By John Philpot and Roger D. Harris
While the US government is guilty of judicial kidnapping in the cases of Venezuelan Alex Saab and Chinese Meng Wanzhou, the Canadian government is implicated in the shameful detention of the Chinese businessperson and its promotion of extra-parliamentary regime change in Venezuela.
Judicial kidnapping of Venezuelan diplomat
China had already spoken out against his arrest and extradition from Cape Verde.
The day after the Saab kidnapping, Pope Francis criticized the use of unilateral coercive measures in countries with strong social movements for change.
Alex Saab was kidnapped to the US on October 16, after having been imprisoned in Cape Verde under US orders since June 12, 2020.
Saab was trying to buy humanitarian supplies for Venezuela in legal international trade but in violation of illegal US sanctions.
Saab had been travelling to obtain food, fuel and medicine for Venezuela suffering from murderous illegal US sanctions against his country.
His case raises dangerous precedents in terms of extraterritorial judicial abuse by the US in enforcing its unilateral coercive measures on Venezuela.
In a passionate speech in Caracas, President Maduro alluded to the months of torturous conditions suffered by Saab, isolated in filthy conditions without treatment for his cancer.
Ambassador Saab was arraigned in a Florida Court on October 18.
Shackled and force to wear an orange jumpsuit, the staged political theatre on Zoom sought to portray him as a fugitive criminal having defrauded Venezuela.
In Venezuela, however, Saab is considered innocent and a national hero.
Is not the US the real criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity against the people of Venezuela?
That Cape Verde agreed to extradite a special envoy and deputy ambassador, who is entitled to immunity and inviolability, sets a dangerous precedent. Centuries of long-established customary international law have been brushed aside by the US, with the complicity of Cape Verde.
Why the US is persecuting Alex Saab
Indeed, Washington only kidnapped or extradited Alex Saab because he has been instrumental in circumventing the illegal blockade of a country targeted by the US for regime change.
The reason the US is persecuting Alex Saab, revealed by Forbes, is because he is “the key that unlocks the Venezuelan monetary mystery—that is, how a country facing sanctions from the US, the UK and the European Union—is still able to export things like gold and oil…and really the only man who can actually explain how the country [Venezuela] survives today.” As the New York Times admits: “If Mr. Saab were to cooperate with American officials, he could help untangle Mr. Maduro’s economic web.”
After an exhaustive investigation by Swiss prosecutors of the US charge that Saab had used Swiss banks for “money laundering,” the case was dropped. Still the US accuses Saab of “loot[ing] hundreds of millions of dollars from starving Venezuelans,” when this is precisely, admittedly, and purposely what the US blockade is doing.
The African point of view
The regional Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) Court, which has legal jurisdiction over Cabo Verde, where Saab was imprisoned on under US orders, demanded the diplomat’s release and payment to him of compensation.
In October 3-7, an international Free Alex Saab delegation attended the annual meeting of the African Bar Association (AFBAR) in Niamey, Niger. The delegation included: Canadian member of Just Peace Advocates, John Philpot, a lawyer specializing in international law, who represented the American Association of Jurists and regularly attends AFBAR conferences; Cabo Verdean-American Bishop Filipe Teixeira, who travelled to Cabo Verde in June in support of Mr. Saab; Venezuelan Laila Taj El Dine, a diplomat to the United Nations, lawyer, university professor, and international analyst; and Venezuelan Pedro Carvajalino, media specialist.
AFBAR President Hannibal Uwaifo spoke of the need to take positive action to ensure respect for March 15 ECOWAS Court decision
Cape Verde did not the respect the ECOWAS Court decision or even the UN Human Rights Committee which called for a stay in extradition.
Canada and Cape Verde: subservient nations to the US
Canadian and Cape Verde’s policies are similar. Canada should be criticized for its recent actions against Venezuela and China. Canada has been subservient to the US, under President Trump and now President Biden. The Canadian political class has failed to stand up for truth and justice.
Canada has played a leadership role in violating the sovereignty of Venezuela. In August 2017, the Lima Group was established as a structure outside of the Organization of American States (OAS), mainly because the OAS members refused to back Washington and Ottawa’s bid to interfere in Venezuelan affairs.
But by this summer, what had been known as the Lima Group, led by Canada, became defunct. Peru has recognized the Maduro government in concert with the United Nations and the vast majority of the world’s sovereign states.
Kidnapping a foreign executive for the US: It’s the Canadian way
In a clear case of judicial kidnapping on the USA’s behalf, Meng Wanzhou was arrested at the Vancouver International Airport on December 1, 2018, on a US extradition warrant for a crime allegedly committed in China, misleading HSBC Bank in China in violation of US sanctions on Iran. After some 1028 days and a mammoth international campaign to free her, the US effectively abandoned its dishonest charges. Ms. Meng pleaded not guilty and returned to a hero’s welcome in China on September 25.
Canada had followed US President Trump’s orders in the Vancouver kidnapping of the chief financial officer of the Chinese company Huawei.
Trump wanted to use Meng Wanzhou to bargain with China in economic matters.
Canada agreed to detain and extradite her while some eight other countries such as Mexico and Belgium refused.
She had committed no crime in Canada and none in the US but had only violated US illegal sanctions on Iran in her business affairs in Hong Kong.
Only when the case was falling apart and when the Biden administration agreed to allow her to leave with a not guilty plea, were the extradition proceedings terminated and she was liberated.
Canada and Cape Verde are two of a kind, sycophantic followers of orders coming from Washington.
Canada is arguably worse because it is less vulnerable than the small and poor Cape Verde.
The situation is dangerous, undermining the foundations of international relations and diplomatic immunity, extraterritoriality of criminal law and illegal coercive measures imposed by the against the will of most of the world community.
Who is next? The United States released its sanctions review on October 18, affirming it intends to further strengthen its sanctions policy to dominate even addition countries which wish to assert their legitimate sovereignty.
This is a warning to all.
John Philpot is a Montreal-based attorney in international law. Roger D. Harris, who visited Cape Verde in June of this year as part of an international delegation to free Alex Saab, is with the humanitarian organization, Task Force on the Americas. Both authors are on the Campaign to Free Alex Saab and the Sanctions Kill Coalition.