Ecuador sues Mexico at ICJ over granting asylum to former vice president

Mexico had earlier appealed to the United Nations court to sanction Ecuador for storming its embassy in Quito.

Ecuador Mexico
Supporters of former Vice President Jorge Glas are seen in Quito, Ecuador [Dolores Ochoa/The Associated Press]

Ecuador has moved to sue Mexico amid an ongoing diplomatic spat over Ecuador’s former Vice President Jorge Glas.

The conflict centres on Mexico’s decision in early April to grant asylum to Glas, who had twice been convicted of corruption by Ecuadoran courts. In December 2017, Glas was sentenced to six years in prison after he was convicted on charges of accepting bribes from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht in exchange for government contracts.

Glas had been staying at Mexico’s diplomatic compound in Quito since December. Then Ecuadoran authorities stormed Mexican’s embassy in Quito, arrested him, and imprisoned him in Guayaquil.

In a filing with the United Nations’ top court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Ecuador said the move by Mexico “obstructed the proper administration of justice in Ecuador, [and] constituted, among other things, a blatant misuse of the premises of a diplomatic mission”.

Ecuador also accused Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of making “false and injurious statements calling into question the legitimacy of the elections in Ecuador”.

It said those statements “breached the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of other states”.

The complaint did not specify the statements in question, although Ecuador had previously condemned Lopez Obrador for implying that the media’s speculation on the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio had affected the election’s outcome.

In response, Ecuador had declared Mexico’s ambassador “persona non grata”.

Shortly after Mexico had announced it was granting asylum to Glas, Ecuadoran authorities surrounded the Mexican embassy in Quito and arrested the former vice president, who has since been held at a maximum-security prison in the city of Guayaquil.

Security camera video released by Mexico’s government showed Ecuadorian police scale the embassy walls and break into the building. They said Roberto Canseco, Mexico’s head of consular affairs in Ecuador, was restrained by police and pushed to the floor during the incident.

The raid stoked outrage from leaders across the region for violating long-established international accords. Embassies are considered protected spaces and are generally deemed off-limits to local authorities without invitation.

The so-called “rule of inviolability” has been used across the world by both political dissidents and others to avoid arrest in their home countries.

Following the raid, Mexico cut diplomatic ties with Ecuador.

Mexico City also appealed to the ICJ to suspend Ecuador from the UN pending a formal apology. Hearings in that case are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

For their part, Ecuadorian authorities have remained defiant.

In the complaint filed on Monday, the government of President Daniel Noboa said Mexico’s actions were in violation of the Convention on Political Asylum of 1933, the Convention on Diplomatic Asylum of 1954, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption of 1996, and the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2003.

It also said the move violated the principles of the founding charter of the UN and the charter of the Organization of American States.

The regional organisation had previously weighed in on the back and forth, with Secretary-General Luis Almagro saying that neither “the use of force, the illegal incursion into a diplomatic mission, nor the detention of an asylee are the peaceful way toward resolution of this situation”.

Mexico did not immediately respond to the filing.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies