The American Association of Jurists (AAJ) denounces the illegal arrest on June 12, 2020, of Alex Nain Saab Morán, diplomat of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Mr. Saab, of Colombian and Venezuelan nationality, was arrested when the flight to the Islamic Republic of Iran made a stopover in the Republic of Cape Verde. He was traveling to obtain medicine and medical equipment required by Venezuela for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic. The arrest, with no valid grounds, took place at the request of the United States government for extradition to the USA.
Saab was traveling as Venezuela’s Special Envoy, a position held since April 9, 2018, especially for negotiations regarding the development of trade and economic relations with the Russian Federation and the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was granted diplomatic immunity, in accordance with the principles of international law.
The judicial process in Cape Verde has demonstrated a complete lack of independence and objectivity. For example, we note: (a) that the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of extradition before the defense could be informed about the prosecutor accusation, raising questions of due process; (b) Saab has been deprived of his fundamental right to be heard by the court, despite the fact that the hearing is mandatory under local law; (c) for several months, the Cape Verdean authorities denied members of Saab’s international legal team the possibility of meeting with their client, depriving him of their collaboration in his defense; (d) despite the fact that all the documentation proving the status of Special Envoy granted to Alex Saab by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was provided, this status was not taken into account by the Cape Verdean authorities.
On March 15, 2021, the ECOWAS Court (Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States) issued its judgment regarding the detention and extradition process to the United States of Ambassador Alex Saab. In the judgment, the ECOWAS Court (ECW/CCJ/APP/43/20: Alex SAAB v. REPUBLIC OF CAPE VERDE) ruled that the detention of Ambassador Saab is unlawful. It found that at the time of his arrest there was neither a valid INTERPOL Red Notice nor a warrant for his arrest and that he should be released immediately, that the extradition process initiated at the request of the United States was unlawful and should be terminated, that Cape Verde must pay US$200,000 in compensation. On June 24, 2021, ECOWAS, reconfirmed its March ruling.
On June 8, 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (no: 3953/2021), instructed Cape Verde to guarantee Ambassador Saab’s human rights, including suspending extradition to the United States.
The government of Cape Verde accepted the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS tribunal, attended the hearings it convened and is bound by its decisions. Cape Verde is part of the United Nations and, as a member state, must abide by the interim resolutions of the Human Rights Committee.
In addition, diplomatic and consular personnel sent by States are protected by the principle of personal inviolability, which is part of customary law, irrespective of whether the United States or Cape Verde has ratified the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, or the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations or the 1969 Convention on Special Missions (New York Convention), which entered into force in 1985. (Wood 2012).
For these grounds, AAJ joins the international campaign to stop the detention against Ambassador Alex Saab; urges the government of Cape Verde to respect its own constitution and its obligations as a sovereign West African state and member of the United Nations, the ECOWAS court rulings and the Human Rights Committee’s request of June 8, 2021, to deny extradition, providing for the immediate release of the diplomat.
July 5, 2021
Vanessa Ramos Luis Carlos Moro
Presidenta AAJ Continental Secretario General
Feature image: Logo of the American Association of Jurists. File photo.