The African Bar Association (AfBA) is worried over Cape Verde Island’s holding of Ambassador Alex Saab, accredited Venezuela Special Envoy and Alternate permanent representative to the African Union, calling for his immediate release.
AfBA on Monday, March 8, 2021 in Lagos-Nigeria, appealed to African Heads of States and governments to rise as a body to persuade the Cape Verde Island to rescue itself from the diplomatic mud involving Venezuela and U.S.
The President of AfBA, Mr Hannibal Uwaifo, expressed the concern of the body at a World Press Conference in Lagos where he condemned the continued detention of Saab since June 2020 for possible extradition to the United States.
He said the action of the Island violated settled global diplomatic virtues and statutes, as contained in the Vienna Convention.
Cape Verde’s action, according to investigation by the Human Rights Committee and review by the AfBA Executive Committee, was found to be clearly below the accepted international rules of engagements.
He described the detention of the envoy as not only unsanitary but totally un-salutory to Africa’s collective diplomatic decency and stature.
“We demand that Alex Saab should be released immediately and his persecution and chastisement in custody illegally in Cape Verde merely to satisfy the whims of a super power be brought to an end immediately as ordered by the binding unanimous ECOWAS Court ruling on December 2, 2020.”
“We acted on the petition of Ambassador Saab’s wife, which revealed that aside her husband being a known cancer patient, he is denied his drugs, denied access to family and defense attorneys, stripped of his diplomatic privileges against ECOWAS Court injunction to the contrary.
“Saab is viciously and frantically being packaged for delivery to the US by Cape Verde government, facilitated by enormous pressure through a contrived extradition procurement, with unimaginable damage to our civility and civilization, if ever allowed to stand in any African soil”.
“For us in AfBA, as a continental body of lawyers dedicated to the primacy of the rule of law, as the most disruptive evolution for human governance, our moral and professional duty is relentless and persistent to see it respected, preserved, improved on, not liberally pissed upon as the case under reference by President Jorge Carlos Fonseca and Prime Minister Ulisses Correia Silva of Cape Verde”.
It is more pathetic that the choice for this scheme of intransigence is in Africa by a sovereign African nation, a participatory signatory to AU Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and ECOWAS protocols, on a documented diplomatic citizen with no known crime and offence in the land of his capture, detention and incarceration, he said.
“That is not only a flagrant abuse of the elementary principles of the rule of law, but also an aggravating circumstance for the intentional culpability by Cape Verde,” he said.
AfBA noted that Saab, as a Special Envoy of Venezuela, duly accredited to the AU, was travelling from Caracas to Teheran on June 12, 2020.
According to the group, his plane made a technical refuelling stop on the Cape Verdean Island of Sal, when he was detained unlawfully.
Venezuela’s foreign minister had on January 22, 2021, advised Saab, a businessman close to President Nicolas Maduro facing extradition to the United States, not to cooperate with U.S. authorities.
Saab, a Colombian national, is accused by U.S. prosecutors of money laundering in connection to an allegedly corrupt deal to obtain supplies for Maduro’s government-run food subsidy programme.
At the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Saab’s lawyers argued that he should not be considered a fugitive from U.S. justice because Venezuela’s government named him a “special envoy” in 2018.
The President Nicolas Maduro’s administration in Venezuela maintained that the of Saab is in “violation of international law and norms.” .
In Abuja, Saab’s legal team led by Nigerian lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, approached the ECOWAS Community Court in Abuja to stop the U.S extradition request.
ECOWAS court in Abuja affirmed the diplomat status of Mr Saab and ordered his release.
The ECOWAS court, in its ECW/CCJ/RUL/07/2020 ruling, ordered the immediate release of the Special Envoy from prison and his transfer to permanent home detention.
It also ordered the suspension of “the extradition proceedings, pending a hearing on the substantive issues concerning his detention scheduled for 4 February 2021.”
But the Cabo Verde authorities are yet to obey the order as Mr Saab has remained in custody.
Meanwhile, reports say that Venezuelan citizens embarked on massive street to protests against the detention of Saab.
The protestors, numbering over 200,000 on February 3, 2021 hit the streets accusing Cape Verde of illegalities by not respecting the immunity of the Ambassador.