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Is Ecuador’s expulsion from the UN really the answer to the diplomatic crisis with Mexico?

By Sir Ronald Sanders

The Mexican government has taken the significant step of asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to “suspend Ecuador as a member of the United Nations” and also to “initiate the process of expulsion under Article 6 of the United Nations Charter.”

Mexico took this action in response to the forced entry by Ecuadorian police into its embassy in Quito on April 5. Acting under direct orders from the Ecuadorian government, the police sought to arrest Jorge Glas, a former vice president who had been granted refuge in the embassy.

Many in the diplomatic community, including myself, strongly supported Mexico in condemning Ecuador’s incursion into the Mexican Embassy. We also empathised with Mexico’s decision on April 6 to sever diplomatic relations over the ‘flagrant and serious violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, specifically, the violations pertaining to the principle of inviolability of Mexico’s diplomatic premises and personnel, along with the basic rules of international coexistence. That strong collective response underscored the gravity of the breach of such a fundamental international norm.

At the very least, the Ecuadorian government should have apologized for its breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and customary international law. As my colleague and friend Héctor Arce Zaconeta, the ambassador of Bolivia, emphasized in an article in La Razón on April 17, the normalization of such events could erode one of the fundamental pillars of international law: the absolute inviolability of diplomatic premises, thereby undermining the progress made in international law thus far.

Despite the gravity of the situation, Ecuador has not issued an apology. In the absence of such an acknowledgment, Mexico’s decision to seek redress at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is justified. However, the proposal to expel Ecuador from the United Nations should be considered carefully. Such a drastic measure requires a mature approach, balancing the need for accountability with the broader implications for international relations.

Moving forward, a sincere apology from Ecuador for invading the Embassy would be a crucial first step in mending the fractured relations between the two countries. At the same time, the ancillary issue regarding the legality of the asylum granted by Mexico to Jorge Glas, the former vice president of Ecuador, also needs to be tackled. The Ecuadorian government contests the legality of this asylum, citing an outstanding arrest warrant against Glas for ongoing corruption allegations.

This complex issue, entangled with claims of political persecution versus criminal evasion, should rightly be adjudicated by the ICJ. However, in its application to the ICJ to institute proceedings against Ecuador and its request for provisional measures, Mexico is asking the Court, “to suspend Ecuador as a member of the United Nations” until it issues a public apology recognizing its violations to the fundamental principles and norms of international law.”

The government of Ecuador should spare itself and the Court the agony of examining this matter by issuing an apology for the invasion of the Embassy. It would be the right thing to do and would go a far way in easing the tension between the two countries and setting the pathway to normalising their relations.

In its submission, Mexico is also asking the ICJ “to set a precedent stating that a State or nation that acts as Ecuador did in the present case will ultimately be expelled from the United Nations in accordance with the procedure foreseen under Article 6 of the United Nations Charter.”

It would be truly regrettable if the dispute between Mexico and Ecuador intensified to such an extent, particularly as Article 6 states: “A Member of the United Nations which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” The Article clearly envisaged that the decision to expel a member state would be a political decision residing first in a recommendation of the Security Council and a vote by the General Assembly, based on “persistent violations of the UN Charter.”

It is difficult to imagine the ICJ abrogating to itself an authority that the UN Charter gives only to the member states, particularly as the incident of invading the Mexican Embassy, while wholly egregious and unacceptable, has not happened in Ecuador before and is hardly a “persistent violation” of the UN Charter; it is more a demonstration of a badly considered political decision, which could be remedied by an appropriate apology and reparation for any damage done to the Embassy.

The Court will hold hearings on April 30 and May 1 to consider Mexico’s request for provisional measures against Ecuador pending a final judgment in the case. There is still time for Ecuador to step forward with an apology and for both nations to seek the Court’s arbitration, concerning the status of Jorge Glas and the validity of granting him political asylum.

It is notable that Mexico and Ecuador have no history of hostilities or tensions prior to this incident. There is every basis for a mature approach to resolving this matter if Ecuador accepts responsibility and apologizes for the invasion of the Mexican Embassy, and the two governments seek legal arbitration concerning their differing interpretations of the law concerning political asylum.

Within the international community, the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean need inclusivity and unity of purpose to advance their collective interests.

All should work to help Ecuador and Mexico to resolve this issue in the collective interest of the people of the area.



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