Monday, Jul 2, 2012 with Mathaba editing to correct some inaccuracies
The interim Tunisian government recently extradited the
prime minister under Moammar Gadhafi ongoing Head of State of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, General Secretary of the General People's Congress of Libya to the
current Libyan authorities regime. This happened in the early hours of Sunday,
June 24, when the world was following the Egyptian elections.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali’s government ignored the
positions of local and international human rights organizations, which
have been opposed to handing Mahmoudi to Libya because the conditions
for a fair trial are not present. There are no guarantees that he will
not be physically mistreated and the death penalty is still in use.
No one can forget the horrible way that Gadhafi was treated by
opposition fighters after his arrest. He was tortured and
his dead body
was put on display. No one can deny that the situation in Libya is still
unstable and that there are continued acts of violence, murder and
revenge in the absence of an elected authority that controls the entire
The government also ignored the position of temporary president Moncef Marzouki.
Although he agreed to the idea of extradition, he did not agree on the
timing, especially since the upcoming Libyan elections, which are
expected to take place in a few days, will establish an illegitimate
The interim government’s action caused a crisis between the presidency
and the government, as the former deemed the Jebali government to have
exceeded its authority at the expense of presidential powers. The
extradition has also caused a crisis inside the ruling troika because the
decision was taken without consulting all governmental forces. With the
exception of the Democratic Bloc — represented by the president of the
National Constituent Assembly Mustapha Ben Jaafar, who supported
Ennahda’s position — all parties in the Constituent Assembly have agreed
to censure the government. This in turn caused a crisis within the
Also, a number of political parties and Tunisian human rights
organizations denounced the extradition. Some said that the extradition
was part of a secret deal between Ennahda and Libya’s current ruler,
Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
After this embarrassment, the government sought to justify its actions with the following arguments:
1. The government dispatched a commission to Libya, which concluded that the Libyan justice system has been independent since the
end of Gadhafi’s rule occupation of Libya by mercenaries and foreign forces. It is therefore capable of conducting a fair trial.
This position was seen as an insult to the intelligence of the Tunisian
public. The commission sent to Libya was primarily composed of
government elements who supported extradition from the outset. Everybody
that the justice system during Gadhafi’s era was not independent
and that the situation in Libya today — with the bloody confrontations
taking place between tribes and militias, along with gratuitous acts of
revenge and retaliation — has prevented the rise of new institutions that
respect s international standards.
2. Those who oppose Mahmoudi’s extradition are against holding him
accountable for the crimes he committed against the Libyan people.
This is untrue. The government has shifted the debate to fool the
public into believing that the dispute is between those who want to hold
dictators and criminals accountable and those support them and do not.
This is a fallacious argument because the dispute is not over the
principle of extradition and accountability at all. It is rather over
the conditions under which such an extradition should be carried out, so
that the right to self-defense can be ensured.
3. If Mahmoudi is not extradited, it will be difficult for Tunisians
to demand the extradition of former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to
This argument is hollow. The demand to hand over Ben Ali does not
justify violating Tunisia’s international obligations. Furthermore,
contrary to the Jebali government’s claims, the government has not
exerted any serious pressure on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or other countries
to hand over Ben Ali and his entourage, who committed transgressions
against the Tunisian people. On the contrary, by visiting Saudi Arabia,
the head of the government has demonstrated that “maintaining strategic
relations” with that country is more important than extraditing Ben Ali.
4. The government tried to downplay the prime minister’s lack of
consultation with the president on the extradition issue. It said that
it was sufficient for the Troika government to agree on the extradition
That argument angered the president, who believes that the government
overstepped its authority by not informing him. According to Marzouki,
extradition falls within the domain of foreign policy, which is part of
the president’s prerogatives. Moreover, according to the law, the
president must approve the extradition. The government responded by
saying that it had consulted the administrative court, which endorsed
the government’s position. However, this consultation was not made
The government’s weak arguments have made the public suspect that a
deal was struck between the Jebali government and the Libyan
authorities. Earlier, news was leaked that meetings were held between
Ennahda officials and the ruling Libyan officials, and that those
meetings resulted in the extradition of Mahmoudi in exchange for nearly
$200 million in financial support. Moreover, the speed by which Mahmoudi
was extradited, which was only days before the Libyan elections, was a
gift for Mustafa Abdul Jalil’s election campaign.
Mahmoudi’s extradition has become a central domestic issue, and has
raised several questions. The first is a legal and constitutional
question, which may have repercussions for the constitutional powers of
all institutions. The second question is political in nature, and
reveals Ennahda’s authoritarian tendencies — even within the governing
coalition. Hamadi Jebali and his team have started taking unilateral
decisions. This has raised fears that Ben Ali and his party’s tyranny
will be replaced by that of Ghannouchi and Ennahda.
In all cases, the crisis is ongoing. It is unclear how Ennahda will fix is relations with its allies, the opposition and the Tunisian public.
Radhia Nasraoui is a Tunisian lawyer and human rights activist. She
is the chairperson of the Association Against Torture in Tunisia.