On June 14, the “Lawfare Against Venezuela” forum was convened in Caracas, Venezuela, marking three years on the unjust detention and extradition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab by the United States. Suzanne Adely, President of the National Lawyers Guild, who previously visited Alex Saab in federal prison in Miami with fellow NLG member Audrey Bomse, spoke at this event in Caracas. Suzanne’s speech follows below.
Read prior statements/watch the webinar video:
- Free Alex Saab: Report from NLG and IADL Meeting with Imprisoned Venezuelan Diplomat
- National Lawyers Guild International Calls for the Immediate Release of Venezuelan Diplomat Alex Saab
- Video: “Free Alex Saab: Imprisonment, Sanctions and a Gag Order” with Suzanne Adely and Audrey Bomse
Good afternoon. On behalf of the National Lawyers Guild in the U.S. and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, I would like to extend gratitude and solidarity to the free Alex Saab movement and organizers of this symposium.
The National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest progressive Bar Association in the United States, and it has been our mission to build a base of legal workers who are prepared to provide legal and political support for social justice movements facing political repression. The National Lawyers Guild International Committee has an explicit mission to use our legal platform to expose policies of Imperialism, support anti-imperialist struggle.
Right now, in the United States, the term Lawfare is most associated with several legal firms with connections to the Zionist Colonial, Apartheid Entity known as Israel, who are created and funded for the sole purpose of building criminal and civil cases against the Palestinian Solidarity Movement in the US, with support from the US government.
“Lawfare” is a tactic used by both state and non-state entities throughout the political spectrum to further different political agendas and shows the true nature of legal and judicial systems, including our international legal system,to protect power structures.
In the case of the United States, which was created through violent settler colonialism and grew into its current imperialist role, the US’s judicial system has always been utilized to justify slavery, genocide, land grabbing, colonial expansions, military interventions, and other imperialist polices either by using the courts to legitimize these actions or to prosecute those who challenge them. Often with incongruous and bizarre legal reasoning. Whether it was a case legitimizing the annexation of Hawaii or of Puerto Rico or directly collaborating with the Israeli state to build false criminal cases against Palestinian community leaders in the US, or their relentless prosecution of the Cuban 5 or the imprisonment and violation of legal rights of Colombian political prisoner Simon Trinidad. Many examples.
Alex Saab is a political prisoner and a victim of US Imperialism. One of the key imperialist tools wielded by the U.S. in our time is the use of Unilateral Coercive Measures such as Sanctions and Blockades. Economic coercive measures are inherently violent, designed to destabilize, undermine the sovereignty of nations, in order maintain economic inequality, continue the theft of wealth from the Global South, and preserve racial hierarchy in the international system. They are simply Diabolical. Today more than ⅓ of the world, in Latin America, Africa, Asia and are targets of these policies. Alex is being criminalized for the important role he played in challenging the U.S. Unilateral Economic Coercive Measures on Venezuela.
If we look at the December 2022 ruling in Alex’s case we see a clear example of legal decision grounded not in the law nor in principles of fairness and justice, but instead motivated by U.S. imperialist policies. The case against him has raised dangerous precedents of judicial abuse by the U.S. in enforcing these policies, violating the Vienna Convention and US laws around diplomatic immunity, and applying U.S. laws extraterritorially in an attempt to violate the sovereignty and trade relations of independent nations. Imagine what would happen to international relations if states could choose which diplomats were legitimate and therefore had diplomatic immunity and which did not.
The court ignored the established law, that Relevant Recognition of Diplomatic Status Under the Law Is That of Sending and receiving states. Ignored the 30+ documents of evidence of Alex’s status as a special envoy. Yet the most revealing and egregious aspect of the ruling was saying that even if it was established that Saab was acting as a special envoy, he would not be recognized as such because the U.S. does not recognize the legitimacy of the Venezuelan Government.
The court stated:
“Only the President may determine which governments are legitimate in the eyes of the United States and which are not[.].. It is clear that the United States does not recognize the Maduro regime to represent the official government of Venezuela. …. Maduro’s regime has been deemed ‘illegitimate.’ Accordingly, any claim to diplomatic immunity asserted by a representative of the Maduro regime must also be considered illegitimate.”
A clear example of a legal decision grounded not in the law nor in principles of fairness and justice, but instead motivated by U.S. imperialist policies. The United States has no legitimate authority to dictate the policies of the government of Venezuela, nor to imprison diplomats by unilaterally declaring the governments of sovereign nations to be illegitimate. The U.S. Government has made it clear that one of its top foreign policy priorities is to depose the democratically-elected government of Venezuela and to replace it with one that will open Venezuela’s vast oil reserves to exploitation by US transnational oil companies.
When I visited Alex with my colleague in February of this year, we learned that the court also put a gag order on Alex and his defense team, preventing them from speaking to the media or public about the case. And while he was eager to speak with us and tell his story, he had to limit what he could convey. The trauma of this imprisonment, kidnapping and torture was visible and we know that many of us are concerned about his health. He also continues to be denied the right to a consular visit and is family is prevented from seeing him. It’s imperative that we continue to build the global movement to free Alex Saab and against US Imperialism.