Originally posted Aug 27 on Popular Resistance.
Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab remains defiant after more than 14 months of US-ordered arrest in the African archipelago country of Cabo Verde. Special envoy of the Venezuelan government, he fights extradition to the United States for the “crime” of attempting to procure humanitarian supplies of food, fuel and medicine from Iran in violation of illegal US sanctions . To date, Saab’s legal appeals for freedom have either been denied, dismissed or ignored as his extradition to the United States becomes increasingly imminent.
The legal case
Saab continues to fight this blatant attempt at extraterritorial contempt by the United States. In response to Saab’s recent call to the US 11e Circuit Court, the United States filed a request on August 24 for an extension to respond on October 7. This legal delay tactic is likely a US ploy to allow Saab’s ongoing extradition without acknowledging his diplomatic immunity.
Under the Geneva Conventions, an accredited diplomat such as Saab enjoys absolute immunity from arrest, even in times of war. The United States does not recognize Saab’s diplomatic status as if Washington had the power to qualify who other countries might choose and receive as ambassadors.
For starters, Saab’s arrest on June 12, 2020 was arbitrary, illegal and irregular. While on his way from Caracas to Tehran, his plane was diverted to Cabo Verde for a technical refueling stop. Saab was forcibly removed from the plane by Cape Verdean police who did not have an arrest warrant.
The day after arrest and detention, the United States asked INTERPOL to issue a Red Notice, which was later rescinded by INTERPOL. And when the arrest warrant arrived after the fact, it was drawn up in the name of someone who was not Alex Saab. This is the truly grotesque legal basis for the detention of the diplomat.
Cape Verde is a member and under the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the Economic Organization of West African States (ECOWAS), which ordered the release of Saab and even the payment of damages by the government of Cape Verde. Cabo Verde appealed the decision, lost, and then claimed – even though he had recognized the court’s authority by participating in the proceedings – that he was not bound to obey the court’s orders.
Subsequently, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called for Saab’s release.
Saab’s legal team went to the Supreme Court of Cape Verde with a habeas corpus order. This was denied on the absurd grounds that Saab was “at large” under “house arrest”. In fact, he was not only detained but was not allowed to be treated for cancer by his doctors or even to meet his family who came to support him when they first arrived in Cabo Verde. It was only after pressure that Saab allowed minimum visits.
On August 13, Saab’s case was brought before the Constitutional Court of Cape Verde, challenging his detention on twelve constitutional grounds. Saab was not allowed to appear in person in court. Although the Constitutional Court is required to respond, it has simply run the clock so far.
The political case
This legal theater around the Saab affair serves as an obscuration of what is fundamentally a political affair of the United States attempting to impose regime change on Venezuela through its punitive unilateral coercive measures; measures amounting to an illegal blockade of the Latin American nation.
The United States exerts a disproportionate influence on one of the smallest nations in the world with a larger Cape Verdean population in the United States than on the original islands. With few natural resources, Cabo Verde depends on remittances from abroad and is more sadly “a crossing point for illicit drugs and other transnational organized crimes”, according to one US government report. With a GDP of just $ 1.7 billion, the current plan to build a $ 400 million U.S. Embassy is a huge carrot for Cabo Verde.
The political nature of the affair is indeed recognized by the United States. Saab is accused by the United States of being the mastermind behind a network of sources that allowed Venezuela to bypass the American blockade and procure the necessary supplies, which is why Saab has been targeted. In continuing to enforce its illegal sanctions, the United States will likely want to extract information from Saab about how Venezuela attempted to bypass the blockade, which the United States imposed to suffocate Venezuela and subdue it. .
Saab alleges he was tortured while in Cabo Verde. He has reason to expect him to do even more, if extradited to the United States, to force him not only to disclose his contacts and business channels, but to denounce the government of Venezuela. .
Saab in his own words
Saab, however, remains defiant. On August 19, Saab legally accused the Cape Verdean authorities of serious misconduct in his case, including torture. Here are his own words in a statement released through his lawyers on August 25:
“Cape Verde has not yet made a decision because despite the expiration of all legal deadlines and the fact that it is clear that countless laws have been violated, the fact that it now has to completely violate its own constitution for m extradite shakes the conscience of those Constitutional Court judges, who have been honest so far, but who are under heavy pressure from the United States.
“In Cape Verde, its president, the prime minister, the corrupt attorney general and even the most humble know and recognize that I am kidnapped.
“For those who dream that my speech or my integrity will change if I am extradited, let me spoil this illusion. My integrity does not change with the [political] climate or type of torture. Venezuela is sovereign. This is the country that adopted me.
“This is the country for which all honest people are fighting. We don’t go around the world lying and asking for sanctions against the people.
“Venezuela will win this battle, whether in Cape Verde or North America, we will win. I hope that the sanctions will be lifted soon, and that priority will continue to be given to people who need at least 30 more years of electoral victories, led by a people united around the PSUV [socialist party] and our President Nicolas Maduro Moros.
“So put the emotions aside and ask yourself if the plane has arrived, if it hasn’t arrived, if I’m going to ‘sing’ like a tenor in case they extradite me, etc.” Let go of this ridiculous illusion, first because there is nothing to “sing about” and secondly because, as I have said many times, I will never betray the homeland I serve. “
International effort to free Alex Saab
Internationally, Cabo Verde has received diplomatic letters protesting the Saab affair from Iran, China, Russia, the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS and of course Venezuela on the basis of the principles of immunity and inviolability of consular rights. More than 15,000 internationals have signed a petition to American and Cape Verdean political leaders to free Alex Saab in https://afgj.org/free-alex-saab.
Roger D. harris is with the human rights group, Americas Working Group, founded in 1985. He was part of an international delegation to Cabo Verde in June, which was prevented by the Cabo Verde police from seeing Alex Saab.
Featured Image: A man walks behind a poster demanding the release of Alex Saab, Caracas, Venezuela. | Photo: Twitter / @ shattachelsea1, published on Telesuranglais“