With uncertainty persisting over the fate of Libya`s Head of State, Dr Baghdadi Mahmoudi, who was handed over to captors in Libya by the Tunisian authorities who held him political prisoner for 307 days, international human rights lawyers have weighed in on the situation.
Lawyers were asked by Mathaba as to the culpability of Tunisian authorities and the validity of the argument that the International People's Conference Organization has made that future prosecutions would be successful against any persons who had a part in the detention and hand-over of Dr Baghdadi.
There is a clear case regarding the handing over of Dr Baghdadi, which breaches international conventions and would no doubt secure prosecutions, the advice says. Regarding his detention in Tunisia, with the information to hand as available, there are also ground for prosecutions, although much further evidence would be required.
Tunisian legislators should surely be asking themselves if it is wise to be placing their own personal freedoms at risk on the principle of universal human rights and international conventions, applied to a man who is widely held to still be the lawful head of state of Libya, a respected academic, and a gentle character who serves his people faithfully.
It is in this context that the current situation in the Tunisian government must be seen. Those who distance themselves from authority by resigning from it, are making a powerful statement that can later be used in mitigation in future trials, provided they act quickly to resign positions, those going first having a stronger case, the lawyers advise.
The handover was sanctioned by Tunisian Premier Hamadi Jebali, leader of the Ennahda party which is the senior coalition member. There are persistent rumours that this took place as a result of financial inducement and other promises of oil by the Libyans.
There can be no doubting the pressure that the Libyans were putting on Tunisia to surrender Mahmoudi. Last month Libyan premier Abdurrahim Al-Kib and senior cabinet ministers visited Tunis to once more demand the extradition.
Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki, leader of the second largest party in the government, the Congress for the Republic, (CPR), has however quickly branded the extradition as illegal and said that it took place without his knowledge and without his permission.
His further actions rather than only statements, would very much determine his future fate at an international human rights trial or even in the event of a future regime change in Tunisia, easily possible under the volatile conditions of North Africa in the wake of the invasion of Libya, the lawyers and observers point out.
A sufficient number of legislators has signed up to demand a vote of no confidence in the prime minister over the issue, which would also distance those legislators from the legal ramifications which transcend Tunisian laws, human rights and international conventions typically transcending national boundaries.
It seems likely that the CPR and the junior coalition partner, Ettakatol will quit the government, observers say, while the legal advice is that such actions also indicate a clear position concerning the matter, provided there are not other benefits and the actions are taken directly related in time and manner to the illegality of the handover of Baghdadi.
President Marzouki who had opposed the return of Mahmoudi to Libya on human rights grounds has said in the wake of reports from human rights organizations and others that he does not believe that the Libyans will mount a fair trial and will protect Dr Baghdadi Mahmoudi from abuse.
Indeed within hours of his client’s arrival in Libya, Mahmoudi’s French lawyer claimed that the accused had been severely beaten and hospitalized with his injuries. The Libyan authorities deny this vigorously and claim Mahmoudi is in good health in prison and being seen "daily" by a doctor. They have yet to produce the prisoner to prove this.
Libya’s human rights record is subject to regular condemnation from the likes of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as by liberal pressure groups within the country itself. Part of the problem is the continuing existence of heavily-armed militia groups, whose violent excesses the occupying authorities have been unable to stem.
Indeed a militia in Zintan captured and is still refusing to hand over the biggest name from the old regime, Saif Gaddafi, the dead dictator’s son and heir apparent. The militia has since additionally detained four lawyers appointed by the International Criminal Court to defend the accused from its own accusations having placed him on an ICC list.
Reactions in Libya have been swift. The Tunisian embassy was attacked with a Molotov Cocktail thrown at it by a passing car, blowing up its rear gate, without causing any injuries to life, and a Tunisian fishing vessel was attacked and its captain shot dead.
Public protests against the current occupation regime, the "Transitional National Council" that was imposed by force of a one-year war against Libya by the U.S. and its European and Gulf Arab allies, are held as illegal by the regime and are dealt with by lethal force, opening fire on any protesters that dare to gather from among the many supporters of the Libyan Jamahiriya, even as tens of thousands remain incarcerated and suffer torture, often to death, at the hands of their captors.
There are around one million Libyan refugees from the war, most of them supporters of the Jamahiriya under which they lived a comfortable life in security, and more than half of these are in Tunisia. The border areas of Tunisia with Libya are also very supportive of Libya's Head of State, Dr Baghdadi, who in his position as General Secretary of the National People's Congress and General People's Committee of Libya, was on a visit to Tunisia on August 19th, 2011, during which two days later Tripoli was invaded.
He thus elected to remain in Tunisia but was apprehended on the same day, 21st August, and remained incarcerated, held incommunicado, with a host of lawyers appointed by foreign intelligence agencies seeking to "represent" him. A leader of the ruling Ennahda party is alleged to have presented false documents dismissing his genuine lawyers, who nonetheless have not been swayed and remained active in seeking his release.
Earlier this year, Dr Baghdadi although suffering from diabetes, and approaching 70 years of age, went on hunger strike for 2 weeks which almost cost him his life, in protest at his continued detention after the charges of "illegal entry" to Tunisia had been dropped, with evidence from his passport of the legal visa still affixed.
He thus became a political prisoner, even while still in his position as head of state of the Libyan Jamahiriya.
-- Please see related recent Mathaba news items on Dr Baghdadi via the links below: