At the opening session of the Pan African Parliament in Midrand on Monday, Niger’s minister of foreign affairs, Mohamed Bazoum was adamant that his country would not accede to an extradition request for Muammar Gaddafi’s third son, Saadi. Libya’s National Transitional Council is eager to try Saadi on charges of corruption but Niger refuses to send him home to face the full wrath of Libya’s new rulers. By KHADIJA PATEL.
Saadi Gaddafi was reputed to be the “nicest” of the Gaddafi men. He had little to do with the family business that was the Libyan government. When the first demonstrations against Gaddafi broke out earlier this year, Saadi was rumoured to have been in Los Angeles. After a failed career as a professional footballer, Saadi was trying to make a mark as a Hollywood film producer. Success, however, seemed to elude him, and his vulnerabilities were revealed when rebels found the English language self-help book “Success Intelligence” in his master bedroom. Saadi’s most notable contribution to running the country was in his role as the head of the Libyan Football Federation. It is in this role that he is accused to have misappropriated property and engaged in “armed intimidation”.
Saadi Gaddafi travelled to neighbouring Niger in a convoy along with eight others last month. Nigerien authorities originally claimed that Saadi and his companions were being allowed into the country on humanitarian grounds. Saadi was subsequently placed under “virtual” house arrest at Villa Verde, a state guesthouse next to the presidential palace in the capital Niamey.
While war has continued to rage in his native Libya, Saadi has been able to live in the lap of luxury in Niger. Requests from Libya’s de facto rulers, the National Transitional Council (NTC), for Niger to extradite Saadi to Tripoli have been met with blunt refusals. Niger contends that Saadi would in effect be sent to his death in Libya. The NTC has however stepped up efforts to extradite the former footballer. Last week, Interpol issued a “red alert” against Saadi for crimes of corruption and exploitation in his role at the helm of the country’s football body.
In a statement released last week, Interpol said, “The Red Notice for the (Saadi) represents a regional and international alert to countries neighbouring Libya and Niger, and those with travel connections to Niger, to seek their help in locating and arresting (Saadi) Gaddafi, with a view to returning him to Libya where an arrest warrant for him has been issued by the General Attorney at the Office of the Public Prosecutor.” Significantly, the “red notice” is not an international arrest warrant in itself but acts as an advisory to Interpol member states to enforce the extradition of wanted persons.
On Saturday, the government of Niger said the NTC was welcome to question Saadi in Niamey but it was unlikely that he would be extradited to Libya any time soon. Speaking on national television, Niger’s minister of justice and government spokesman Marou Amadou said, “If it is to question Saadi, the NTC, which we have recognised, can freely come to Niger. However, I reaffirm that at this stage…there is no possibility of extraditing Saadi, because ultimately what needs to be applied is international conventions.”
At a press briefing during the opening of a new session the Pan African Parliament on Monday, iMaverick asked Niger’s minister of foreign affairs, Mohamed Bazoum, to explain his country’s decision not to extradite Saadi.
Bazoum first clarified that there was no international warrant of arrest for Saadi. “Saadi Gaddafi is not sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he said, before continuing to list the warrants of arrest issued by the ICC for Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi. “Saadi,” the Nigerien minister said, “is forbidden from travelling”, according to a United Nations resolution that restricts the movements of Gaddafi and his close aides. Bazoum further claims that the NTC was invited to interview Saadi on 22 September but the Libyan delegation did not arrive.
The Interpol alert against Saadi places the Niger government in a curious position. Niger, as Bazoum, pointed out, despite being a signatory of Interpol, refuses to extradite Saadi to Libya. “We cannot extradite a citizen to a country without the assurance of equitable justice,” Bazoum said. He reiterated Niger’s adherence to Interpol protocol and acknowledged that the stance taken on Saadi was “contradictory”.
Bazoum however stressed the lack of authority in Libya. “In Libya there is no government,” he said. “You are informed about the reports of human rights abuses in Libyan prisons. Human Rights Watch yesterday revealed new findings about the conditions in Libyan prisons.” In its most recent report on Libya, Human Rights Watch revealed that it has visited 20 detention facilities in Tripoli and interviewed 53 detainees. The detainees reported mistreatment in six facilities, including beatings and the use of electric shock, and some of them showed scars to support the claims. None had been brought before a judge. Citing such conditions, Bazoum emphasised that Niger was bound by humanitarian obligations, which required that Saadi receive a fair trial and humane imprisonment.
Saadi has certainly avoided extradition for the time being but Niger will eventually have to relent. Bazoum revealed that Niger continues to study the allegations against Saadi. “Niger,” he said, “will not protect individuals who face charges for economic crimes.”
Saadi, however, is yet to be silenced. On Sunday he said in an email to Associated Press that he “regrets the issue of a red notice by Interpol and strenuously denies the charges made against him”. He called the Interpol notice a “clear political decision to recognise the de jure authority of the National Transitional Council taken without appropriate regard to the current absence of a functioning, effective and fair system of justice in Libya”. DM
"Man is by nature a political animal" ~ Aristotle