The African Bar Association (AFBA) has said its interest in the Venezuelan Diplomat, Alex Saab’s case is the protection of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Community Court and the rule of law.
Saab, 49, is fighting an extradition order from Cape Verde to the United States, for trial for alleged money laundering.
The Colombian of Lebanese descent has been in detention since June 12, 2020, when the private plane he was travelling on from Venezuela to Iran made a fuel stop on an island in Cape Verde called Sal.
CapeVerde has ignored an Economic Community of West States (ECOWAS) court order to free and pay him $200,000 as compensation for ‘illegal arrest and detention.’
Its Attorney-General’s office stated that this was “because Cape Verde was not in agreement with the body on the supplementary protocol on the ECOWAS court that empowers the code to entertain human right ramifications”.
AFBA President, Hannibal Uwaifo, warned that shunning a court order would pose problems for the rule of law and was damaging to the authority of the ECOWAS Court.
Responding to questions from reporters in Lagos, he stated that Saab, just like any other person, should be dealt with under the law, if he was found culpable.
Uwaifo said: “(The) Saab case is a problem which is going to haunt everyone. People can hide now, maybe he’s not a Nigerian, we’re not interested in all those things, what we’re interested in is the protection of the institution of ECOWAS and the judiciary.
“If a country is allowed to violate a court’s decision in which you participated; you brought your lawyers I brought my lawyers, you participated in it on African soil. I’m not interested in mundane issues; the African Bar Association is not interested.
“If the man they’re pursuing has committed crimes, he should be arrested and dealt with in accordance with the law; you don’t come to African soil and abduct an individual. If the court says the man is free to go, that is what it is. All over the world, if the court pronounces that the man is free to go, will they arrest him and begin to pursue him or put him in jail? Look at the Bobby Wine case in Uganda. We are seeing gory pictures. This is problematic. We all must get up, if the people are unable to fight for themselves we must fight for them.”
Uwaifo also weighed in on the ongoing strike by judiciary workers in the country.
He said: “The Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) strike would have been unnecessary if the government and those who run governance had observed the rule of law.
“Judicial autonomy is a necessity and should be implemented. Judicial autonomy is the beginning.”
Uwaifo disclosed that AFBA’s summit will be held in Niamey, cthe Republic of Niger capital on October 3-7, with over 2,000 lawyers expected to attend.
The summit, themed ‘Accountable governance as a panacea for the unending conflicts in Africa: The legal profession as the driver’, will review achievements and shortcomings of cooperation programmes between lawyers in Africa over the past years.
He said some former African presidents would also be honoured at the event for the role they played in the promotion of the rule of law.
“One of them will be former President Goodluck Jonathan, former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson, former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, immediate past President of Niger Republic, Mahamadou Issoufou, the former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, and a retired judge in South Africa, Vavanethem Pillay,” Uwaifo added.