Libya: today's release of ICC staff welcomed, but fairness of Saif Gaddafi trial remains in doubt
New report on militias in Libya to be published on 5 July
Amnesty International has welcomed the release of four International Criminal Court staff members in Libya today, while criticising their “unacceptable detention” by a Libyan militia for more than three weeks.
The authorities in the remote western town of Zintan had held the four since 7 June after they met Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi. News of their release came as ICC President Sang-hyun Song visited Libya on Monday.
The authorities had accused one of the group - Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor - of espionage, alleging she had attempted to smuggle documents to Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi. Taylor and her colleagues Helene Assaf from Lebanon, Russian Alexander Khodakov and Spaniard Esteban Peralta Losilla, had been held in the custody of a militia group in Zintan.
Amnesty International Justice Research, Policy and Campaign Manager Marek Marczyński said:
“The release of these four ICC staff members is a very welcome development, but their detention by the Libyan authorities for more than three weeks was totally unacceptable.
“Not only has it denied them their liberty and stopped them from performing their functions, but it has also undermined Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi's right to an effective defence and delayed the ICC’s decision on the Libyan authorities’ recent application to bring him to trial in Libyan courts.
“Both the legality of Libya’s detention of the ICC staff and the authorities’ allegations against them must be fully investigated in accordance with the appropriate ICC procedures and the results made public.
“The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber should also review the impact of this detention and take effective measures to ensure that the defence has adequate time and facilities to re-engage in the current proceedings against Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi to determine where he should be prosecuted.
“If Libya's application to prosecute Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi nationally is rejected, he must be surrendered to the ICC without further delay.”
Amnesty believes that the ICC staff members’ detention shows that the Libyan authorities are not taking seriously Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s right to an effective defence, and that he will not receive a fair trial if he is prosecuted in Libya.
Meanwhile, later this week - on 5 July (two days before national elections are scheduled to take place in Libya) - Amnesty will release a new report showing how human rights abuses by militia groups risk overshadowing this historic moment. During the last year thousands of suspected al-Gaddafi loyalists and soldiers have been detained, many by armed militias in unofficial detention facilities. They are vulnerable to torture or other ill-treatment. The vast majority have not been officially charged and have no access to lawyers.