Nearly a year ago, on June 12, 2020, Alex Saab was taken off a plane in the face of a U.S. demand for his arrest during a refueling stop in the Republic of Cape Verde, a small and very poor island archipelago nation off the west coast of Africa.
Saab, a Venezuelan ambassador to the African Union, was on a humanitarian mission to Iran at the time of his arrest to organize emergency shipments of food, medicine and essential supplies for Venezuela. Held in Cape Verde since then, Saab has been held for months in prison in total isolation and darkness and tortured.
Kidnapping of Alex Saab and the United States
Alex Saab’s case has received international coverage, especially from African media, and much attention in Venezuela, but in the U.S. corporate media there has been almost no coverage. (See Venezuela’s orinocotribune.com, May 21) Plans are urgently being prepared for a major international campaign in Saab’s defense.
Saab never worked in the U.S., never lived in the U.S. and was not involved in any transaction involving the U.S. Every aspect of the seizure and abusive treatment of Alex Saab violates international law.
If the U.S. government succeeds in winning its lawsuit to extradite Alex Saab to the U.S., Washington could be emboldened to seize, indict and extradite anyone anywhere. This kidnapping is a chilling reminder of the notorious U.S. program begun in 2001 of secret renditions and disappearances of hundreds of people around the world, some held for years without trial.
The fact that Saab is an accredited ambassador makes this violation of internationally guaranteed diplomatic immunity ominous. Although diplomats can be expelled from a country, they are not considered liable to be sued or prosecuted under the laws of any country.
The sanctions imposed by the United States on Venezuela, Iran and 37 other countries are illegal and violate international law and the UN Charter. Aimed at destabilizing a country through economic sabotage, the sanctions create famine and shortages of essential supplies to target civilians.
The extradition request is totally illegal because there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Cape Verde. Cape Verde is an underdeveloped country whose population of 561,000 is spread over 10 volcanic islands and which imports 90% of its food.
United States targets Venezuela
The U.S. has been trying to stop the shipment of any supplies to Venezuela for years and has especially targeted a direct, house-to-house food delivery program called the CLAP Program. This U.S. economic terrorism deprives Venezuelans of food.
The U.S. has long had accusations against Alex Saab for his continued diplomatic role in buying essential supplies for Venezuela, calling his work “money laundering.” However, in March, after three years of investigations, Swiss prosecutors found insufficient evidence to prosecute Saab.
The false accusation against Alex Saab, as well as similar cases against North Korea’s Mun Chol Myong and China’s Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, involve people engaged in perfectly legal international trade, not U.S. commerce. (thegrayzone.com, April 27)
Cape Verde is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This body ordered Saab’s immediate release in March. But under pressure from the United States, Cape Verde has not yet responded to ECOWAS and is preparing an extradition trial.
Saab’s case has caused a sensation on the African continent, where 15 African countries are already under U.S. sanctions. It has also been echoed in Iran, a country sanctioned by the United States, and in Venezuela, where social media campaigns and demonstrations have demanded Saab’s release.
A campaign in favor of Alex Saab’s release of half a million messages on Twitter led Twitter to censor and suspend more than 1,500 accounts. Despite aggressive efforts to silence support, the international campaign is growing.
Saab’s defenders presented the facts of his case at a panel discussion on May 19, featuring two of Saab’s lawyers, Cape Verdean Geraldo da Cruz Almeida and Nigerian Femi Falana, as well as activists William Camacaro, John Philpot, Stanfield Smith and Sara Flounders (author of this article). It is broadcast not only in the United States, but also in Latin American, African and West Asian countries, with simultaneous translation into English, Portuguese and Spanish.