A former director of legal affairs for INTERPOL, Rutsel Martha, has alleged illegality in the arrest of a Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab, in Cape Verde.
Mr Saab, an ally of Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, was reportedly arrested in Cape Verde following a Red Notice issued by INTERPOL at the request of the United States.
The Red Notice is an instrument issued to law enforcement agencies by INTERPOL at the request of a member state to “locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.”
INTERPOL cannot force authorities in any country to arrest someone who is the subject of a Red Notice.
Mr Martha, in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, alleged the “conditions for the issuance of Red Notice were breached in Mr Saab’s case”.
“When a country asks for a Red Notice, it must first ratify the person. Second, it must provide the case summary and then file its request with the INTERPOL General Secretary in Lyon, France.
“According to the rules, before a Red Notice is issued, there needs to be a legal notice issued by the INTERPOL legal department. That is something that definitely takes time. The issuance period for red notice is not instantaneous, it can take at least half a day or longer before you get Red Notice, more often than not, it takes much longer than that,” Mr Martha, an author, noted.
His comment was validated by checks on the organisation’s official website. Mr Martha raised suspicion of the timing in the issuance of arrest warrant for the detained diplomat.
In his argument based on documents shared via-à-vis the statements submitted by the Cape Verdean law enforcement authority before the court, he said it was established that there was no arrest warrant before Mr Saab was detained.
“In this particular case, the arrest took place on 12th of June, in the evening. With the Red Notice that was issued, it states 13th of June. What you must know is that, probably what happened is that when he arrived, America sent a request to INTERPOL when they received information that he is having a stop over in Cape Verde.
“At the moment that he arrived, there was no red notice. Because they knew it’s going to take a long time, they delayed his departure and they did that in three steps.
“First, they took time to refuel his private jet. Second, they made him exit the plane which was not necessary since it was a stopover and third they made him buy a visa he didn’t need since he was not planning to enter Cape Verde.
“Those steps were designed to buy little time for INTERPOL to revert on (use) the Red Notice. I believe that before the Red Notice arrived, he had been detained for five to six hours.
“From a legal point of view, you were detained from the moment authority controls your freedom of movement. For that detention, they needed a legal backing which they didn’t have.
“Without doubt, as at the time they arrested him, there was no Red Notice from INTERPOL nor arrest warrant from Cape Verde. This makes his arrest arbitrary and illegal,” he explained.
This reporter shared some of the issues raised by Mr Martha with INTERPOL through its official channel but is yet to receive any feedback.
Existing legal battles
Mr Saab’s legal teams are fighting his extradition to the U.S. in three countries across the world.
His case, challenging his detention in Cape Verde has gotten to the country’s Supreme Court and has continued to generate uproar among citizens in the country.
The detained Venezuelan diplomat has lost twice in Cape Verdean courts but found reprieve in a December 3, 2020, ECOWAS Court ruling which had aided his removal from prison to house arrest.
A Femi Falana-led legal team for ECOWAS court case, recently wrote a petition calling out Cape Verdean authority to suspend all extradition proceedings against the official until its main hearing, scheduled for February 2, in Abuja.
His other legal team also filed an application in a U.S. court planning to hear Mr Saab’s case on alleged money laundering.
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