Alfred de Zayas on Alex Saab: ‘It was a Kidnapping Coupled with Arbitrary Detention and Torture’

Alfred de Zayas, lawyer, writer, historian, and expert at the United Nations on the promotion of a democratic and egalitarian international world order, has denounced the extradition of the businessman and diplomat Alex Saab as a “kidnapping.”

He alleges that what the United States has done to its “opponents,” such as Julian Assange, Meng Wanzhou (vice president of Huawei) or Alex Saab, “is a form of state terrorism” that violates international law and due process.

Alex Saab was detained in Cape Verde in June of 2020 when his plane landed there in order to refuel. From that moment on a process began which, according to those who stand by Saab, has been replete with irregularities—such as his detention without an arrest warrant. When the warrant did arrive, it was issued for a different person.

Alex Saab was extradited to the United States on October 16, 2021. The US Department of Justice accuses him of creating a purported corruption scheme based on the import of food and medicine into Venezuela. The Venezuelan government denies these accusations, and in response President Maduro has asserted that, during the years when the economic and financial blockade imposed by the United States on the country was the strongest, “the food, gas and medicine that arrived was brought by Alex Saab from various parts of the world.”

Furthermore, Maduro has denounced the torture of Saab, in order to “force him to lie, and convert him into a false witness against the Bolivarian Revolution, against me, against Venezuela, something that I will never accept.”

Meanwhile in the United States, the spokesperson for the State Department, Ned Price, has claimed that the Saab case is unrelated to the Biden administration because “the application of the law is independent from politics.”

However, the lawyer Alfred de Zayas has assured Sputnik News that “justice in the United States is molded to the whims of the White House” and has warned that in the trial against Saab in Florida “there will be no justice, only politics and terror.”

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Interview with Alfred de Zayas
Interviewer: On October 16, the United States extradited Alex Saab. They accuse him of laundering money. You have stated that this case “demonstrates the corruption of the administration of justice, not just in the US, but in other countries that bend to the power of the United States.” Why do you say this?

de Zayas: This is not a case of an extradition in accordance with the law. What has taken place has no regard for international law and is a blatant violation of the due process that applies to extraditions. It was more of a kidnapping, paired with arbitrary detention, physical and psychological torture, a violation of ambassador Alex Saab’s right to physical integrity, of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Law, and of the United Nations Treaties on Human Rights.

This reminds us of the extraordinary renditions committed by the CIA and numerous countries during the years of George W. Bush, that Texan who used to act like a Wild West sheriff in Hollywood B movies.

Let us remind ourselves of the reports of Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Ben Emmerson, who repeatedly condemned, before the Human Rights Council, these grave violations of international law and of human rights. However, neither the Unites States, nor the countries which participated in the kidnappings and torture ever paid reparations to the victims.

Interviewer: : Alex Saab was detained in Cape Verde when his plane landed to refuel. Something similar happened with the vice president of Huawei, who was in prison for three years in Canada at the request of the United States. What sort of precedent is the United States setting with these cases?

de Zayas: It certainly shows the deep-rooted corruption in the administration of justice in the United States, which molds itself to the political whims of the White House. We can say for sure that this sort of arrogance and lawlessness existed under Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush (senior), Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden. It is a case of imperial arrogance, and the complicity of many countries which claim to be democratic, and say that they are concerned with international law and human rights.

In spite of all of China’s influence, Meng Wanzhou, the CEO of Huawei, was abducted and arbitrarily detained for almost three years. This was particularly scandalous because in the international community very few people called for her release.

In the Saab case, ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America–Peoples’ Trade Treaty) repeatedly condemned the kidnapping as a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention. Even the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) declared Saab’s innocence on two occasions and called for his immediate freedom. Unfortunately, Alex Saab was not backed by a powerful country like China that could defend him from the United States.

We already know the precedent: impunity. It’s the same impunity that OTAN members enjoy with regard to their crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc. There is a simulation trial waiting for Saab in Miami, just like the infamous trials that were waiting for the heroic Cuban five in 1998.

Interviewer: And what do you think Venezuela can do in order to free Saab? The heroic Cuban five were granted their freedom.

de Zayas: There was a long process of negotiation for the Cubans, they spent many years in prison in subhuman conditions. The best option is working public opinion and pressuring the United States, just like China did in the Huawei case.

Interviewer: Some analysts claim that the United States went from fighting drug trafficking, to fighting terrorism, and is now leading a supposed fight against corruption outside its borders, as Vice President Kamala Harris said on her tour of Central America in early June. What do you think could be going on?

de Zayas: Hypocrisy and cheap propaganda. We recognize that American propaganda is flexible and malicious, and that the enemies of the United States are not labeled as corrupt for acts of corruption, but are simply accused opportunistically and without evidence, for refusing to adhere to Washington’s capitalist system, otherwise known as the Washington consensus.

Corruption? Well, we already know of the Pandora Papers, the Panama Papers, and the Bahama leaks. Indeed, there is ample corruption in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, and Paraguay, but I don’t listen when Kamala Harris accuses Jair Bolsonaro or Guillermo Lasso of corruption, because Washington also points fingers at Alex Saab—not because there is strong evidence that he has been involved in money laundering, like so many others in countries considered “friends” of the United States, but because he dared to participate in a humanitarian mission which ran contrary to the sanctions and illegal measures imposed on Venezuela.

Camila Fabri, wife of the Venezuelan diplomat, confirms that the entire process against him has been illegal. What’s more, Saab has been the victim of physical and psychological torture. The Saab case must be submitted to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, to the rapporteur on torture, to the rapporteur on the independence of the magistracy, etc.

Sadly, our miserable press—the New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and CNN—spread misinformation that many people believe. There is nothing new here. It is the continuation of gangster politics. How many have died in secret CIA prisons, not just in Guantanamo?

Saab’s wife claims that on October 16 “20 US policemen jumped on him, without giving him time to put on his shoes, and in two minutes they took him away violently.” She also indicated that Saab did not have access to his lawyer and that every time the lawyers tried to enter the country, the authorities deported them.

“The psychological torture never stopped. The physical torture was constant at first. They sliced both of his wrists, they broke three of his teeth,” reported his wife.

Interviewer: Not long ago, UN rapporteur Alena Douhan asked the United States and the European Union to lift the sanctions against Venezuela due to their devastating effect on the population. However, they have maintained them and insist that these sanctions only affect some government officials. At the same time these officials denounce the humanitarian crisis taking place in the Bolivarian country. Are these sanctions legal? What is their impact?

de Zayas: The Charter of the United Nations only stipulates the possibility of imposing economic sanctions by decision of the Security Council in accordance with Article 41 of the Charter.

Professors Jeffrey Sachs and Marc Weisbrot published a study in 2019 that estimated that the sanctions had resulted in the death of 40,000 Venezuelans in 2018 alone.

It is estimated that, in 2019, 2020 and 2021, the number of deaths caused by the sanctions have increased, due in part to the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Alena Douhan is an admirable professional, very methodical and conscientious. Her report, issued after a two-week mission in Venezuela, confirms the need to lift the sanctions. This report also confirms the conclusions of my 2018 report to the Human Rights Council, which shows that sanctions do indeed kill, and that the crisis suffered by the Venezuelan people is an artificial crisis, caused not only by sanctions and the financial blockade which started in 2014, but because of the economic war that the US has waged against Venezuela since the Presidency of Hugo Chávez in 1999.

Let’s not forget the coup of April 2002 against Hugo Chávez, organized and financed by the United States. Let us not forget the attempts on the lives of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro. Let’s not forget the violence of the guarimbas and the Afro-Venezuelans who were burned alive for being Chavistas.

Let’s not forget the paramilitary attacks on the border with Colombia, the sabotage, and cyber warfare. Based on this evidence, my 2018 report identifies the sanctions as crimes against humanity that must be investigated and tried by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. But even so, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and several countries of the European Union maintain these illegal sanctions.

Interviewer: In addition to sanctioning Venezuela, the US and its allies also impose sanctions on other countries such as Cuba, Russia, Iran, Syria, etc., even in the midst of a pandemic. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that a world order based on rules created by the US is being imposed in frank violation of international law, the UN Charter. Where could all this lead? Could it put the very existence of the UN at risk?

de Zayas: In spite of everything, the United Nations is not going to disappear. On the contrary, I perceive that China and Russia have awakened and that their draft resolutions bear more weight in the Security Council, the General Assembly, in the Economic and Social Council, and in the Human Rights Council. Little by little, the so-called third world countries (of Latin America, Africa and Asia) are waking up as well.

Sergey Lavrov is correct, and has a lot of patience. There is no choice but to reaffirm the validity of international law and condemn the abuses until the time comes for the International Criminal Court to take its responsibilities seriously. Gutta cavat lapidem [the droplet hollows out the stone].

RELATED CONTENT: Alex Saab’s Extradition Proves the Hard Truth of ‘Soft’ US Imperialism

Interviewer: You advocate for a democratic and equitable international order. How do you go about it?

de Zayas: It is enough to respect the Charter of the United Nations and the resolutions of the General Assembly. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to a democratic and equitable international order is the bad faith of the great powers, double standards, selectivity, and intellectual dishonesty.

In addition, we live in a world of fake news, of lies, where the press repeats a lie a thousand times until people believe it. This unconventional, hybrid war of slander and hateful accusations has dire consequences for the international order.

One could try to bring many of these cases of flagrant violations of international law and human rights to the International Court of Justice and demand an advisory opinion on the illegality and consequences of actions such as, for example, the kidnapping of Alex Saab.

This would be possible through a resolution by the General Assembly in accordance with Article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations. Unfortunately, it would not be possible to bring a contentious case to the International Court, since the United States has not given the declaration provided for in Article 36 of the Court’s statute. Only an advisory opinion can be obtained.

Of course, as we know from experience, the United States often dismisses the rulings of the Court, as they did in the case of Nicaragua in 1986 and with the advisory opinion of 2004 on the illegal wall in Israel.

The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many European Union states disregard the United Nations and international law by rejecting General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions that clearly outlaw the unilateral coercive measures they carry out. We recognize that there is no effective mechanism in place to break this impunity.

There is a great need for civil society to be adequately informed so that it may protest, and for the United States to be stripped of its status as a promoter of democracy and human rights, seeing as it is the opposite.

In my new book, Building a Just World Order, I formulate 25 principles of international order that go beyond General Assembly Resolutions 2625 and 3314, and propose concrete and pragmatic measures to advance, step by step, in the direction of justice and peace.

Featured image: Crowd protests the extradition of Alex Saab. Photo: Sputnik News. 

(Sputnik News) by Karen Méndez Loffredo

Translation: Orinoco Tribune




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