The African lawyers under the aegis of the African Bar Association have condemned the illegal detention of one Mr Alex Saab, a Venezuelan Ambassador, in Cape Verde. 

This was contained in a press release issued on Monday signed by its President, Hannibal Uwaifo, and made available to SaharaReporters. 

In the letter, the association of legal representatives in Africa was alerted to the infringement on his human rights by his family. 

It read, "The African Bar Association is in receipt of a petition from the family of a Venezuelan diplomat, Mr. Alex Saab who is being unlawfully detained in Cape Verde under very controversial circumstances and in violation of International Law and ECOWAS Protocols. 

"The Governing Council of the Association which authorised its human rights and international law committees to investigate the matter, we hereby respectfully forward to you the results of the investigation and conclusions as follows:

"Upon receipt, the Governing Council of the Association immediately authorised the Human Rights Committee and the Executive Council to investigate the grievous allegations contained in the petition. The result of the investigation reveals very serious infractions of 
the ECOWAS Protocols, the Charter of the African Union, gross violent violations of international law, abuse of human rights, and disobedience of court orders by the government of Cape Verde.

"It is the view of the African Bar Association that unless the Cape Verdean authorities are immediately called to order and pursue the path of the rule of law and respect for the 
Vienna Convention, the ECOWAS region, and the AU will soon be thrown into a crisis of monumental proportion which may turn the sub-region and the continent into a laughing 
stock with dire consequences for our diplomats and their diplomatic immunity.

"Ambassador Saab in his capacity as Special Envoy of Venezuela was travelling from Caracas to Tehran on 12 June 2020. His plane made a technical refuelling stop on the Cape 
Verdean island of Sal during which he was detained. The African Bar Association finds this detention unlawful for two reasons:

"No Red Notice had been issued at the time of the detention —it was only issued on the next day, 13 June. Neither on the day of his arrest nor eight months later, has any evidence of the supporting arrest warrant issued by the United States been provided to Ambassador Saab or his defense team. The Red Notice was cancelled on 25 June 2020, yet Cape Verde continued to unlawfully detain Ambassador Saab until an extradition request from the United States arrived a week later. The extradition request, which not only had the three first pages missing, contained a copy of the arrest warrant issued in the name of someone else and not Ambassador Saab.
"Two, Ambassador Saab enjoys immunity and inviolability due to his status as a Special Envoy of Venezuela. He was carrying documents which identified him as such as well as the purpose of his humanitarian special mission to Iran. This evidence has been deliberately ignored by Cape Verde as it has bent over backward to accommodate 
the external interests."

The group posited that Cape Verde who also has judges in the Economic Community of West African States ought not to work against its provisions. 

It continued, "Cape Verde claims that it is not bound by the ECOWAS Court decision because it did not sign the 2005 protocol which extended the court's authority to hear human rights cases. We regret to say that, Cape Verde is being economical with the truth and it reflects the true extent of the pressure being applied upon it by external forces because:

"Cape Verde appointed judges to the ECOWAS Court and their Chief of Justice is a member of the Judicial Committee of the ECOWAS Community.

"Additionally, Cape Verde has fully engaged in the ECOWAS Court proceedings by appointing a defence counsel, Dr Henrique Borges, who submitted written defence as 
well as engaged in oral discussions going into the merits of the case during the main hearing which took place on 5 February.

"Cape Verde neither opposed nor abstained from the decision of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to approve the Supplementary Protocol. This is confirmed by the final communiqué of the 28th session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government held in Accra on 19 January 2005. It was issued on behalf of all the Heads of State and Government and clearly convey the views of all Heads of State and Government on the extension of the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court with immediate effect."

The association said the "actions of Cape Verde violate the core principles of international law codified in Article 2 par. 1 of the Charter of the United Nations, namely, to protect and preserve the principle of sovereign equality among states".

"Ambassador Saab was legally admitted to the territory of Cape Verde — he was made to purchase a 'visa-on-arrival' when he was detained," it continued. 

"Having entered Cape Verde legally, he can only be expelled from it by virtue of a decision taken in accordance with the law. It is the view of the African Bar Association that the administrative and judicial decisions taken by Cape Verde to extradite him to the USA to face criminal charges are neither in compliance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights nor with customary international law."

"The African Bar Association understands from its investigations that the allegations brought against Ambassador Saab by the United States have been challenged in the United 
States which also in our respectful opinion should put Cape Verde on the side of caution," the statement added.

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