Tue. Apr 20th, 2021

The African Bar Association has described the detention of a Venezuelan Diplomat, Alex Saab, by the Jorge Carlos Fonseca led Cape Verde government as unlawful. 

Saab was arrested and detained in Cape Verde based on the request of the Donald Trump led United States government over allegations of money laundering, a move the Venezuelan government faulted with claims that the businessman is its special envoy on a humanitarian mission.

The Venezuelan government claimed that before his arrest, Saab had been on a mission to get food and medical supplies in Iran, stopping over in Cape Verde where he was arrested by security operatives.

On Monday March 1, the African Bar Association, in a statement issued in Lagos, signed by its President, Hannibal Uwaifo, tagged Saab’s arrest as illegal for two reasons following the conclusion of an investigation into the matter by the Human
Rights and International Law Committees of the association on the authorization of the governing council. 

The first condition given by the association is that there was no Red Notice (used as a basis for the detention) at the
time of the detention because it was issued on the next day. Similarly, the association noted that no evidence of the supporting arrest warrant issued by the United States has been shown to Ambassador Saab or his Defense team since his detention.

The second basis was that Saab enjoys immunity and inviolability due to his
status as a Special Envoy of Venezuela and he was carrying documents which
identified him as such and the purpose of his humanitarian Special Mission
to Iran. Despite this, the evidence has been ignored by Cape Verde to accommodate the externally motivated interests.

According to the association, the actions of Cape Verde authorities violate the core principles of international law especially Article 2 par. 1 of the Charter of the United
Nations which guarantees the recognition of jurisdictional immunities to States and their property, their representatives, diplomatic and consular agents in the territory of a
foreign State. It noted that the administrative and judicial decision of Cape Verde to extradite Saab to the USA over criminal charges are neither in compliance with the
provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights nor with
customary international Law especially as it does has no extradition treaty with the U.S.A. 

“We believe that the internationally wrongful acts are aggravated by the
persistence of violations, despite the binding decision of the ECOWAS Court
of Justice of 2 December 2020 ordering the release of Ambassador Saab
under house arrest, access to medical care (Mr Saab is a cancer patient) and access to his lawyers, and the suspension of extradition pending the
decision on the merits, Cape Verde has remained reluctant to comply with
the decision of a supranational organization in this regard.” 

On the claim by Cape Verde authorities that it is not bound by the ECOWAS Court decision because it did not sign the 2005 protocol which extended the Court’s
authority to hear human rights cases, the bar association described it as being economical with the truth because Cape Verde appointed judges to the ECOWAS Court and their Chief of Justice is a member of the Judicial Committee of the ECOWAS
Community and it has fully engaged in the ECOWAS Court proceedings by appointing a defense counsel, Dr Henrique Borges, who submitted written defense as well as engaged in oral discussions going into the merits of the case during the main hearing which took place on 5 February.

The association noted that the “illegal behaviour” of the Cape Verde government may bring the ECOWAS and the AU into
disrepute and also open the way for big Countries to violate the diplomatic
status of our diplomats for flimsy excuses or political convenience.

The association added that if the Government of Cape Verde does not follow the path of legality, it may be obliged to call for comprehensive sanctions against the
Country by ECOWAS, the AU and UN.

Similarly, a Professor at the Lisbon University and Portugese Catholic University, Jorge Miranda has condemned the arrest and continued detention of Saab. 

Miranda, a doctor of law, in a legal opinion, dated February 17, noted that Saab’s status as a special representative of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela bound for the Islamic Republic of Iran can not be questioned on any basis. 

He stressed that the request for his extradition by the United States cannot lead the Republic of Cape Verde to violate a principle of jus cogens and of Article 11 paragraph 1 of its  own constitution which read: The State of Cape Verde is governed, in international relations, by the principles of national independence, respect for international law and human rights, equality 
between states, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, the reciprocity of advantages, cooperation with all other peoples and peaceful coexistence. and Article 12 paragraph 1: General or common international law is an integral part of the Cape Verdean legal order, as long as it is in force in the international legal order.

“He must be released immediately and be able to continue to his destination in that capacity,” Miranda added. 

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