After more than 14 months of his illegal detention in Cape Verde, ordered by the United States (US) government, Venezuelan Ambassador Alex Saab remains firm in the struggle to be released in the face of the illegal maneuvers by the US with the government of Cape Verde.
In an article published by the US magazine Counter Punch in its digital version, written by Roger Harris -part of the free Alex Saab delegation that went to Cape Verde-, they relate that the Venezuelan ambassador is facing this flagrant attempt of extraterritorial judicial overreach by the US, which recently evidenced not having the arguments to execute the act, requesting a 30-day extension to try to answer the appeal filed by Saab’s defense before the US 11th Circuit Court.
“This dilatory legal tactic is probably a US stratagem” to try to bring the kidnapping of the Venezuelan Special Envoy to Iran to US territory “without recognizing his diplomatic immunity”, refers the media.
US maneuvers against Ambassador Alex Saab
According to the Vienna Conventions, an accredited ambassador like Saab has absolute immunity against arrest, even in time of war. The United States does not recognize Saab’s status as if Washington has the authority to qualify whom other countries may choose and receive as their ambassadors.
To begin with, Saab’s arrest on June 12, 2020 was arbitrary, illegal and irregular. While en route from Caracas to Tehran, his plane was diverted to Cape Verde for a technical refueling stop. Saab was forcibly removed from the plane by Cape Verde police who did not have an arrest warrant.
The day after the illegal detention, the United States had Interpol issue a Red Notice, which it later cancelled. And when the arrest warrant arrived after the fact, it was in the name of a person who was not Alex Saab. That is the truly absurd legal basis for the arrest of the diplomat.
Alex Saab’s legal case
Cape Verde is a member of and under the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the West African State Economic Organization (Ecowas), which ordered Saab’s release and even paid compensation by the Cape Verde government. Cape Verde appealed the ruling, lost and then asserted, although it had recognized the court’s authority by participating in the proceedings, that it did not have to obey its orders.
Subsequently, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called for Saab’s release.
Saab’s legal team went to the Cape Verde Supreme Court with a writ of habeas corpus. This was denied on the absurd grounds that Saab was “at liberty” under “house arrest”. In fact, not only was he detained, but his doctors were not allowed to treat him for a cancer condition or even meet with family members who came to support him when they first arrived in Cape Verde. Only after pressure was Saab allowed minimal visits.
On August 13, Alex Saab’s case came before Cape Verde’s Constitutional Court challenging his detention on twelve constitutional grounds. Saab was not allowed to appear in court in person. Although the Constitutional Court is obliged to respond, it has simply run out of time so far.
The political case
This legal theater surrounding the Saab case serves as an obfuscation for what is fundamentally a political case by the United States; which is attempting to impose a change of government in Venezuela through its sanctioning unilateral coercive measures; measures that amount to an unlawful blockade of the Latin American nation.
The United States exerts inordinate influence on one of the world’s smallest nations with a larger Cape Verdean population in the United States than in the home islands. With few natural resources, Cape Verde is dependent on remittances from abroad and, unfortunately, is “a hotspot for illicit drugs and other transnational organized crime,” according to a U.S. government report. With a GDP of only $1.7 billion, the current $400 million U.S. embassy construction project is a considerable amount for Cape Verde.
Indeed, the U.S. recognizes the political nature of the case. Saab is accused by the U.S. of being the mastermind behind a network of sources that has allowed Venezuela to circumvent the U.S. blockade and obtain needed supplies, which is why they targeted Saab. In seeking to enforce its illegal sanctions, the United States would likely want to extract from Saab information about how Venezuela has tried to circumvent the blockade, which the United States has imposed to suffocate Venezuela into submission.
Saab alleges that he has been tortured in Cape Verde and has reason to expect that he would face more of the same, should he be transferred to the United States, to force him not only to reveal his contacts and business channels, but also to denounce the Venezuelan government.
Saab in his own words
The Venezuelan ambassador, however, remains firm. On August 19, Saab legally accused the Cape Verdean authorities of serious misconduct in his case, including torture. The following are his own words in a statement issued through his lawyers on August 25:
“Cape Verde has not yet decided because despite having all legal deadlines expired; and having clear knowledge that countless laws have been violated, the fact that they now have to totally violate their own constitution in order to extradite me, upsets the conscience; of those judges of the Constitutional Court, who have been honest until now, but who are heavily pressured by the United States.
In Cape Verde, their president, the prime minister, the corrupt attorney general, and even the most humble people, know and recognize that I am being held hostage.
For those who dream that my speech or my integrity will change if I am extradited, let me spoil that illusion. My integrity does not change with the [political] climate or the type of torture. Venezuela is sovereign. It is the country that adopted me.
It is the country that all decent people fight for. We don’t go around the world lying and calling for sanctions against people.
Venezuela will win this battle, whether in Cape Verde or in North America, we will win. I hope that sanctions will be lifted soon and that priority will continue to be given to the people who need at least 30 more years of electoral victories, led by a people united around the PSUV [socialist party] and our president Nicolás Maduro Moros.
So, leave out the emotions wondering if the plane arrived, if it did not arrive, if I am going to ‘sing’ as a tenor in case I am extradited, etc. Let go of that ridiculous illusion, first because there is nothing to sing and second because, as I have said many times, I will never betray the Homeland I serve.”
International effort to free Alex Saab
At the international level, Cape Verde has received diplomatic letters from Iran, China, Russia, the United Nations, the African Union, Ecowas and, of course, Venezuela; protesting the Saab case, based on the principles of immunity and inviolability of consular rights. More than 15,000 internationals have signed a petition to the political leaders of the United States and Cape Verde to free Alex Saab at https://afgj.org/free-alex-saab.