Tunisia: Extradition of former Libyan prime minister violates human rights

The extradition of former Libyan prime minister al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi from Tunisia puts him in danger of torture, unfair trial and even extrajudicial execution, Amnesty International said on Monday as it criticised the authorities in Tunis for their decision.

Al-Mahmoudi, who served as prime minister under Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi from March 2006 until he fled to Tunisia last year, was reportedly handed over to Libyan officials in Tunis on Sunday, and taken to a Libyan prison by helicopter.

Amnesty International had repeatedly urged the Tunisian authorities, including the President and Prime Minister, not to extradite him, arguing he could be subjected to human rights violations in Libya.

“Amnesty International condemns the decision of the Tunisian authorities to send al-Mahmoudi back to Libya, where he faces a real risk of torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trial and possibly extrajudicial execution,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Amnesty International is also concerned that al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi may face the death penalty in Libya, which the organization opposes in all cases as the ultimate violation of the right to life.

“While all perpetrators of human rights violations must be brought to justice, by extraditing al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, Tunisian authorities have not only violated their own law but also their international obligation not to return anyone to a country where they are at risk of human rights violations,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“Whoever is found responsible for authorizing this extradition, and for violating the absolute prohibition on returning someone to a risk of torture, must be held to account.”

The former Libyan prime minister travelled to Tunisia after Colonel al-Gaddafi’s forces lost control of Tripoli in August last year. He was arrested in late September and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment for “illegal entry”, but acquitted on appeal later that month.

According to the extradition requests seen by Amnesty International, the charges brought against al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi in Libya include “misuse of public money”, “insult of civil servants”, “threatening security officials with weapons” and “incitement to commit rape”. The charges relate to incidents that allegedly took place between 2006 and 2011.

Al-Mahmoudi’s extradition had been approved by a Tunisian court of appeal in November last year, but was blocked by President Moncef Marzouki, the only authority under Tunisia law to allow such an extradition, who said he would not allow it because of human rights concerns.

The office of the Prime Minister has reportedly said his extradition was due to the decision of the Court of Appeals in November.

Marzouki, who is a former human rights activist, has denied that he authorized the extradition. Under Article 324 of Tunisia’s Code of Criminal Procedure, the President has the final decision on all extraditions.

Amnesty International says that in Libya the former prime minister must be granted access to lawyers, allowed to communicate with his family, and guaranteed a fair trial.

The organization has documented numerous recent cases in Libya where detainees signed confessions under torture or duress.

Amnesty International also has evidence of at least 20 cases of deaths in custody in Libya since August.

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The prison in which al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi is held in is reportedly under the control of the Justice Ministry. Scores of Libya’s official and semi-official detention facilities are under the control of armed militia who are responsible for serious human rights abuses, including torture and other ill-treatment and even extrajudicial execution.