The Barlavento Court of Appeal (TRB) yesterday granted a request made by Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab that the site of his detention be moved to Praia from the Island of Sal. Alex Saab’s defence had filed the request in August citing the deterioration of his health over the past year caused by a lack of access to the specialist medical care he requires as a cancer patient.

Dr Jose Manuel Pinto Monteiro, head of Alex Saab’s local defence team, has cautiously welcomed the decision and commented “As long ago as 2 December the ECOWAS Court of Justice took note that Alex Saab was a cancer patient and ruled he should be granted unrestricted access to specialist physicians of his choice. Unfortunately, rather than focus on the humanitarian needs of Alex Saab the Cape Verde authorities decided to politicise a health matter and focussed instead on the jurisdiction of the ECOWAS Court to rule on Mr Saab’s application.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee ordered on 8 June and again 16 June that Alex Saab be granted unrestricted access to specialist medical attention and the halting of any extradition, but once again the Cape Verde authorities elected to politicise the matter rather than demonstrate the compassion which the TRB espouses in its decision of yesterday.”

Local observers are puzzled by the timing of the TRB’s decision to grant Alex Saab’s request. Saab was detained on 12 June 2020 at the request of the United States via an Interpol Red Notice. This was followed up with a formal extradition request on 29 June. Alex Saab’ defence team has noted that multiple legal irregularities surround the arrest, the Red Notice and extradition request and the matter has now reached the Cape Verde Constitutional Court. That court is expected to rule any day on the 12 specific unconstitutionalities any day now, which makes the timing of the TRB’s decision surprising.

Dr Pinto Monteiro comments “I can only speculate on the timing of the TRB’s decision as the basic rational provided in its ruling has been known to everyone, including the Court, for more than a year. I am sure that the amount of international scrutiny which the case is attracting, as well as the failure to comply with the ECOWAS Court and the United Nations are having an impact. Very importantly, however, public opinion in Cabo Verde is very much behind Alex Saab. There is a groundswell of support and many question why Cabo Verde is involved in in the detention of a diplomat and a matter which centres around a clearly political dispute between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the United States.”