign,” he said. An Englishman could patent a French invention, or vice-versa as long as it was not national, he added as an example. Image Credits: Catherine Saez Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Embassy In London Under Siege, IP A ‘Neo-Liberal Pillar’, Ecuador Minister Says" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.