(Beirut) – Libya should ensure that two Libyans with ties to the previous government of Muammar Gaddafi who were extradited from Egypt on March 26, 2013, are treated humanely and granted their full due process rights. Libya should grant humanitarian and human rights organizations access to them to monitor their detention conditions and treatment and respect for their basic rights as detainees – including giving them access to a lawyer and promptly taking them before a judge.
Egypt and other countries asked to extradite people to Libya should only arrest and hand over suspects if Libya credibly guarantees that it has ended the risk of torture or ill-treatment in detention, Human Rights Watch said. Before sending a detainee to Libya, the Egyptian and other authorities responsible need to be satisfied that the person’s fundamental rights will not be violated, such as through arbitrary detention or a blatantly unfair trial.
“Holding former Gaddafi officials and others to account for past crimes is an important step for Libyans to achieve justice,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “But given the current level of abuse of detainees in Libya, no one facing trial should be sent back there unless the government can prove that they won’t be abused or denied a fair trial.”
Libya should provide credible guarantees that the detainees’ rights will be protected, including providing the detainees with a prompt judicial review and promptly informing them of any criminal charges against them. Anyone who is to be extradited should be given the opportunity to challenge their extradition beforehand if they fear torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, persecution based on their identity or beliefs, or other violations of human rights upon their return, Human Rights Watch said.
Egyptian authorities arrested three people wanted by Libya on March 19 – Ahmed Gaddaf el Dam, Ali Marya, and Mohamed Ibrahim Mansour. Egypt extradited Marya, Gaddafi’s ambassador to Egypt, and Mansour, a private businessman and brother of former government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, to Libya on March 26. Libyan media have reported that the two are expected to face trial for financial corruption.
El Dam, a relative of Gaddafi who played a key role in Libyan relations with Egypt, is awaiting his extradition to Libya in Tora prison in Cairo. There is no official information on the status of his transfer to Libya, and his lawyer has challenged the pending extradition claiming he has Egyptian citizenship, although the office of international cooperation of the Egyptian public prosecution office has disputed that claim.
Marya’s family told Human Rights Watch that 10 to 15 Egyptian security forces, some in plain clothes and others in military fatigues, awakened the family at about 2 a.m. on March 19 at their home. The security officials arrested Marya and took him, along with his passport and mobile phone, to an undisclosed location. The law enforcement agents refused to show the family an arrest warrant or identify themselves, although the family saw police cars parked outside the house, family members said.
Marya’s family said that neither they nor his lawyer were able to visit him in custody in Egypt and that the Egyptian authorities did not inform them beforehand about his extradition. They learned about the transfer from a TV station, Al Assema, the night it occurred. The family has not had any contact with Marya in Libya, but said they will submit a request to visit him to the Libyan Prosecutor General’s office.
Many Libyans who worked officially or unofficially for the previous government fled Libya in mid-2011 after Gaddafi fell, most of them to Egypt and Tunisia. According to a New York Times report, the new Libyan government in 2012 gave the Egyptians a list with 40 people they wanted arrested. Libya recently gave Egypt a list with another 88 wanted people. According to the same news report, Libya was preparing to deposit $2 billion in the Egyptian central bank, raising concerns about a possible “quid pro quo” deal between the two countries to hand over dozens of former Gaddafi loyalists who had found refuge in Egypt.
A report in the Egypt Independent mentions more Libyan support for Egypt in the form of 1 million barrels of crude oil, to be refined in Egypt.
On June 24, 2012, Tunisia extradited the former Libyan prime minister, al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, to Libya. Al-Mahmoudi had fled Libya in September 2011 and was arrested by Tunisian authorities that month. Human Rights Watch visited him in prison in Tripoli in July 2012, where he alleged ill-treatment by the Tunisian authorities. Al-Mahmoudi is currently on trial in Libya on charges that include financial corruption and ordering mass rapes during the 2011 conflict.
In September 2012, Mauritania extradited Abdullah Senussi, the former chief of intelligence under Gaddafi, to Libya. Senussi is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. A French court has also sentenced Senussi in absentia to life
in prison in France for his alleged involvement in the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Niger, which resulted in 170 deaths. Senussi’s trial in Libya for his alleged role in the 2011 conflict and other crimes has yet to start.
Human Rights Watch has previously reported on the challenges facing the Libyan judicial system, including abuse in custody, denied access to lawyers, and the lack of judicial reviews. Libya should provide access to extradited people and all other detainees to local and international human rights organizations that can monitor their conditions, Human Rights Watch said.
The government acknowledges that about 8,000 people are being detained across Libya, but only about 5,600 of them are in facilities controlled to some degree by the government or military. The rest are held illegally by various militias without access to lawyers, some in secret prisons. Any form of judicial review of detention still seems to be very limited and sporadic. Under international law, detaining a person without prompt judicial review is automatically considered arbitrary detention.
Deaths in custody still occur, particularly in facilities run by armed militias and the various Supreme Security Committees – bodies that operate nominally under the Interior Ministry. The exact number of deaths is not known.
The Libyan authorities should ensure that all detainees are transferred to facilities under the control of the government and that detainees are promptly taken before a judge or judicial body to review the legality of their detention and order their immediate release if their detention is not lawfully justified. Only those against whom there is evidence of involvement in serious crimes should be charged, Human Rights Watch said.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Libya ratified 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, or absolute, meaning they are applicable at all times, including during emergencies.
International law prohibits extraditing or otherwise transferring anyone to a country where the person is likely to face torture, Human Rights Watch said. Article 3 of the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) imposes an obligation not to return a person to any place where the person is in danger of being subjected to torture. Tunisia ratified the Convention against Torture in 1988. Egypt ratified the torture convention in 1986 and Libya in 1989.
“Libya understandably wants to prosecute people who committed serious crimes,” Houry said. “But other countries should not cooperate and send people there unless Libya proves that it will respect the law, treat detainees humanely, and give them their rights.”