Important Victory for Alex Saab: African Court (ECOWAS) Orders Cape Verde to Allow House Arrest

The court, according to a source from news agency EFE, determined that the Cape Verdean Justice “acted outside its jurisdiction” when it detained him on June 12.

The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ordered Cape Verde to place Venezuelan special diplomatic envoy and businessman Álex Saab under under house. Saab has been pursued by Washington for his role in the CLAP program that provides subsidized food boxes to more than seven million households in Venezuela. This essential program prevents realization of the US’ murderous plan to starve millions of Venezuelans for the sole purpose of ousting President Nicolás Maduro.

On Wednesday December 2 a source from Saab’s defense team informed EFE that the ECOWAS Court, based in Abuja, Nigeria, of which Cape Verde is a member, ruled in favor of ending the current imprisonment of the businessman.

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In a hearing held this Monday, the court ordered Cape Verde to ease the measures taken against Saab, ruling that the Cape Verdean Justice “acted outside its jurisdiction” when it detained him on June 12 in response to a request of extradition formulated by the United States, but that wasn’t actually in effect yet at the time.

The Special Envoy

“The ECOWAS Court of Justice thus recognizes Álex Saab’s status as a special diplomatic envoy of Venezuela, and Cape Verde’s lack of competence to detain and try him,” the aforementioned source told EFE from the capital city of Praia.

According to this source, the order takes effect immediately, although the reaction of the Cape Verdean authorities to the ruling of that judicial body, to whose statutes the country is bound, is unknown. EFE tried unsuccessfully to contact the Attorney General of the Republic, José Landim, to determine Cape Verde’s response to the court ruling.

It is the first time, in almost twenty years of existence of the ECOWAS Court of Justice that Cape Verde has been reprimanded for violating human rights in its territory, while the other countries of the ECOWAS community are frequently sued and convicted in this court.

This judicial body has competence to resolve conflicts not only between states, but also between citizens and states, especially with regard to the violation of human rights. Saab’s lawyers filed a lawsuit in court on October 5, deeming the detention of their client illegal.

RELATED CONTENT: Cape Verde Supreme Court Sees Irregularities in Alex Saab Extradition Decision

The defense has already asked the Cape Verdean authorities to place Saab under house arrest, citing his health, which requires particular care and the attention of a doctor. The defense also alleged cruel treatment and torture as a reason. Last month, the ECOWAS Court asked the Cape Verdean Justice to allow external medical attention to the diplomatic envoy.

Saab was arrested on June 12 when his plane stopped to refuel at the Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the northern Cape Verdean island of Sal, following a request from the United States through Interpol for alleged money laundering. However, the Interpol Red Notice was not active at the time of the arrest, according to Venezuelan authorities and his defense.

When he was arrested, Caracas demonstrated that Saab was a Venezuelan citizen on official duty, a diplomatic especial envoy who was “in transit” in Cape Verde, for which his lawyers maintain that “he had the right to personal inviolability as a special diplomatic envoy from Venezuela.”

The defense presented two appeals this November—one rejected and another pending resolution—to obtain the freedom of Saab. These appeals were filed for exceeding “the maximum period allowed to remain in prison,” as alleged by the legal team of the businessman, arrested on June 12, and held in preventive detention since the 14th of that month.

Former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who leads Saab’s defense team, affirmed then that “the maximum period of deprivation of liberty in the framework of an extradition process, under Cape Verdean law, is eighty days.”

The Cape Verdean Government and the Barlavento Court, based on the northern island of San Vicente, have approved the extradition of the businessman, although the defense has appealed against the decision of that court before the Supreme Court of Justice (STJ), and recent events point in a direction favoring Saab’s claims of justice.

 

Featured image: File photo.

(Panorama) with OT content.

Translation: OT/JRE/SL

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