NEWS
16/08/2012 12:30 BST | Updated 16/08/2012 12:35 BST

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Hold Fire On Ecuador And WikiLeaks' Founder Julian Assange

Human Rights groups in the UK have shied away from taking a stance on Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Liberty have all held fire on criticising either the extradition process or the granting of asylum for Assange by Ecuador.

Amnesty has been cautious about championing the cause of the WikiLeaks' founder, believing there is no proven risk of him being extradited to the US.

Media gather outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in central London

An Amnesty spokesman told The Huffington Post UK: "We do not have specific grounds to believe that he would face a human rights risk if he were extradited to Sweden, or grounds to believe that he would be extradited from Sweden to the USA.

"There has been an absence of clarification from the US about their intended actions."

Human Rights Watch's spokeswoman in their London office said they had been keeping a close watch on the developing situation, but were not prepared to take a position on it, other than advise about the legal implications.

Under the Vienna Convention, embassies are considered the territory of the foreign nation.

Reports have suggested that the UK may considering entering the Ecuadorian embassy to forcibly remove Assange, which they may do under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, which permits the revocation of the special status of a building if the foreign power occupying it "ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post".

Ecuador has a chequered human rights history, and a poor record on free press and free speech, according to HRW.

Last month, José Miguel Vivanco, director of HRW's Americas division, told the Guardian: "I think this is ironic that you have a journalist, or an activist, seeking political asylum from a government that has – after Cuba – the poorest record of free speech in the region, and the practice of persecuting local journalists when the government is upset by their opinions or their research."

Assange won the Amnesty 2009 New Media Award for WikiLeaks exposing extrajudicial assassinations in Kenya.

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