An International Criminal Court team held in Libya could be freed if the ICC apologises to Tripoli over “inadequate consultation”, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Tuesday.
Carr travelled to Libya on Monday to meet top officials over the case of Australian Melinda Taylor, one of four ICC staff held in Zintan on June 7 after meeting Seif al-Islam, the detained son of dead dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The ICC wants to try Seif, 39, for crimes against humanity during his father’s rule. Tripoli insists he should be tried locally and filed on May 1 a motion challenging the ICC’s jurisdiction to put him on trial in The Hague.
In a statement, Carr said the ICC staff could be freed by the ICC “issuing a statement which addresses the concerns of Libyan authorities and extends an apology for inadequate consultation on protocol and procedures”.
“I’m confident that the Libyan government and even the authorities in Zintan are keen that the four detainees be released,” Carr added to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“And I’m quietly confident that with an appropriate form of words from the International Criminal Court, that they will respond sooner rather than later.”
Carr said Libyan judicial officials investigating the actions of the four detained staff — Taylor and colleagues from Lebanon, Russia and Spain, who had been helping Seif choose a defence lawyer — were close to a conclusion.
But he said there were “extreme sensitivities” in the case, in which Taylor has been accused of carrying a pen camera and attempting to give Seif a coded letter from his former right-hand man, Mohammed Ismail, who is on the run.
Australia is happy to be a broker between Libya and the ICC, Carr said after meeting interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib and other senior government officials.
“They recognise they’ve got to have a dialogue when this affair is settled, and I think Australia could play a role as good global citizen in facilitating it, and both of them are open to that suggestion,” he said.
There was “a lot of swirling resentment and hatred focused on Kadhafi in prison” and the ICC could have better protected its staff when it sent them to the country, Carr admitted.
“It’s certainly true that the Libyan authorities, not just the people in Zintan, formed the view that something wrong was done, that there had been a breach of trust,” Carr said.
“I believe the ICC would have been protecting its employees, Melinda Taylor included, better, if they had negotiated protocols and procedures with the Libyans before they allowed their people to go in.”
International pressure has been growing on Libya to release the ICC team, with the United Nations Security Council issuing a statement expressing “serious concern” over their detention.
Carr said Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz had told him the government would respond to the UN “as soon as possible”.
Seif has been held in Zintan, 180 kilometres (110 miles) southwest of Tripoli, since his arrest on November 19 last year.