With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the arrest of Julian Assange.
This morning, after nearly seven years inside the Ecuadorean embassy, Mr Assange was arrested for failing to surrender in relation to his extradition proceedings. He was later also served with a warrant for provisional arrest, pending receipt of a request for extradition to stand trial in the United States on charges relating to computer offences. His arrest follows a decision by the Ecuadorean Government to bring to an end his presence inside its embassy in London. I am pleased that President Moreno has taken this decision and I extend the UK’s thanks to him for resolving the situation. Ecuador’s actions recognise that the UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr. Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his legitimate interests will be protected. This also reflects the improvements to the UK’s relationship with Ecuador under the Government of President Moreno. These are a credit to the leadership of the Minister for Europe and the Americas, my right hon. Friend Sir Alan Duncan, and to the ongoing hard work of Foreign Office officials in London and Quito.
Mr Assange was informed of the decision to bring his presence in the embassy to an end by the Ecuadorean ambassador this morning shortly before 10 am. The Metropolitan police entered the embassy for the purpose of arresting and removing him. All the police’s activities were carried out pursuant to a formal written invitation signed by the Ecuadorean ambassador and in accordance with the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Metropolitan police for the professionalism they have shown in their management of the immediate situation, and during the past seven years.
Both the UK Government and the Ecuadorean Government have become increasingly concerned about the state of Mr Assange’s health. The first action of the police following his arrest was to have him medically assessed and deemed fit to detain. The Ecuadoreans have made their best efforts to ensure that doctors, chosen by him, have had access inside the embassy. While he remains in custody in the UK, we are now in a position to ensure access to all necessary medical care and facilities.
Proceedings will now begin according to the courts’ timetable. Under UK law, following a provisional arrest, the full extradition papers must be received by the judge within 65 days. A full extradition request would have to be certified by the Home Office before being submitted to the court, after which extradition proceedings would begin. At that point, the decision as to whether any statutory bars to extradition apply would be for the UK’s courts to determine.
I will go no further in discussing the details of the accusations against Mr. Assange either in the UK’s criminal justice system or in the US, but I am pleased that the situation in the Ecuadorean embassy has finally been brought to an end. Mr Assange will now have the opportunity to contest the charge against him in open court and to have any extradition request considered by the judiciary. It is right that we implement the judicial process fairly and consistently, with due respect for equality before the law. I commend this statement to the House.