The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, has appealed to the Libyan transitional government to immediately release four of its staff members, including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, detained in the North African country since last week.
The ICC delegation was detained in the town of Zintan on Thursday last after they met with Saif al-Islam, the son of former Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi. They have since been placed in preventive detention for 45 days.
Libyan officials said later that the delegation was detained after Melinda Taylor passed some coded documents from former Qadhafi regime henchman Mohammed Ismail, who is currently Libya's most wanted man, to Saif during their meeting. Incidentally, Melinda was appointed by the ICC to represent Saif in the case brought against him.
"We are very concerned about the safety of our staff in the absence of any contact with them. These four international civil servants have immunity when on an official ICC mission," ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, said in a news release issued over the weekend.
"I call on the Libyan authorities to immediately take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and security and to liberate them," he added, noting that the ICC is communicating with the relevant authorities in Libya to ensure their release.
According to the news release, the ICC staff members traveled to Libya last week to meet with Saif al-Islam Qadhafi in Zintan in line with an earlier pre-trial chamber decision. It said the trip marked a privileged visit by the Office of Public Counsel for the defense.
The pre-trial Chamber decision, made in April, was related to the roles of Saif and Libya's former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanousi in attacks against protesters and rebels during Libya's pro-democracy uprising last year.
Saif is under detention in Zintan after being captured by the rebel forces in Libya's southern desert in November. Senussi was arrested in Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott in March, and has since been charged with entering the West African nation illegally.
In addition to Melinda Taylor, the ICC delegation that visited Saif in Zintan last week also included members of the ICC Registry, who were planning to discuss with Saif the option to appoint counsel of his own choosing.
According to the ICC, Libya had earlier made a submission to the pre-trial chamber assuring that it would facilitate access to Saif by his lawyers. This agreement had been further confirmed during the contacts between the Libyan government and the ICC Registry.
The ICC added that the U.N. Security Council that authorized the U.N.-backed court to look into the Libyan situation requires Libya to cooperate fully with the international court, and respect the legal regime imposed by the Rome Statute which emphasizes the rights of the suspects to have privileged contacts with their lawyers.
In the news release, the ICC expressed hopes that the detention of its staff will be "speedily resolved in the spirit of the cooperation that has existed between the Court and the Libyan authorities."
The ICC was established in 2002 as the world's first permanent war crimes court to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. It is authorized to try cases involving individuals charged with war crimes committed since July 2002.
by RTT Staff Writer
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