Why Cape Verde Matters
Beatrice E. Rangel
Several weeks ago Cape Verde, a small nation off the Western Coast of Africa, executed a routine protocol among law enforcement agencies. A person listed as most wanted by Interpol was arrested while refueling his private jet. A diplomatic maelstrom ensued this arrest. The detainee, Mr Alex Saab who looked rather common and not particularly refined, was the object of desire by several countries.
First, there was Venezuela who claimed that the gentleman was its national and a diplomatic envoy. Embassies of Venezuela in Europe and Africa mobilized personnel to lend their support to the detainee. Colombia also claimed Mr Saab as its national. The United States promptly allowed Cape Verde’s Attorney General entry into the investigation proceedings that had led its courts to issue and arrest warrant against Mr Saab while requesting extradition.
An attempt was made to provide Mr Saab with a Middle Eastern nationality. But Cape Verde’ Attorney General stood tall any attempt to change connection factors would be considered as attempted fraud. He further indicated that the case needed to be revised in the light of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) .
This stand basically sets international jurisprudence in relation to the applicability of UNTOC and at the same time labels Mr Saab’s wrongdoing as criminal activity along the lines of UNTOC. Meanwhile courts are reviewing the whole Saab dossier to determine whether he should be extradited to the US or tried in Cape Verde. Trial in Cape Verde while a possibility does not seem to be in the minds of the country’s judiciary as once UNTOC is invoked trial takes place in the country that issued the arrest warrant.
Indeed, once UNTOC is invoked two things happen. First the arrest warrant leaves the realm of domestic penal law of the issuing country to become an international arrest warrant. Second, the invoking nation is given full access to the investigative proceeding leading to the arrest warrant. With this access also comes support to protect the detainee’s integrity and prevent him or her from escaping.
In short, UNTOC opens the floodgates for extraterritorial out reach of penal proceedings while creating opportunities for intense international cooperation among law enforcement agencies including joint international action. UNTOC further gives international status to charges filed by a particular nation against a given criminal. And this is the essence of international law. It was created to protect peace and development through international cooperation.
Law enforcement nowadays demands international cooperation as there is one too many nation state that on account of its institutional fragility has been phagocytized or penetrated by organized crime. Given that all countries enjoy the condition of being sovereign states and thus holders of sovereignty, organized crime uses states it has penetrated of phagocytized as operational bases. This is the case of Venezuela country on whose behalf Mr Saab allegedly laundered money, traded in drugs and financed terrorism.
The facilitating role played by Mr Saab makes him a person of interest for any law enforcement agency as he possesses practical knowledge about the kind of international structures that are created and used to commit crimes and to escape sanctions. Such knowledge is vital to bring down the hammer of law enforcement upon transnational organized crime. This is the reason for Venezuela to be fighting so rabidly to get Mr Saab back to his adopted home.
In Cape Verde therefore we are witnessing a challenge between the old order characterized by invulnerable sovereignty and the demands of a world that increasingly sees economic and political activity penetrated by a non-state transnational actor formed to perpetrate illicit activities. An actor that has become global and whose treatment demands a global response. Such response was encapsulated in UNTOC which depending on the ending of the Cape Verde affair will be an effective tool for the fight or fall into irrelevance.
Published by laht.com July 6, 2020
“The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author”