The African Bar Association (AfBA) has warned that disregarding the judgments of regional courts in Africa is dangerous.
AfBA President, Hannibal Uwaifo, who raised the alarm when he addressed journalists in Lagos on dangers of disregarding a recent judgment of Economic Community of West Africa State, (ECOWAS), court on a Venezuelan diplomat, Alex Saab by Cape Verde.
Uwaifo said AfBA’s interest in the Venezuelan Diplomat’s case is the protection of the ECOWAS Court and the rule of law, insisting that Cape Verde’s conduct portends danger for the region.
Saab, 49, born in Colombia of Lebanese descent, is fighting an extradition order from Cape Verde to the United States.
According to report, he has been in detention since June 12, 2020, when the private plane he flew from Venezuela to Iran made a fuel stop on an island in Cape Verde called Sal.
Cape Verde has ignored an ECOWAS court order to free and pay him $200,000 as compensation for ‘illegal arrest and detention.’
Its Attorney-General’s office stated that this was “because Cape Verde was not in agreement with the body on the supplementary protocol on the ECOWAS court that empowers the code to entertain human right ramifications”.
Uwaifo warned that Cape Verde’s position of shunning a court order would pose problems for the rule of law and was damaging the authority of the ECOWAS Court.
Responding to questions from journalists, he stated that Saab, just like any other person, should be dealt with under the law, if he was found culpable.
“The Saab case is a problem, which is going to hunt everyone. People can hide now, maybe he’s not a Nigerian, we’re not interested in all those things, what we are interested in is the protection of the institution of ECOWAS and the judiciary.
“If a country is allowed to violate a court’s decision in which it participated through its lawyers on African soil, it portends danger for rule of law and human rights.
“If the man they are pursuing has committed crimes, he should be arrested and dealt with in accordance with the law; you don’t come to African soil and abduct an individual. If the court says the man is free to go, that is what it is. All over the world, if the court pronounces a man free to go, will they arrest him and begin to pursue him or put him in jail?
“Look at the Bobby Wine case in Uganda. We are seeing gory pictures. This is problematic. We all must get up, if the people are unable to fight for themselves we must fight for them,” he added.
Also, Chairman AfBA Committee on Information and Public Communications, Osa Director, said lawyers in the continent are worried that the path currently being towed by Cape Verde is not only retrogressive but will bring the Country to dis-repute and make ECOWAS a toothless organisation thus becoming a laughing stock.
He said: “This situation may lead to chaos and indiscriminate arrest of citizens especially of Cape Verde without consequences. In fact, the situation will put African and West African diplomats at risk. History may not be kind to Cape Verde Islands.”
“We therefore appeal most profoundly and respectfully that Cape Verde takes the interest of ECOWAS and Africa to heart to prize the rule of law above all primordial sentiments and obey the ECOWAS Court Judgment of March 15, 2021.”
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