By Laila Tajeldine – Oct 22, 2022
On October 18, diplomat Alex Saab’s legal defense presented before the Miami court solid evidence demonstrating that the Venezuelan diplomat, illegally detained in the US, was indeed a diplomat, and that the Trump administration was well aware of it.
The evidence is so irrefutable that the US Department of Justice is not focusing on proving whether Saab was a diplomat or not, but on the United States not recognizing the government of President Maduro and transferring all responsibility to Cape Verde. Obviously, the emperor is without clothes.
The US was aware that Alex Saab was a diplomat
From the beginning, the mercenary press and US spokespersons were intent on alleging that Alex Saab was not a diplomatic official, but that Venezuela made this up in order to prevent Saab from facing US courts. However, the evidence recently presented by Alex Saab’s lawyers shows that from the beginning, the United States was aware of Saab’s governmental activities with the Islamic Republic of Iran, as reflected in a US State Department report from May 2020 (one month before his kidnapping), where US officials describe Saab’s missions to Iran and the negotiations he was conducting with Iran. The US authorities knew about Saab’s trips in his diplomatic missions to Iran in the months of March and April, and they knew that in June, he was going on a mission of great relevance for Venezuela, so they decided to stop it by kidnapping Saab in Cape Verde.
Venezuela and Iran informed Cape Verde and the US of Saab’s status through diplomatic channels
In addition to the US State Department report, both Cape Verde and the United States were informed on multiple occasions, through diplomatic channels, about the diplomatic status and immunity of Alex Saab after the Venezuelan diplomat was arrested in Cape Verde. Likewise, the facts show unequivocally that in June 2020, Saab was on his way to a special mission to Iran on behalf of Venezuela. This is confirmed by the documents that Saab was carrying with him, such as the letter from President Nicolás Maduro to the leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, where Saab’s status as special envoy was ratified; two letters from the vice president of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, which Saab had the mission to deliver; and documents of economic-governmental nature, all verifying the diplomatic mission he would perform.
Diplomatic immunity is also effective when the envoy is in transit
Diplomatic envoy Saab’s right to immunity remained in effect while he himself was in transit through Cape Verde on his way to Iran. Article 40 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations is clear on this matter, stating that when a diplomatic agent is passing through a third nation, the latter must grant the agent inviolability and all immunities necessary to facilitate the agent’s transit. Such premises are also outlined in the United States Diplomatic Relations Act and in customary international law, so that Cape Verde and the United States were, and are, obliged to respect the diplomatic immunity of the Venezuelan special envoy.
What determines an official’s diplomatic status?
The status of a special envoy or diplomat is assumed by the possession of a diplomatic passport, but what determines that a person is a diplomat is their designation by the sending state and the acceptance of such designation by the receiving state. Both proofs (designation by Venezuela of Alex Saab and acceptance by Iran) were presented to the governments of Cape Verde and the United States at the time of Saab’s arrest, and now to the US court. This is also confirmed by the purpose of Saab’s trip, which was a special humanitarian mission. This trip could not take place because the Venezuelan diplomat was detained in Cape Verde at the request of the United States.
US authorities no longer deny Saab was a diplomat, but claim the US government does not recognize the Venezuelan government
The mercenaries who have been in charge of giving form and logic to the barbarity committed by the United States are no longer there. Now the representatives of the US Department of Justice, faced with convincing evidence of the Venezuelan diplomat’s defense, have changed the discourse based on two arguments. First, they allege that the recognition or not of Saab’s diplomatic immunity corresponded with Cape Verde’s determination, and second, they are trying to make the recognition of the Venezuelan diplomat’s immunity dependent on the recognition of the Venezuelan government by the US. Therefore, it becomes necessary to clarify that at no time did Cape Verde decide on the immunity of Alex Saab. Moreover, Cape Verde always recognized the constitutional government of Venezuela led by President Nicolás Maduro and has hosted at all times, until today, the ambassador appointed by President Maduro. In addition, Cape Verde granted diplomatic visas to Alex Saab’s wife and daughters so that they could visit him. However, due to the Cape Verde government’s subordination to the interests of the United States, it decided to transfer him to the US without having completed the judicial process in progress in the African nation. This action does not exempt the US authorities from their obligation to abide by the content of their own laws and international law.
More importantly, the rules of international law apply to all countries and their representatives. The recognition of diplomatic immunity does not depend on the recognition or not of the head of state by a third country. Immunity in transit applies to all diplomats of sovereign states. Does the United States not think about the consequences of this wrong step and the risk of similar actions by other countries?
The US is at a dead end; what do experts recommend?
This shameful background, as well as having to recognize and accept Alex Saab’s diplomatic status, implies that the United States has a lot to lose. On December 12, one year and two months after Alex Saab’s illegal transfer to US territory, a hearing is scheduled in Miami in which the judge handling the case, Robert Scola, will examine the facts related to Saab’s diplomatic status and immunity. In light of this, many commentators suggest that, instead of seeing the Miami District Court rule in favor of Alex Saab, the special envoy be released as part of a swap in which the Biden administration would benefit from the release of several US citizens sentenced for crimes in Venezuela. Such an action would be an dignified way out in the face of this aberration committed by the Trump administration and which the current President Biden has had to inherit.
What will be the path that the current US administration could take to release Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab?
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Laila Tajeldine is a Venezuelan Lawyer | University Professor | Political, international and human rights analyst | TV and radio presenter
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