Defense confident that this could lead to recognition of diplomatic immunity by US courts
The Defense Team of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab is pleased to note a significant procedural victory on 6 August in the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, and it is hopeful that this could lead to the recognition of Mr. Saab’s diplomatic immunity by this respected Court.
Alex Saab has been detained illegally since 12 June 2020 on the Cape Verde island of Sal and has been challenging an extradition request made by the United States.
Dr Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro, lead Cape Verde counsel for Alex Saab, said, “In effect, the Honourable Court has issued an order, indicating that the appeal will proceed to the merits stage, and has ordered that the Department of Justice file its response within 30 days.” Dr Pinto Monteiro went on say that “my US colleagues have assured me that this preliminary ruling removes a major procedural hurdle and also indicates the 11th Circuit’s strong interest in the fundamental issue of Mr Saab’s diplomatic immunity.”
The Defense Team wishes to clarify a specific point regarding the process underway with the 11th District Court of Appeal. The Department of Justice has been arguing that Mr Saab’s diplomatic status has not been registered/ accepted by the US Department of State. The Defense Team respectfully points out that the State Department of the United States does not serve as a global register of all diplomats in the world. Indeed, there is no process by which a Special Envoy or a resident ambassador from one foreign country to another (and where the United States is neither the sending country nor the receiving country) is required to seek any kind of registration or “anointment,” as the DOJ would have the Court believe, with the US Department of State.
Mr Femi Falana SAN, lead ECOWAS counsel for Alex Saab commented, “With the development in the 11th Circuit, the situation can be summed up in the following way. If the Honourable Court decides that Alex Saab is Venezuela’s Special Envoy and therefore entitled to immunity, the US indictment would be quashed, and the United States would be forced to withdraw its extradition request and Mr Saab would be immediately released.”
The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit (which ranks in seniority to the Supreme Court of Justice in Cape Verde) is one of the thirteen intermediate courts of appeals within the US federal judicial system. Federal courts in the United States are divided by geography into 89 districts within the 50 states and Washington DC. Appeals from district courts are directed up to one of thirteen intermediate “Courts of Appeal,” determined by the geography of the district court. Relevant to Alex Saab’s case, the Eleventh Circuit hears appeals from federal district courts in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Hence, the Eleventh Circuit is the Court of Appeals that presides over appeals from the Southern District of Florida, the court that is seized of Alex Saab’s indictment. Importantly, the 11th Circuit will be particularly influential, since it is the same circuit court that issued the leading decision on the diplomatic immunity of Special Envoys, Abdulaziz v. Metropolitan Dade County, 741 F.2d 1328 (11th Cir. 1984). After the 11th Circuit issues a definitive ruling in Alex Saab’s case, it is subject to the certiorari review by the United States Supreme Court that is the highest judicial institution in the United States.
Featured image: Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab is under illegal detention by Cape Verde for more than a year. Photo courtesy of Alex Saab News.