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Department of Justice Under Pressure After Alex Saab’s Legal Representatives Submit Reply to the Court of Appeals

The International Action Center, along with solidarity, human rights and social justice organizations in the U.S. and around the world, calls upon the State Department and the Department of Justice to end their witch hunt of Alex Saab and illegal unilateral sanctions against another sovereign state carrying out its legitimate and legal right to feed its people.

09 Nov 2021    

On 4 November, Alex Saab’s US counsel with the firm of Baker Hostetler who is spearheading his claim of immunity, filed his latest reply to submissions by the DoJ in the Court of Appeals of the 11th Circuit.

This brief was submitted in response to the DoJ’s filings of 14 October where the US Government continues to argue that it has no obligation to recognize diplomatic immunity in the case of foreign diplomats accredited to other nations, such as is the case of Alex Saab. Alex Saab is a lawfully appointed Special Envoy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who was undertaking a peaceful humanitarian Special Mission from Venezuela to Iran when he was illegally detained by the Republic of Cape Verde under instructions of the United States on June 12, 2020. Saab was removed from Cape Verde by the United States on October 16 even though the legal process was not complete.

The defense brief of Alex Saab takes the position that the DoJ’s stance is completely wrong and inconsistent with US case law. Whilst the United States has an absolute right to recognize and not recognize diplomatic status of somebody who is being sent to the United States; the United States, however, has no right to deny the recognition of diplomatic status in a situation where the sending country (Venezuela) and the receiving country (Iran) have agreed that Alex Saab is a special envoy. The United States is obliged as a matter of U.S. and international law, to give full diplomatic inviolability to Alex Saab under the 1961 Vienna Convention, to which it is a party. In other words, does the United States have any right to recognize or not recognize somebody who has been sent by France and Germany or not? Obviously not and it would be absurd to suggest otherwise.

The motion explains that the United States has always taken the first view of recognition of diplomatic immunity of third-party countries going back more than a century and is always asserted this view, not only in regard to U.S. diplomats, but third-party diplomats. The briefing described the specific cases where this has arisen and draws conclusion that the DOJ's position is fundamentally wrong.

The United States cannot maintain its role of self-appointed policeman of the world without understanding that that this policy has the potential to backfire against the United States as well as having consequences for the free movement of its own diplomats and political agents, or even journalists or human rights activists.

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