Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Wednesday urged the Tunisian government not to extradite [statement] former Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], warning that he would be "at a real risk for torture" if he is returned to Libya. Al-Mahmoudi, who served under Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], has been held in Tunisia since September when he was detained [JURIST report] while attempting to illegally enter Tunisia. Earlier this month the Tunisian courts announced they would review a request [JURIST report] by the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website] to extradite al-Mahmoudi back to Libya in order to face possible charges of corruption. A Tunisian appellate court ruled earlier this week that al-Mahmoudi should be extradited back to Libya [JURIST report], despite concerns expressed by his lawyer for his safety. HRW stated that because Tunisia ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [materials] they are subject to its terms, including Article 3, which prohibits the extradition of suspects to countries where torture is a real possibility. According to HRW, the NTC cannot guarantee al-Mahmoudi's safety due to their lack of adequate control over security forces and Libyian detention facilities. HRW cited examples of recently documented cases of mistreatment [HRW report] in Libyan detention facilities as examples of what al-Mahmoudi could face if he is returned to Libya. HRW further asserts that because the NTC has yet to establish a functioning judicial system, al-Mahmoudi would not be guaranteed basic rights of due process. In order for al-Mahmoudi's extradition to be effective, Tunisia's president must sign a decree ordering his return to Libya. Al-Mahmoudi could contest that order through the administrative process, but the extradition would still take place.
Al-Mahmoudi's extradition is the latest legal episode in an ongoing effort by Libyan and international courts to investigate officials in Gaddafi's government [JURIST report]. In June, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] issued arrest warrants [decision, PDF; JURIST report] for Gaddafi, as well as two high-ranking officials in his regime, for crimes against humanity. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] declared before the Pre-Trial Chamber that his office had obtained direct evidence [JURIST report] that shows Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on civilian protesters and that his army used live ammunition on crowds, fired at people in funeral processions, and placed snipers to shoot people leaving mosques after prayer services. Earlier in June, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] decided to extend its investigation [JURIST report] of human rights abuses in Libya. In a 92-page report [text, PDF], the UNHRC declared that Gaddafi's regime committed murder, rape, torture, and forced disappearance "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack."