Breaking: The United Nations Human Rights Committee orders Cape Verde to comply with interim measures regarding Alex Saab

On June 8th the UN Human Rights Committee had called for suspension of Alex Saab’s extradition, now it orders it to comply. Join the campaign to demand the immediate release of Alex Saab by signing the online petition

What are the legal and political consequences?

Cabo Verde and the human rights UN obligations

Cabo Verde is a member State of the United Nations, it has been a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since August 6, 1993 and to the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights since May 19, 2000. That implies that Cabo Verde must respect its international obligations regarding the human rights protected by this treaty and comply with the orders and decisions of the expert body in charge of the supervision of the treaty, which is the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations.

What are the interim measures ordered by the HR Committee? 

Under rule 92 of its rules of procedure, the Committee may, after receipt of a communication and before adopting its Views, request a State party to take interim measures in order to avoid irreparable damage to the victim of the alleged violations. The Committee continues to apply this rule on appropriate occasions, for instance in cases of imminent deportation or extradition which may involve or expose the author to a real risk of violation of rights protected under the Covenant, or when issues concerning the health of the alleged victim are at stake.

Are the interim measures usually implemented? 

While in the majority of cases where the Committee requested the States parties concerned to take interim measures such requests were granted and complied with, there were some instances in which this was not done. When a State refuses to comply the Committee recalled its jurisprudence that a State party commits serious breaches of its obligations under the Optional Protocol if its action or inaction serves to prevent or frustrate consideration by the Committee of a communication alleging a violation of the Covenant, or to render examination by the Committee moot and the expression of its Views nugatory and futile. Interim measures pursuant to rule 92 of its rules of procedure, adopted in conformity with article 39 of the Covenant, are essential to the Committee’s role under the Optional Protocol. Flouting of the rule, especially by irreversible measures such as, in the present case, the author’s extradition, undermines the protection of Covenant rights through the Optional Protocol. In the Committee’s view, these circumstances disclose a breach by the State party of its obligations under article 1 of the Optional Protocol.

Example of a State usually not complying with interim measures?

Among the few states that do not comply with the interim measures of the Human Rights Committee is Belarus [No. 2017/2010, Burdyko v. Belarus].

What if Cabo Verde refuses? 

The United Nations Human Rights Committee calls on Cape Verde to ‘refrain from extraditing Mr. Alex Saab to the United States of America” and to “take all necessary measures to ensure access to appropriate health care […] by independent and specialized physicians of his choice”. Such measures are very clear and require that the State of Cabo Verde implements them as such. The suspension of extradition is clear and the access to independent and specialized physicians of his choice are measures extremely clear as well.

The refusal by Cape Verde to comply with its international obligations would have serious, structural and long-lasting diplomatic, economic, political and legal consequences for Cape Verde. By refusing or ignoring the interim measures, Cape Verde would be following the path of Belarus and confirming its desire to definitively renounce adherence to human rights and the rule of law.