TRIPOLI/ZINTAN — A delegation for the International Criminal Court has been detained in Libya after one of its lawyers was found to be carrying suspicious documents for Muammar Gaddafi’s captured son, a Libyan lawyer and a militia said on Saturday.
The Australian lawyer, named as Melinda Taylor, was part of a four-member ICC delegation that travelled to the small western mountain town of Zintan to meet Saif al-Islam, who has been held there since his desert capture in November.
The president of the international war crimes court said the four staff members had been detained since Thursday, and demanded their immediate release.
Reflecting Libya’s wider problem of powerful local militias and a weak central government, the brigade holding Gaddafi’s Western-educated son said it would not heed the government’s requests to release the four before questioning them.
Saif al-Islam is wanted by the ICC for crimes from last year’s war, but Tripoli wants to try him in his home country.
“During a visit (to Saif al-Islam), the lawyer tried to deliver documents to him, letters that represent a danger to the security of Libya,” said Ahmed al-Jehani, the Libyan lawyer in charge of the Saif al-Islam case on behalf of Libya, and who liaises between the government and The Hague-based ICC.
Jehani said the documents were from several people including Saif al-Islam’s former right-hand man Mohammed Ismail. He said blank documents signed by Saif al-Islam had also been found.
“She is not in jail. She is being detained in a guesthouse, her colleagues are with her,” he told Reuters. Asked whether she would be released soon, Jehani said: “I hope today.”
However in Zintan — a small town of 35,000 people - Alajmi Ali Ahmed al-Atiri, the head of the brigade which captured Saif al-Islam, said there were no such plans.
He said “spying and recording” materials had been found when members of the delegation were searched.
The ICC delegation travelled to Libya on Wednesday and had planned to meet Saif al-Islam in Zintan to discuss his defence arrangements, the court said in a statement late on Saturday.
“We are very concerned about the safety of our staff in the absence of any contact with them,” ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song said in a statement late on Saturday.
“These four international civil servants have immunity when on an official ICC mission. I call on the Libyan authorities to immediately take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and security and to liberate them.”
The ICC has previously expressed concern at the conditions under which Saif al-Islam is being held in Libya. Human rights groups have also questioned whether Libya’s justice system can meet the standards of international law. — Reuters