Top UN court rejects emergency steps after Mexico Embassy raid

AFP , Thursday 23 May 2024

The UN's top court Thursday rejected Mexico's request for emergency measures to protect its embassy in Quito, ruling that Ecuador made sufficient assurances after a controversial raid last month.

Judge Nawaf Salam, third from right, read the ruling of the International Court of Justice,
Judge Nawaf Salam, third from right, read the ruling of the International Court of Justice, or World Court, in The Hague, Netherlands, Thursday, May 23, 2024, where Mexico took Ecuador to the United Nations top court accusing the nation of violating international law by storming into the Mexican embassy in Quito on April 5, and arresting former Ecuador Vice President Jorge Glas, who had been holed up there seeking asylum in Mexico. AP


Ecuadoran security forces stormed the Mexican embassy in Quito in early April to snatch former vice president Jorge Glas, who is wanted on corruption charges and had been granted asylum by Mexico.

Mexico dragged Ecuador before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, asking judges to declare Quito in breach of international law.

It also sought "provisional measures" including that judges rule that Quito "take appropriate and immediate steps to provide full security of diplomatic premises... and archives, preventing further intrusion against them".

Mexico also asked judges to order Ecuador to "refrain from any act or conduct likely to aggravate or widen the dispute of which the Court is seized".


'No urgency'

But in its ruling Thursday, ICJ judges said Ecuador had already given assurances it was "providing full protection to the premises of the Mexican mission and diplomatic residences."

Quito had told the court there were "no threats to the relevant properties or archives and Mexico is free to remove such property and archives whenever it wishes."

"The Court considers that the assurances given by... Ecuador encompasses the concerns expressed by Mexico" in its request, said ICJ presiding judge Nawaf Salam.

"There is at present no urgency," Salam said, a key pre-requisite for issuing emergency measures.

Judges will next weigh the case proper, in which Mexico accuses Ecuador of "breaking international law" -- but that could still take months or even years.

Quito's rare incursion on diplomatic territory sparked an international outcry and led Mexico to break ties with Ecuador and withdraw its diplomats.

Mexico's representative Alejandro Celorio Alcantara told judges last month that Ecuador's raid "crossed a line", setting a dangerous precedent when it came to international relations.

Celorio told reporters after Thursday's hearing that despite the court's rejection, Mexico was "very satisfied with today's decision."

The judgement meant "we can rely not only on Ecuador's credibility but assurances and legal obligations before the court to know that our embassy won't be violated again."

Mexico is now asking the ICJ to suspend Ecuador from the UN until it issues a public apology -- and for the court to declare itself the "appropriate judicial body" to determine a state's responsibility in order to start a process to expel it from the world body.

Mexico based its application on the principles of the UN Charter, the 1948 Pact of Bogota -- which obliges signatories to solve disputes through peaceful means -- and the 1961 Vienna Convention which guarantees protection for diplomatic staff.


'Serious offences'

Ecuador's diplomats hit back during the hearings, saying the embassy raid was "exceptional" and aimed "solely" to bring Glas -- whom Quito said was a wanted fugitive -- to justice.

On Thursday Andres Teran Parral, Ecuador's ambassador to the Netherlands welcomed the Court's ruling adding Quito "stood by its assurances."

Ecuador last month filed its case against Mexico, making a similar argument that it "blatantly abused" its diplomatic mission to harbour Glas.

Glas, who was vice president from 2013 to 2017, faces graft charges stemming from his time in office.

He was detained at the embassy on a warrant issued in January on embezzlement charges relating to funds from public works contracts, issued after a devastating earthquake hit Ecuador in 2016.

Glas was also convicted in a separate fraud case in 2017.

The raid came hours after Mexico granted Glas's request for political asylum.

Several Latin American states, Spain, the European Union, the United States, and the UN chief have condemned the embassy intrusion.

Meanwhile, Glas remains behind bars at the southwestern Guayaquil prison, with his lawyers fighting to prevent the extraction of data from two cellphones and an iPad, seized when he was arrested.

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