2013-07-07 Snowden's chances for asylum growing

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has now been offered asylum in three American countries: Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. He has applied for asylum in six additional countries, according to WikiLeaks. And his chances for reaching a safe haven are growing further because of US interference in the process, according to Michael Bochenek, director of law and policy at Amnesty International.

"Interfering with the right to seek asylum is a serious problem in international law", Bochenek told the Guardian.

It is further evidence that he has a well-founded fear of persecution. This will be relevant to any state when considering an application. International law says that somebody who fears persecution should not be returned to that country.

Meanwhile, Spain provided the first formal acknowledgement that the diversion of the air force jet of Bolivian president Evo Morales was linked to the US hunt for Snowden. Spanish foreign minister José Manuel Garcia-Margallo:

They told us that the information was clear, that he was inside.

Garcia-Margallo however did not reveal who "they" were or if he'd been contacted by the US.

Offer from Spanish ambassador

A Spanish diplomat vehicle with licence WD-22 did however turn up at the Vienna airport the night Morales arrived.

According to Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patiño, the Spanish ambassador to Austria told Morales that his country would allow the presidential jet into Spanish airspace if it could be inspected. Morales rejected the offer.

Bochenek commented that the US hunt was turning the Snowden story into a global saga.

In PR terms, opinion here and elsewhere in Latin America has shifted precisely because of the appearance of interference with other governments' decision-making processes.

Being in a country not a requirement for asylum

Bochenek further clarified that Snowden could be granted asylum without setting foot in the country granting him asylum - that's a convention that can be ignored.

It's true that a lot of states have that as a rule in their own domestic requirements, but it is not required by international law.

And placing Snowden on an Interpol "red flag" list is an advisory only.

Transit through Cuba?

A possible route for Snowden from Moscow to Venezuela would be through Havana, and although the Cubans have not yet formally declared they would grant him transit, they have expressed sympathy for his situation and accused the US of trampling on the sovereignty of other nations.

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