Justices Joao Pinto Semedo (President), Aristides R. Lima, and Jose Pina Delgado of the Cape Verdean Constitutional Court are urged to follow the rule of law and release Alex Saab
CAPE VERDE is violating an impressive array of international norms such as the rules of international diplomacy (including the principles of diplomatic immunity) to human rights and its own constitutional norms with its arrest and continued detention of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab (pictured).
In a virtual press conference on Friday, four senior legal experts – lead counsel for ECOWAS, Femi Falana, David Rivkin who is the US based lead counsel at Baker and Hostetler, Cape Verdean counsel Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro and Rutsel Silvestre Martha, former INTERPOL General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs – commented on the errors throughout the process.
Saab’s lead counsel in Cape Verde, Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro said, ‘The US law requires that the ‘rule of specialty’, to be binding on the United States, has to be explicitly featured in the relevant bilateral extradition treaty. No such treaty exists between the United States and Cabo Verde. To the extent that the US is allegedly relying on the United Nations Convention on Transnational Crime as being the treaty basis for this extradition, it does not work, since the extradition provisions of the UNCTOC did not feature the specialty clause. However, what is even more rhetorically compelling is that the United States has notified the UN that it will not apply the UNCTOC’s extradition provision. Hence, it is disingenuous at best and a flat out lie at worst, for anybody to pretend that UNCTOC can be the basis for the imposition of the rule of specialty.”
Femi Falana, Alex Saab’s lead ECOWAS Counsel, addressed the following points at the start of the press conference:
‘The case of the arbitrary detention in Cape Verde of Alex Saab is far from an ordinary case of detention or human rights violations. This case is emblematic of a series of flagrant and systematic violations of international norms and has been, from the beginning, punctuated by errors, violations, and challenges to all legal rationality.
‘The defence team has filed complaints with the ECOWAS Court of Justice, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and made serious legal and diplomatic efforts to try to put an end to this totally unjust and illegal situation, which is keeping a Venezuelan diplomat on a special mission in arbitrary detention under undignified conditions.
‘We have obtained common sense decisions from international bodies, ordering the immediate release of Alex Saab from the ECOWAS Court of Justice, for example, or requesting the suspension of the extradition procedure in accordance with the interim measures of the Human Rights Committee, along with calls for diplomatic dialogue from both the United Nations and the African Union. But the government of Cape Verde remains deaf to all appeals to reason, to all appeals to comply with the law, and to all appeals to dialogue.’
Alex Saab has been detained for more than 400 days in a totally arbitrary manner and is at risk of extradition for purely political reasons to a state that openly displays its hostility towards Venezuela and its leadership.
Backed by the United States, Cape Verde has agreed to violate an impressive array of international norms, from the rules of international diplomacy, to the principles of diplomatic immunity, to human rights and its own constitutional norms.
Dr Rutsel Martha, Former Head of Legal Affairs of Interpol addressed the question of irregularities within the Interpol notice on the days of June 12-13 2020, but also responded to the question of dual nationality of the diplomat representing the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as a Special Envoy undertaking humanitarian missions. ‘The United States, INTERPOL itself as well as the Cabo Verdean authorities failed to note that the arrest warrant underlying the Red Notice was issued against a different person. This means that the arrest and detention of Mr. Saab on 12 June 2020 was unlawful and arbitrary. The fact that the United States attempted in March 2021 to correct this mistake does not distract from the fact that Mr. Saab’s detention is wrongful. His continued detention is a reflection of Cabo Verde’s disdain towards human rights and the rule of law,’ she said.
David Rivkin, Saab’s lead US Counsel with Baker and Hostetler, addressing questions about US law said, ’Alex Saab’s entitlement to full diplomatic immunity and inviolability to any coercive measures, is based upon Article 29 of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (to which the United States is a party), Section 254d of the United States’ Diplomatic Relations Act, as well as long-established norms of customary international law and long-standing US practice.’
A separate statement released by renowned Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon Real, Head of the International Defence Team noted that ‘Alex Saab cannot be extradited because the United States simply has no criminal evidence.’ He also agreed with the views of Femi Falana that ‘Cape Verde and the Constitutional Court are at a crossroads. If they agree to extradite, then it can only be on the basis of politically expediency, as this is the one common theme which has run through the entire extradition process. It will be a decision which will shame the Cape Verdean people and all those who need to believe that there is a world order established and protected by the International Law of Human Rights.’
This case is emblematic of the failure of the rule of law, but above all it is an indelible stain on the international reputation of Cape Verde, they concluded.
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