Following a remark made by the President of Cape Verde, Jorge Carlos Fonseca, over the Independent of the Judiciary in the country, the legal team of the detained Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab has urged the President to match his words with right action and allow Saab to enjoy the dividends of court verdicts passed in his favor.
Saab’s legal team attributed its stance on the call to allow the Judicial arm to work independently without undue interference from the executive or any other interested parties over a recent interview granted by the President where he openly posited that, the only arm of government in Cape Verde saddled with the responsibility of enforcing, or stay clear of the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee on Saab’s case, is the Judiciary which is globally believed as the last hope of the common man.
Fonseca while addressing reporters debunked responsibility and legitimacy of the Head of State, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Justice to influence the decision of the court.
The President made it clear that, even if he gas interest in the case as widely believed in some quarters, his stance can’t override the position of the court on the matter, as his office is not empowered by the law to order arrest or release of a suspect.
Reacting to the claims made Fonseca, Saab’s defence team, in an open letter on June 14, stressed that while it reassuring to read that the President is not against the decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the case of the arbitrary detention of Alex Saab, it is more disturbing from all indications that he is relying on the judicial branch to decide on this issue.
The team noted that the United Nations in its decision of 8 June 2021, addresses him, the judges of Cabo Verde, and all branches of the government and as such, “the respect of human rights is not the monopoly of anyone, it is everyone’s business and it requires courage.”
The team clearly pointed that the President’s position, is alarming for at least two major reasons.
“First, the decision of the Human Rights Committee is intended to ensure that Cape Verde respects very basic principles of humanity and dignity. In particular, it demands that Ambassador Saab be given access to adequate medical care, to independent doctors of his own choosing, and that the extradition process that puts him at certain risk of torture and ill-treatment be suspended. It is surprising, to say the least, that the Head of a sovereign state cannot guarantee that these elementary principles of humanity will be respected on its territory. It is even more worrying that a Head of state clearly does not have sufficient institutional authority to ensure that basic principles of dignity are respected. In both cases it is disquieting: either the head of state cannot enforce elementary requirements of human dignity to one of his prisoners, and his power is very limited; or he does not want to, and shows himself as someone unappreciative of the need to respect basic human rights.”
“Second, the Committee’s decision and the human rights obligations are binding “on every State Party as a whole. All branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), and other public or governmental authorities, at whatever level – national, regional or local – are in a position to engage the responsibility of the State Party”, to quote the Human Rights Committee (General Comment 31, para. 4). This type of response, which consists of a head of state or a minister placing the blame for the violation on another branch of power, arguing that the separation of powers prevents him from enforcing human rights, or saying that it is not up to them to ensure humanity but up to the court for instance to decide, is a classic response of weak or authoritarian states. “
The team stressed that during Fonseca’s visit to the International Criminal Court in December 2018, he said, “Cape Verde as a democracy and a state based on the rule of law is always with justice, respect of international law, democracy and liberties”.
The team reminded the President that people with keen interest across the globe are following his actions and in actions and urged him to walk the talk by summoning courage to let the Judiciary do what they are legally empowered to do without any interference.