Tripoli — The Libyan authorities have yet to bring former prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi before a judge or inform him of the charges against him though he was extradited from Tunisia on June 24, 2012, Human Rights Watch said today after visiting al-Mahmoudi in his prison cell in Tripoli. Al-Mahmoudi said that he had not suffered any abuse during his detention in Libya, but that he had been physically abused in detention in Tunisia.
Providing access to visit al-Mahmoudi was a positive move, but Libyan authorities should ensure that al-Mahmoudi is granted all his rights as a suspect, Human Rights Watch said. He should promptly be brought before a judge to determine the basis for his detention and to be informed of the charges against him. The Tunisian authorities should ensure a prompt and transparent investigation into his allegations of abuse in that country, Human Rights Watch said.
"Tunisia extradited al-Mahmoudi after receiving assurances that Libya would not mistreat him," said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "It is now up to Libya to keep its word to respect al-Mahmoudi's rights, both for him and to show its good intentions toward the 7,000 other people detained across Libya by various authorities."
The Libyan General Prosecutor's Office needs to make sure that al-Mahmoudi and all other detainees get a fair trial and due process, Human Rights Watch said.
Al-Mahmoudi, Gaddafi's prime minister from 2006 to 2011, fled Libya in September 2011. The Tunisian authorities arrested him that month for illegal entry. Tunisia's government was split over whether to extradite him to Libya, with interim President Moncef Marzouki contending that Tunisia should not extradite al-Mahmoudi because he would be at risk of torture in Libya. However, interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jbali said Libya had promised that al-Mahmoudi would not be mistreated and, on June 24, Tunisian authorities flew al-Mahmoudi to Libya, where he was immediately placed in custody.
Human Rights Watch visited al-Mahmoudi on July 3 in the prison in Tripoli where he and eight other former Gaddafi officials, including former head of foreign intelligence Abu Zaid Dorda, are being held. Human Rights Watch spent about 30 minutes speaking with the former prime minister in what appeared to be full confidentiality, in an office in the prison.
Al-Mahmoudi expressed no complaints with the facility where he is now detained. "I am afraid to be subjected to ill-treatment by random people and militias," al-Mahmoudi said. "But I feel safe in this facility."
He added that upon his arrival, he spoke by phone with Mustafa Abdeljalil, chairman of Libya's ruling National Transitional Council. "I was intimidated at the time and concerned that something could happen to me, but he reassured me that I was now with my own people and would be well received," al-Mahmoudi told Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch was not in a position to assess whether al-Mahmoudi felt he could speak freely and honestly to its representative about his treatment at the hands of Libyan and Tunisian authorities.
The prison where al-Mahmoudi is held is run by the judicial police. Human Rights Watch was taken on a tour of the premises by the prison director, who said that al-Mahmoudi was being kept separately from the other inmates. During this tour, Human Rights Watch saw a clinic with medical staff, as well as a small courtyard that the director said prisoners can use when let out of their cells. Al-Mahmoudi is being kept in a prison block on his own, which includes four cells adjacent to a common area for recreation as well as separate sanitary facilities in the same block.
Al-Mahmoudi told Human Rights Watch that while he was held in the Mornaguia prison in Tunis, guards threatened him and beat him with sticks, boots, and a plastic whip. He also said Tunisian authorities did not allow him to meet with his lawyer, prompting him to begin a hunger strike.
One of al-Mahmoudi's lawyers in Tunisia confirmed to Human Rights Watch that lawyers had been unable to talk with him in prison during one week at the end of May.
Al-Mahmoudi told Human Rights Watch that Tunisian officials told him on June 24 that he was being taken to receive medical care, but that instead he was put on a Tripoli-bound plane. On the plane, "The chief of staff of the Libyan Army, General Youssef al-Mangoush, was waiting for me and he reassured me that I would be well treated and not harmed," al-Mahmoudi said.
Upon his arrival in Tripoli, he said, authorities sent him for a medical examination. Then investigators from the General Prosecutor's Office interrogated him, he said. He has not yet been informed of the charges he faces, though, or been brought before a judge who can review the lawfulness of his detention.
Al-Mahmoudi said he asked for a lawyer during the investigation phase, which began shortly after he arrived in Libya. Authorities offered to assign him counsel, but he said he preferred to appoint his own. His family was selecting a lawyer, he said.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Libya in 1970, states that anyone facing criminal charges has the right "to be informed promptly and in detail in a language which he understands of the nature and cause of the charge against him." The ICCPR also requires Libya to ensure that anyone detained is brought promptly before a judge or equivalent. The right to judicial review of all detainees without delay is non-derogable.
Human Rights Watch called on the general prosecutor's office to ensure al-Mahmoudi and other detainees get their full due process rights and subsequently a fair trial. Human Rights Watch also calls on the Tunisian authorities to investigate the allegations of ill-treatment at the hands of the prison authorities, and to punish anyone found to have abused or ordered abuse.
"For Libyans to achieve justice, the Libyan authorities need to ensure that the rule of law is respected and detainees are granted their full due process rights," Goldstein said.