Australian FM Carr heads to Libya to seek ICC lawyer’s release

June 19th, 2012 - 12:51 am ICT by BNO News  

TRIPOLI, LIBYA (BNO NEWS) — Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr on Monday morning traveled to Libya to personally push for the release of four detained staff members of the International Criminal Court (ICC), including an Australian lawyer, who face up to 45 days in preventive detention.

Senator Carr, who was already in the region for one-day meetings in Algeria and Morocco and a meeting of the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative in Istanbul, arrived in Libya at 9 a.m. local time. But he said he has only “modest expectations” from the visit because Libyan authorities have said the ICC staff faces an investigative process.

“Along with our Ambassador David Ritchie, I will be pursuing again the case for full consular access, for contact between (Australian ICC lawyer) Ms. Taylor and her family, and for a swift end to her detention,” Carr said on early Monday before leaving for Libya. “I am cautious about commenting on the specifics of the allegations, and have modest expectations from the talks today.”

Carr said he would press the case that Taylor is in Libya under the mandate of the ICC and the United Nations (UN) Security Council, which provides a legal immunity. “It is Australia’s view that Ms. Taylor should be afforded consular access, and should no longer be detained,” he said.

The staff members were detained on June 7 when they traveled to the city of Zintan where Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader, is being held. Saif Al-Islam, who was captured in November 2011 following a months-long civil war, has been indicted by the UN-backed court for crimes against humanity. Libyan authorities have so far refused to hand over Saif Al-Islam to face trial in the Netherlands, the seat of the ICC.

Among those detained is 36-year-old Australian ICC lawyer Melinda Taylor who has been appointed to represent Saif Al-Islam. Members of the brigade holding him have accused Taylor of attempting to pass on ‘dangerous documents’ to him, including a letter from a former confidante of his who is now on the run in Egypt. Reporters were previously shown the documents from a short distance but have not been allowed to read them.

ICC officials have said they wish to address any “regrettable misunderstandings”, but have emphasized that ICC suspects have the right to communicate freely and in confidence with their lawyers. “Such communication may include discussing and exchanging documents and discussing potential witnesses and defense positions in the case,” the Court previously said.

Last week, judicial officials in Libya said it had been decided to put the ICC staff members in preventive detention for 45 days while an investigation is being carried out. The other staff members have been identified as 60-year-old Alexander Khodakov from Russia, 48-year-old Esteban Peralta Losilla from Spain, and Helene Assaf (born in 1978) from Lebanon.

On Friday, the UN Security Council expressed its “serious concern” over the detention of the ICC staff members and urged Libyan authorities at all levels to work towards their immediate release. “The members of the Security Council emphasize that it is the legal obligation of Libya under the Council’s resolution 1970 (2011) to cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the ICC pursuant to that resolution,” the 15-member body said in a statement.

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