Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, on Wednesday, filed a motion to the ECOWAS Commission praying that a sanction be imposed on Cape Verde for snubbing its regional court’s judgement.
The ECOWAS court, in a March 15, 2021 judgement, ordered Cape Verde to release detained Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab, and pay him $200,000 compensation for his controversial detention on the West African Island.
The court , having established that his arrest was carried out without the existence of an INTERPOL red notice and an arrest warrant, also directed the country not to extradite him to the U.S. as planned.
But the Cape Verdean Supreme Court subsequently approved Mr Saab’s extradition to the U.S. in disregard for the ECOWAS Court of Justice’s judgment, ruling that the country was not bound by the decisions of the regional court.
This, the Cape Verdean Supreme Court said, was because Cape Verde was not a signatory to the Protocol establishing the regional court.
Cape Verde, through its Prosecutor General’s Office, authorised Mr Saab’s extradition to the United States, a fatal blow to the latter’s legal team’s recent victory.
As a result of this, Mr Falana called on ECOWAS authorities to impose sanctions on the government of Cape Verde and some of its officials for the country’s snubbing of the ECOWAS Court’s judgment.
Mr Falana, in the motion he submitted to the ECOWAS Commission, requested an imposition of travel ban throughout the ECOWAS member states against some Cape Verde government officials and their family members.
The officials identified by Mr Falana include Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca, President of Cape Verde; José Ulisses de Pina Correia e Silva, Prime Minister of Cape Verde; Rui Alberto de Figueiredo Soares, Minister of Foreign and Community Affairs and Minister of Defence of the Republic of Cape Verde.
Others are Paulo Augusto Rocha, Minister of Home Affairs of Cape Verde;Janine Tatiana Santos Lélis, Minister of Justice and Labour of Cape Verde and Luís José Tavares Landim, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Cape Verde.
Mr Falana also called for the suspension of new ECOWAS loans, execution of ongoing ECOWAS projects or assistance programmes to Cape Verde.
Also, he requested the ECOWAS authorities to exclude Cape Verde from presenting candidates for statutory and professional posts in ECOWAS, suspension of voting rights in ECOWAS and suspension from participation in the activities of ECOWAS.
Mr Falana said, “It should be noted that Cape Verde, despite previous posturing, had eventually complied with the court’s earlier decision of December 2, 2020 which ordered Cabo Verde to transfer Mr Saab under house arrest.”
He added, “Cape Verde’s behavior is unacceptable and flies in the face of its international obligations as well as centuries-old international law governing the movement of diplomats and political agents.
“If Cape Verde is allowed to continue down the path which it is currently travelling the consequences for the conduct of global diplomacy will be catastrophic.”
He also highlighted some clauses why the Supplementary Protocol 2005 which authorises ECOWAS Court to hear human rights cases emanating from member states is binding on Cape Verde.
The senior advocate said 14 of 15 member states signed the Protocol, but that only nine of 15 is actually required for it to be binding on members.
He added that Cape Verde participated fully in the process and never objected since 2005, and that when Gambia tried to change the human rights mandate of the court in 2009, Cape Verde voted against it.
He also argued that there is a principle of estoppel in international law implying that a member state cannot suddenly change its mind and position just to suit its immediate needs.
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