Nearly a year ago, on June 12, 2020, Alex Saab was pulled off a plane at an U.S. demand for his arrest, during a refueling stop in the Republic of Cabo Verde, a small and very poor island archipelago nation off the West Coast of Africa.
Saab, a Venezuelan diplomat to the African Union, was on a humanitarian mission to Iran at the time of his seizure to arrange emergency shipments of food, medicines and essential supplies for Venezuela. Held in Cabo Verde since then, Saab was held for months in prison in total isolation and darkness and has been tortured.
Alex Saab’s case has received international coverage, especially African news media and a great deal of attention in Venezuela, but in the U.S. corporate media, there has been almost no coverage. (See Venezuela’s orinocotribune.com, May 21) Plans for a large international campaign to defend Saab are being urgently prepared.
Saab never worked in the U.S., never lived in the U.S. and was involved in no transaction that included the U.S. Every aspect of Saab’s seizure and abusive treatment violates international law.
If the U.S. government can win its demand to extradite Alex Saab to the U.S., Washington could be emboldened to seize, charge and extradite anybody anywhere. This kidnapping is a chilling reminder of the notorious U.S. program launched in 2001 of secret rendition and disappearances of hundreds of people worldwide, some held for years without trial.
That Saab is a credentialed diplomat makes this violation of internationally guaranteed diplomatic immunity ominous. Although diplomats may be expelled from a country, they are considered not susceptible to lawsuit or prosecution under any country’s laws.
U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, Iran and 37 other countries are illegal, violating international law and the U.N. Charter. Aimed at destabilizing a country through economic sabotage, sanctions create famines and shortages in essential supplies in order to target civilians.
The extradition request is entirely illegal, because there is no extradition treaty between the United States and Cabo Verde. Cabo Verde is an underdeveloped country whose population of 561,000 is spread over 10 volcanic islands and which imports 90% of its food.
U.S. targets Venezuela
The U.S. has attempted to stop shipment of any supplies to Venezuela for years and has especially targeted a direct, house-to-house, food delivery program, called the CLAP Program. This U.S. economic terrorism deprives Venezuelans of food.
The U.S. has long-standing charges against Alex Saab for his continuing diplomatic role of purchasing essential supplies for Venezuela, calling his work “money laundering.” In March, however, after three years of investigations, Swiss prosecutors found insufficient evidence to prosecute Saab.
The bogus charge against Alex Saab, as well as similar cases against North Korea’s Mun Chol Myong and China’s Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, involve individuals engaged in perfectly legal international trade, not U.S. trade. (thegrayzone.com, April 27)
Cabo Verde is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). This body ordered Saab’s immediate release in March. But under U.S. pressure, Cabo Verde has yet to respond to ECOWAS and is preparing an extradition trial.
Saab’s case has made waves on the African continent where 15 African countries are already under U.S. sanctions. It resonates in U.S.–sanctioned Iran and in Venezuela, where social media campaigns and demonstrations have demanded Saab’s release.
A campaign for release of Alex Saab of half a million Twitter posts led to Twitter censoring and suspending over 1,500 accounts. Despite aggressive efforts to silence support, an international campaign is growing,
Saab’s defenders presented the facts of his case in a May 19 panel, which featured two of Saab’s lawyers, Cabo Verde’s Geraldo da Cruz Almeida and Nigeria’s Femi Falana, in addition to activists William Camacaro, John Philpot, Stanfield Smith and Sara Flounders (this article’s author). It was streamed not only in the U.S. but to countries in Latin America, Africa and West Asia with simultaneous translation into English, Portuguese and Spanish. (See tinyurl.com/78ubp35j)
Organized by the Alliance for Global Justice and co-sponsored by the Alberto Lovera Bolivarian Circle of New York, Chicago ALBA Solidarity, Frente Hugo Chávez para la Defensa de los Pueblos Vancouver, Task Force on the Americas, Orinoco Tribune, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, International Action Center and CODEPINK, the panel drew a wide international audience. The Orinoco Tribune has published a report of the panel, which can be read at tinyurl.com/5cssayh9.
Ambassador Saab sent a letter to the African Union, as Venezuela’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the African Union, on May 25, a day celebrated across the continent as Africa Day, commemorating the founding of the Organization of African Unity on May 25, 1963. Alex Saab’s statement connected the celebration of “liberation from foreign control and oppression” to his imprisonment and “the importance for the continent of Africa to rise to fight elements of foreign dominance and imperialist domination.” The letter was published in CitiNewsRoom, in Accra, Ghana and in other African news publications. (tinyurl.com/f6xfar8e)