Cape Verde’s law enforcement authorities have been accused of refusing to present the irrefutable evidence that affirms Alex Saab as a special envoy, and the humanitarian nature of his special mission to Iran, to its Supreme Court prosecutor.
The International Legal Team’s Coordinator, Baltasar Garzón, stated this, noting that this is despite the evidence being in their possession.
Mr Garzón disclosed this on Thursday in a statement while reacting to the Cape Verde’s Supreme Court ruling on Mr Saab, noting that Saab was not carrying a diplomatic passport, when he was arrested during his stopover at Cape Verde.
His bag contained irrefutable evidence supporting both his status as a special envoy and the humanitarian nature of his special mission to Iran.
Saab’s legal counsel is Nigeria’s human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.
“These letters were not brought to the knowledge of the Prosecutor by the Cape Verde police even when in possession of the evidence. This was a fact that was reported to the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor.
This complaint remains unanswered by both the judicial and law enforcement authorities of Cape Verde,” his statement reads.
On March 15, the ECOWAS court ordered the release of Mr Saab.
In its judgement, it also directed the Cape Verdean government to pay him $200,000 as compensation for his “illegal arrest and detention” and that they should “discontinue all proceedings and processes aimed at extraditing the Applicant to the USA”.
Instead of complying with the ECOWAS court ruling, the Cape Verdean Supreme Court on March 17, gave an order authorising the extradition of the Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab, who has been in detention since late June 2020, to the United States of America.
The apex court upheld the regional court’s initial judgement on the basis that the archipelago country was not legally bound by the regional court’s decisions.
This contravenes the initial judgment issued by the ECOWAS court on Mr Saab’s arrest, detention and plan by the Cape Verdean government to extradite him.
Reacting to the Supreme Court’s judgment, Mr Garzón said the ECOWAS court decreed the illegality of Mr Saab’s detention and that it is clear given the binding nature of the decision on Cape Verde, that he must be released immediately.
He said the fact is that Mr Saab is now his country’s Alternate Permanent Representative to the African Union, so, not only was his detention found illegal by the ECOWAS but also, on the basis of international law, his diplomatic status is unquestionable.
On his part, Falana, Mr Saab’s leading counsel, described the moment as a “day of shame” and as well urged ECOWAS to speak up in order to support the sanctity of the ECOWAS court.
Mr Falana said, “In a decision which can only be described as ‘extraordinary and unprecedented’, Cape Verde’s Supreme Court decided that the extradition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab could proceed.”
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the decision was handed down in direct defiance of the ruling made by the ECOWAS Court of Justice on Monday.
He reiterated that the ECOWAS Court had ruled on Monday that Alex Saab, who was detained on 12 June 2020 on the Cape Verde island of Sal whilst undertaking a humanitarian special mission, must be released immediately and the extradition process initiated at the request of the United States, stopped.
According to the court’s decision, Mr Falana noted that there was no “red notice” in place when Mr Saab was arrested making both the arrest and all subsequent actions illegal.
“This is an extraordinary and unprecedented act of disobedience by Cape Verde. It is a Day of Shame for ECOWAS,” he said.
Mr Falana expressed worry that there can be no debate about the binding nature of the ECOWAS Court’s decision on Cape Verde, urging members of the ECOWAS Commission to stand up and make clear their opposition to the behaviour of Cape Verde.
“If the Commission wants the highest human rights court in ECOWAS to continue to command the respect of not just the community but all of Africa, then it is imperative that senior officials condemn the actions of Cape Verde,” Mr Falana said.
Also, Mr Falana called upon the ECOWAS Heads of State to convey their concern and displeasure at the shameful actions of Cape Verde.
“In approving the extradition, Cape Verde is destroying the entire global diplomatic order and the sanctity of diplomatic missions which has been established over several centuries,” he said.
Jose-Manuel Monteiro, who has been leading Mr Saab’s defence team in Cape Verde was quoted to have said, “For the Supreme court to deliver a ruling which serves no purpose but satisfy the political avarice of others is very disappointing.”
He noted that it is now up to the ECOWAS Commission to speak up and preserve the integrity and independence of its own court, and that Cape Verde must not be allowed to subvert the judicial organ of ECOWAS without appropriate sanctions.
“The defence will now appeal today’s decision to the Cape Verde Constitution Court and is exploring all other legal options to bring an end to the illegal arrest and extradition process being conducted against Alex Saab,” he said.