By Michel Cousins.
Tripoli, 5 September:
Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib has rebutted calls for Abdullah Senussi to be handed over to the International Criminal Court for trial, insisting that he will receive a fair trial inside Libya.
The outgoing premier made the remarks at a press conference convened today, given by himself along with government spokesman Nasser Al-Manaa and Chief of Staff Yusuf Mangoush.
“Senussi will receive a fair trial in Libya”, Kib said. “International standards [of justice] will be met”.
Rights group Amnesty International reacted negatively to the news of Senussi’s extradition today, immediately questioning Libya’s ability to afford him a proper hearing.
“Instead of extraditing Abdullah Al-Senussi back to Libya, where he faces an unfair trial and the death penalty for ordinary crimes under national law, Mauritania should have given precedence to the ICC’s surrender request”, said Marek Marczyñski, Amnesty’s Justice Research, Policy and Campaign Manager.
Senussi is wanted by the ICC, along with Saif Qaddafi, on charges of crimes against humanity.
Human Rights Watch stopped short of calling for Senussi to be handed over to the court immediately, arguing instead that Libya should “abide by its international obligations to cooperate with the ICC.
“…Should the authorities want to prosecute [Senussi] in Libya for the same crimes as the ICC, they will have to challenge the court’s jurisdiction over the case as they have done for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The final decision would then rest with the ICC judges.”
Government spokesman Nasser Al-Manaa re-iterated the prime minister’s position that Senussi’s trial would not take place outside of Libya and described his extradition as “a victory of justice, a victory for the law and a victory for the revolution”.
He added that Senussi was in “excellent health” and that a medical report had been sent by the Mauritanians.
Manaa also said that any trial of Senussi would be transparent and held in public.
Asked to give details regarding the circumstances of Senussi’s rendition, the prime minister said that a ministerial delegation had recently travelled to the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott to secure Senussi’s release, including Minister of Justice Ali Ashour Ehmida, Minister of Finance Hassan Zaglam, Chief of Staff Mangoush and an official from the office of the attorney-general.
He refused to give further details.
The prime minister nevertheless thanked Mauritania for its “brotherly cooperation” in handing Senussi over, a tribute he likewise paid to Tunisia, which extradited former prime minister Baghdadi Al-Mahmoudi back in June.
He called on all other countries still holding senior Qaddafi-era officials to follow the example of these two countries and hand them over to Libya.
Questions were also raised as to how the extradition would affect relations with the ICC and with France, both of which have warrants outstanding for his arrest. In 1999, Senussi was convicted in absentia to life imprisonment in France over his involvement in the downing of an airliner over Niger ten years earlier, in which 170 people lost their lives.
Manaa said that talks had already been held with both the ICC and Paris and that Libya “will continue to have discussions” on the matter.