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Africa News of Saturday, 6 March 2021

Source: African Bar Association

African Bar Association calls for release of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab

The African Bar Association has joined calls pressuring the Cape Verdean government to release Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab.

In a statement issued on Monday and signed by the President of the Association, Hannibal Uwaifo, it criticized Cape Verde for violating Alex Saab's privileges as an Ambassador.

The association says that Cape Verde, even though it knows better, has ignored evidence available to it and is bent on accommodating externally motivated interests.

"He was carrying documents which identified him as such and the purpose of his humanitarian Special Mission to Iran. This evidence has been ignored by Cape Verde as it has bent over backward to accommodate the externally motivated interests," part of the statement reads.

According to the African Bar Association, the manner in which Cape Verdean authorities are handling the issue is a cause for worry as it stands to bring the "ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) into disrepute" and also open the way for "big countries to violate the diplomatic status of our diplomates for flimsy excuses or political convenience".

The association also debunked claims by Cape Verde that a Red notice had been issued prior to the arrest of Alex Saab.

It says that there was "no Red Notice (used as a basis for the detention) at the time of the detention - we know now that it was only issued on the next day, 13 June. Neither on the day of its issuance nor the eight months later, has any evidence of the supporting arrest warrant issued by the United States been shown to Ambassador Saab or his Defense team".

They add that;

"The Red notice was cancelled on 25th June 2020, but Cape Verde has continued to unlawfully detain Ambassador Saab until an extradition request from the United States arrived a week later".

"Interestingly, the extradition request, with the three first pages missing, contained a copy of the arrest warrant issued in the name of someone else and not Mr. Saab," the statement continued.

Mr. Hannibal Uwaifo also stressed that Cape Verde's decision to heed US extradition request over criminal charges was "neither in compliance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights nor with customary international law".

Meanwhile, renowned Professor at the Lisbon University and Portugese Catholic University, Prof. Jorge Miranda, says that Cape Verde is violating international law as it has considered granting the US extradition request.

In his legal opinion dated February 17, 2021, he said that Cape Verde was also violating Article 11 Paragraph 1 of its own constitution.

Article 11 Paragraph 1 of the Cape Verde constitution states that "Cape Verde is governed, in international relations, by the principles of national independence, respect for international law and human rights, equality between states, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, the reciprocity of advantages, cooperation with all other peoples and peaceful coexistence,"

"General or common international law is an integral part of the Cape Verdean legal order, as long as it is in force in the international legal order," Article 12 Paragraph 1 further clarified.

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