US urged to end detention of Venezuelan Special Envoy
They called for his immediate release and for the US “to comply with its obligations under international law…and drop all charges against him.”
Mr. Saab was appointed as a Special Envoy by the Government in Caracas in April 2018 to undertake official missions in Iran to secure humanitarian deliveries, including of food and medicine, a press release issued by the UN human rights office detailed.
The US alleges the envoy was behind a corruption network involving a Government-subsidized food programme called CLAP that was in effect, stealing from the Venezuelan people, while also using food as a form of social control, according to the US Treasury.
In July of the same year, Mr. Saab was placed under US sanctions for allegedly being responsible for inter alia engaging in transactions or programmes administered by the Venezuelan Government.
On 12 June 2020, during his third trip to Iran, while in transit through Cabo Verde, he was arrested and detained by local authorities. Following an extradition request by the US, he was ultimately extradited in October 2021.
According to the Human Rights Council-appointed experts, the Cabo Verde courts dealing with his case reportedly rejected his numerous appeals against the extradition, his diplomatic status as an ad hoc diplomat and the decision in his favour by an ECOWAS Court in the region.
They said the courts also “discarded numerous official communications” from Venezuela, and recommendations from international rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“We note with concern the reported irregularities in the arrest and detention in Cabo Verde of Mr. Saab, prior to his extradition to the US,” the experts said.
“In particular, information we received indicates that at the exact moment of his arrest, while he was on his place at the Amílcar Cabral International Airport, there was no Red Notice by Interpol, nor an arrest warrant presented to him. Both were instead issued ex post facto,” they noted.
Charges against Saab
Following his extradition, US judicial authorities dropped seven counts of money laundering against him, while maintaining a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“We deeply regret that for almost two years since his extradition, Mr. Saab remains in detention awaiting trial for alleged conduct which is not considered an international crime, and thus should not have been the subject of extraterritorial or universal jurisdiction,” the UN experts said.
The experts were informed that since his extradition Saab was being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Miami, which is not a correctional institution, but instead a pre-trial administrative facility.
Violation 'for millions'
“The actions against Mr. Saab are not only violations of his human rights…but also a violation of the right to an adequate standard of living for millions of Venezuelans, as result of the abrupt interruption of his mission for the procurement of essential goods,” the experts said.
Special Rapporteurs and other independent UN experts are not UN staff. They serve in their individual capacity and receive no salary for their work.