The presidents of two UN-backed courts this week joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in calling for the immediate release of four staff members who were detained in Libya earlier this month. The Presidents of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; statement] and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website; statement] said in statements on their respective websites that they oppose the detentions, calling them "unacceptable" and "deplorable." The four ICC staff members traveled to Libya last week to meet with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] and were detained on Thursday. Among the detainees is Melinda Taylor, an Australian lawyer working for the ICC. A representative for the Libyan courts said that Taylor attempted to give documents to Saif al-Islam that were from his former aid, Mohammed Ismail, who has been in hiding since the Libyan conflict [JURIST backgrounder] began. ICTR president Vagn Joensen said he would assist the ICC in any way he could:
This deplorable situation affecting our sister institution is wholly unacceptableimmunity of staff on official mission of an international court is of paramount importance to that court's ability to properly function. I stand ready to assist in any way that may be requested in order to help ensure the safe return of the detained ICC staff members.Libyan authorities have reportedly refused to release [NYT report] Taylor, but have given two of the other three detainees permission to leave. The two freed staff members have allegedly chosen to stay in support of their fellow ICC employees. A judicial source in Libya has said authorities may continue to detain the ICC staff for up to 45 days [JURIST report].
The Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs reported that on Tuesday three officials from the ICC and the Australian ambassador to Libya were able to visit [JURIST report] and assess the condition of the four ICC staff members. A spokesperson for the ICC said earlier on Tuesday that the Libyan government had failed to explain [JURIST report] why the four ICC staff members were detained, and that their continued detention is a violation of international law. The issue of which court is going to try Saif al-Islam has been a point of contention between Libya and the ICC since he was captured [JURIST report] by Libyan rebel forces in November. Earlier this month, a pre-trial chamber of the ICC granted a request by the Libyan government to postpone an order to transfer Saif al-Islam to ICC custody, after the Libyan government formally challenged [JURIST reports] the right of the ICC to try Saif al-Islam last month. In April, ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo asked the ICC to report Libya to the UN Security Council [JURIST report] for failing to turn over Saif al-Islam. Libya expressly denied [JURIST report] the ICC's request for such action and stated that Saif al-Islam will face trial within the country.