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Again, ECOWAS Adjourns Alex Saab’s Case Due To ‘Absence Of Translators’

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Alex Saab

The trial of Alex Saab, Venezuelan diplomat has been adjourned by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court, Abuja due to absence of translators.

The case which is between Saab and Cape Verde has been adjourned by the ECOWAS court till Monday, March 15.

CityMirrorNews reports that this is the third time in the space of three  months the ECOWAS court will be adjourning Saab’s case.

In the last two decades, numerous governments have learned that red notices, which was used in Saab’s case, and other notifications provide a cheap and easy means of reaching exiles. 

It would be recalled that Saab was arrested during a technical stopover at Amilcar Cabral International Airport on the island of Sal, by the Cape Verdean authorities when he was returning from a trip to Iran on behalf of Venezuela.

The 49-year-old Venezuelan diplomat was arrested on June 12. He was arrest following an international arrest warrant alleged issued Interpol at the request of the U.S.

However, Saab’s counsel led by Femi Falana SAN, a Nigerian human right activist lawyer, had on different occasions expressed fear of bigger problem and precedence the Saab’s case will create. 

This is because no individual with diplomatic immunity has ever been extradited, also very rarely arrested, except for serious acts where guilt is evident.

The ECOWAS court, composed of five independent judges, ensures the observance of law and the principles of equity in the interpretation and application of the provisions of the Revised Treat and all other subsidiary legal instruments adopted by West African states.

The Barlavento Court of Appeal had already ruled twice – the last time in January, both times on appeal by the defence – for the extradition of Alex Saab to the United States.

However, the adjournment of the hearing of Saab’s case has been criticized to be awashed with political undertones hinged on the connivance between the United States and the Cape Verdean government led by Ulisses Correia e Silva.

Checks by this paper revealed that the style of Saab’s arrest is a replica of a recent method to trigger detention and or deportation by a host country’s institutions as highlighted in a report on The Global Scale and Scope of Transnational Repression by Freedom House. 

Before Saab, the United States held Russian national Alexey Kharis for 15 months in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention after being arrested on the basis of an Interpol notice.

The Venezuelan government has been demanding the release of Alex Saab with the argument that at the time of his arrest in Sal, he had diplomatic immunity.

Mr Saab’s continued detention follows a pattern of coercive measures by the US against Venezuela which began in 2005 when it introduced selective sanctions against individuals and entities allegedly involved in drug trafficking. after President Hugo Chávez had declared the culmination of all joint operations and military exchanges with the Pentagon, a measure that was not to the liking of the US government. 

Contrary to popular belief, Interpol is not an international police agency, nor does it have a judicial function to determine the veracity of notices before they enter the system. 

It simply allows member states to share notifications about wanted criminals or missing persons with one another. 

In 2006, an embargo was imposed on Venezuela by the US because it considered that the Government was not sufficiently cooperating in anti-terrorist efforts. 

The US government action in 2006 was triggered by a 2005 declaration by President Hugo Chávez which led to the culmination of all joint operations and military exchanges with the Pentagon.

Similarly, in 2015, Barack Obama through an Executive Order declared Venezuela an unusual and extraordinary threat to the security of the United States.

The executive order, which was joined by six other countries, was issued by the administration of Donald Trump. The US has also issued more measures to undermine the Venezuelan economy and the quality of life of the population since 2017. 

According to a report by a United Nations Special Rapporteur, Alena Douhan the “coercive measures” against the country has aggravated the problems of the mono-oriented Venezuelan economy. 

According to Diplomatic relations experts, if Mr Saab should be extradited, it will have great consequences for the diplomatic world. It could also lead to lifting of immunity of Cape Verdean diplomatic representatives and lawsuits against the country in the International Court of Justice for violations of the Vienna Convention. 

The precedent Saab’s case could set will also seriously expose all diplomatic agents, their families, as well as special envoys, whose principles of immunity and inviolability could occasionally be called into question in an opportunistic manner by the receiving state based on allegations of non-compliance with formal notification requirements.

According to Craig Barker, a professor 
of international law at London South Bank University, it is vital to prevent ambassadors and other embassy staff being harassed and hauled before courts on spurious grounds in an effort to prevent them doing their job. “It’s an essential tool. It protects our diplomats serving abroad,”Baker said. 

The actions of Cape Verde, on the order of the US government, is also in violation of the Convention signals contempt for international 
norms. This indicates that with that one nation-state believes it can violate the rights it accords another as it will. 

While warning the US against its actions, John B. Bellinger III, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote in The New York Times that the country must not ignore abuse of domestic workers or 
other offenses committed by foreign diplomats in the U.S. but it would be a mistake to create exceptions to diplomatic immunity. 

This is necessary because, according to him, it would greatly endanger U.S. diplomats who serve around the world.

“If American diplomats did not have immunity, they would be at constant risk of detention and prosecution on trumped-up charges, especially in countries where the United States is unpopular or where the government bows to popular pressure,” he added. 

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