Updates on Melinda Taylor, Helene Assaf and ICC Staff Detained in Libya

Dear readers,

I have decided to create a post dedicated to updates on the ICC staff detained in Libya. Unfortunately, the media is likely to tire of this story quickly and I figured JiC could contribute to creating a space where information and news on the situation could be shared. I had begun culling articles on my previous post, but it would seem to make more sense to simply have one post dedicated to emerging news on the situations facing Melinda Taylor, Helene Assaf, Alexander Khodakov, and Esteban Losilla. 

I will update this page whenever new information comes in. If you have articles or sources to share, please don’t hesitate to do so, either by contacting me or in the comment section. 

Here’s hoping this debacle ends soon.

Mark

(Photo: Suhaib Salem / Reuters)

June 13: A convoy, which included the Ambassadors of Australia, Lebanon, Spain, and Russia as well as ICC officials, was able to visit with Melinda Taylor and the detained staff. However, according to Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, it appears unlikely that they will receive an early release. Carr also relayed reports on the conditions in the prison, saying they were “were generally adequate” and that “Taylor appeared to be well and in reasonable spirits given the circumstances.”

For those interested, you can watch an interview with Taylor’s parents here.

The Libyan leadership has been described as “powerless” to release the four ICC staff members.

June 14: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has added his voice behind efforts to release the ICC staff, saying ”I strongly regret that certain groups in Libya have arrest or withheld representatives of the International Criminal Court. I would urge them to release these individuals as soon as possible.” (see also here)

Melinda Taylor’s husband, Geoff Roberts, who, like Taylor, is an international criminal lawyer, has spoken about the ordeal. He has suggested that Libya’s behaviour should be reflected in the country’s admissibility challenge: ”If they can’t protect their own people when they go into these dangerous places, how will it work? Unless they can protect their staff, these courts can’t function.”

Kate and Amanda, of the fantastic blog Wronging Rights, have a salient piece at The Atlantic where they consider what the arrest of the ICC staff will have on the Court’s ability to investigate in fragile conflict and post-conflict contexts.

This piece by Rory Callinan argues that troubles in providing Saif with a fair defense started long before the most recent visit by the ICC staff. He further suggests that pre-existing tensions contributed to the situation Melinda Taylor et al find themselves in.  Senior ICC defense counsel, Xavier-Jean Keita, for whom Taylor worked, has previously been barred from visiting Saif because of fears that his African heritage might put him at risk. Black Africans are often assumed to have been Gaddafi mercenaries. Nick Kaufman, who is currently representing Muammar Gaddafi’s daugher, Aisha, said that the Defense’s filing of sharp critiques of Saif’s captors “contributed to creating a highly flammable atmosphere in Zintan and if you ask me, I believe Melinda has fallen victim of this hostility which is because of the intensity of the litigation…There is no doubt that these filings contributed to cementing the, shall we say, anger of the local authorities holding Saif, against Melinda and her superior.”

Writing in the New York Times, Marlise Simons confirms that  Khodakov and Losilla have been told they are free to leave Zintan but that they have remained in order to provide “moral support” to Melinda Taylor and Helene Assaf. Simons also quotes Ahmed al-Gehani, a Libyan lawyer who was to be the ICC staff’s liaison when meeting Saif. Gehani confirms that the staff are being held in order to leverage their freedom for information: “[Taylor] had not wanted to answer any questions — this has been the problem from the start.”

June 15: Geoff Roberts, Taylor’s husband, fears that the arrest of the ICC staff will put all Court employees at risk.

According to this France24 piece, the four ICC staff members are in good health. The article also quotes the Court as saying:

“The court is very keen to address any regrettable misunderstandings on either side about the delegation’s mandate and activities during its mission in Libya….The ICC expresses its strong hope that the release of the four persons will take place with no delay in the spirit of cooperation that has existed between the court and the Libyan authorities.”

The UN Security Council made a brief statement regarding Melinda Taylor and the four ICC staff members:

The following Security Council press statement was issued today by Council President Li Baodong ( China):

The members of the Security Council express serious concern over the detention in Libya since 7 June 2012 of the International Criminal Court (ICC) staff members, and urge Libyan authorities at all levels and all concerned to work towards immediate release of all the ICC staff members.

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.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, welcomed the news, stating that he was “heartened at the strong international support for a swift resolution in this matter.” Carr also reiterated that the Australian government is working to have Talyor’s case expedited but remains cautious and hesitant in commenting on the allegations against the ICC staff members.

Make sure you check out the always insightful Kevin Jon Heller’s take (and the comment section below) on whether or not the ICC staff are entitled to diplomatic immunity. While it is less clear than many (including myself) have made it out to be, Heller concludes that there is a good argument to make that Taylor et al do, in fact, qualify for diplomatic immunity:

I do think there is a persuasive argument in favor of immunity: paragraph 5 of SC Res. 1970, which provides, as part of the Security Council’s referral of the situation in Libya to the ICC, that “the Libyan authorities shall cooperate fully with and provide any necessary assistance to the Court and the Prosecutor pursuant to this resolution.”  The cooperation obligation in paragraph 5, I believe, requires Libya to honor the substantive provisions of the APIC; the argument parallels Dapo Akande’s compelling claim that the Security Council’s referral of the Darfur situation implicitly removed Bashir’s Head-of-State immunity.  Basing immunity on paragraph 5 seems much stronger to me than arguing that all members of international organizations have immunity under customary international law.  Moreover, emphasizing paragraph 5 should serve as a stark reminder to the Security Council that it has a legal — and not simply moral — obligation to do everything in its power to end Taylor and her translator’s indefensible detention.

June 16: In an article in the Libya Herald, George Grant suggests that some of the allegations against Melinda Taylor and Helene Assaf may be true and points out that the ICC has not denied them:

In the statement, the ICC failed to offer a refutation of the allegations being made against Taylor and her Lebanese interpreter, Helene Assaf, and the court has yet to do so. In recent days, a number of informed sources have suggested to the Libya Herald that some of the allegations may in fact be credible…

…When asked by the Libya Herald whether the ICC would issue a formal denial of the charges, Fadi El Abdullah, the court’s official spokesman, said: “No, we are not saying that… This is speculation in the media. Our official interlocutor has not given us any information from the Libyan authorities [about the allegations]”. Abdullah said that until such a formal submission was received, the ICC would not confirm or deny the claims.

June 17: According to Reuters, Libyan authorities want the cooperation of the ICC in investigating the Court’s detained staff members. The article quotes Libya’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Abdel Azis as saying:

“We are fully committed to solving this problem speedily but what we need is the cooperation of the International Criminal Court…

…We will be more than happy to even have a joint investigation … They have not given us anything at this particular moment and we are very much waiting for them to come forward with some possible scenarios on how to solve this problem.”

Aziz also confirmed that another visit by ICC officials to the detained staff members in Zintan would go ahead today. The Deputy Foreign Minister further responded the UN Security Council’s expressed concern at the ongoing diplomatic row, saying “I would say the international community should be fair to Libya. You cannot continue to always push Libya to do this, to do that. There is the other side of the coin that has to be addressed too.”

June 18: Dapo Akande, writing at the phenomenal blog, EJIL:Talk!, goes through the legal arguments regarding whether or not Taylor and the ICC staff have diplomatic immunity. Here’s a taste:

“…the very referral of the Libyan situation to the ICC implies an imposition of the ICC Statute on Libya. I made this argument in my 2009 Journal of International Criminal Justice article on Al Bashir’s immunities with the relevant bits extracted in this previous EJIL:Talk! post.

Libya can hardly complain that the provisions of the Statute are regarded as binding on it. After all, Libya itself has just argued, in the context of its application to postpone the surrender of Saif Gaddafi, that it is the Statute that defines its cooperation obligations….

…So, Libya is bound by Article 48 of the Rome Statute to accord immunities to ICC staff as are necessary for the performance of their functions, and also to accord such treatment to counsel as is necessary for the proper functioning of the court…

…The wording of Art. 48 should be sufficient to indicate that ICC staff, defence counsel and those working for the defence are immune from legal process in Libya. In order to perform their functions they must be free from arrest and from legal process in the country where they are carrying out their work.”

Barak Barfi and Jason Pack have an insightful article in The Australian where they discuss the wider political context surrounding the detention of Taylor and Assaf. The piece focuses primarily on the political three-way tug-of-war between the ICC, Libya and the Zintani rebels who have custody of Saif as well as the difficulties Libya is having in trying Gaddafi’s son:

…although they are the “legitimate” actors in this saga, it is a non-state actor, the militia from the city of Zintan that captured Gaddafi, who holds most of the cards…

…More troublesome is the state of the Libyan investigation. Ahmad Gehani, the NTC’s liaison with the ICC, told court officials in March that the murder case against Gaddafi “had been terminated because they had no evidence against him”. In lieu of prosecuting him for crimes against humanity, he is being held on charges of not possessing a camel licence and the dubious hygienic conditions on his fish farms.

Though the NTC will eventually bring murder charges against him, the obstacles preventing it from swiftly doing so are reflective of the deeper challenges Libya faces…

…The NTC has few professional judicial officials it can rely on to prosecute Saif al-Islam’s case in a way that would demonstrate to observers that he could receive a fair trial in Libya. Indeed, the NTC’s latest brief before the ICC was written by British law professors rather than members of the Libyan Justice Ministry…

…In arresting Taylor and her colleagues, the NTC has sought to hamstring the ICC’s investigation while sending the court a message Libya will not tolerate an infringement of its sovereignty. In today’s Libya, the NTC does not have a monopoly on force. Far from it. It is the countless militias that effectively control the country…

…Caught in the whirlwind is Taylor, whose bosses at the ICC do not fully appreciate how power is bifurcated between the militias and the NTC in the new Libya. To hold on to its last shred of legitimacy, the NTC cannot be perceived as kowtowing to the international community’s diktats.

According to Reuters, CNN and ABC, Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr is heading to Libya to seek the release of Melinda Taylor. Carr apparently met Libya’s interim Foreign Minister earlier, in Turkey. ABC quotes Carr on his upcoming visit:

“I think it’s important to press the case of Melinda Taylor first-hand with the Libyan authorities to underline how important it is to Australia…I’ve got very low expectations of any immediate outcome but it will serve at least to remind them that we’re watching, that we continue to be concerned with her condition and we want her released as soon as possible because she was working for the ICC.”

According to the Libya Herald,

Carr met with both Prime Minister Abdurrahman El-Kib and Foreign Minister Ashour Bin Khayal in a bid to step up pressure on the government to release Taylor, who is an Australian national, from custody in Zintan……according to one informed source close to Carr, is that it may lead to the government’s challenging Taylor’s right to diplomatic immunity, which she currently holds by virtue of her status as an appointed representative of the ICC. “I’m not saying one could lead directly to the other”, the source said, “but things might start to head in that direction”.A spokesman for Carr confirmed to the Libya Herald that the minister had yet to be provided with any evidence regarding the allegations, although he did not speculate as to whether or not the evidence actually exists.The spokesman added that Carr had offered to mediate discussions between the ICC and the government, if that would help to expedite a speedy resolution to the matter, and Taylor’s release.

June 19: Numerous sources are reporting that Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr believes that Melinda Taylor and the ICC staff detained in Libya could be released if the ICC apologizes to Libya. Moreover, Carr criticized the ICC for not having sufficient standards and protocols in place for lawyers working in fragile contexts such as Libya: “Without that, I believe the ICC team were left somewhat exposed to those misunderstandings.”  Here’s a transcript between Carr and an ABC reporter, Alexandra Kirk:

BOB CARR: I accept absolutely the goodwill of the leadership and I believe that they want the detainees released. There’s no advantage for them in continuing the hold the four detainees or employees of the International Criminal Court.

What would help – what would help, I’m coming to a proposal and putting to the ICC, in the form of words from the ICC that expresses regret, even apology about approaches to this very fraught justice question, which weren’t preceded by agreement on protocol and conventions.

I believe that it would have been far better for the ICC to have settled with the government of Libya on the procedures before they sent Melinda Taylor and her colleagues into Zintan.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In other words they, what, rode roughshod over the processes in Libya?

BOB CARR: Oh I wouldn’t use words as harsh as that. They had a job to do. They sent a team down here to do it, but they sent a team into a very fraught political situation, and there is a Libyan perception that something wrong was done in the process of the team talking to Mr Gaddafi.

I think we’ve got to get over that hurdle, and I believe if the ICC offers a form of words then there’s little doubt about the national government in Libya and their desire to get beyond what to them is an embarrassment – that is the detaining of people doing a job for the ICC.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Is the ICC willing to apologise to the Libyan government?

BOB CARR: I’ve just had a meeting with ICC people here and I’ll be raising the matter with Judge Song ahead of the ICC. I believe that, certainly based on what I heard from the team, they’ve already used words in talking in Zintan to officials of the government that easily go that distance.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Has Melinda Taylor been accused of spying?

BOB CARR: I don’t want to enter the language and the charges and the allegations and the… in the defences. I’m not in a position to do that.

I spoke to the ICC lawyers who were there when all four of the detainees were interviewed by the prosecutor. They fully cooperated.

I believe that we’re pretty close to being able to say that the judicial investigation is complete. That would open the way to a release of the detainees, which is what we Australians want for so much when it comes to Melinda Taylor.

I’ve offered Australia’s facilitation in interaction between the Libyan government and the court, and I’ve offered assistance in seeing that Libyan concerns and perspectives can be taken into account in respect of the criminal proceedings underway in Libya.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: So you’re offering to act as an intermediary?

BOB CARR: I’m happy to have Australia act as an intermediary, to see that the concerns of what is a democratic leadership at the head of a transitional council in Libya – in particular their prime minister, their foreign minister, their deputy prime minister.

Their concerns are reflected in ICC procedures and practices and protocols when it comes to what is an extremely emotional case inside this country, namely the treatment of the person who is now the embodiment of the dictatorship that oppressed and exploited the people of Libya for so many decades.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: How quickly do you think Melinda Taylor and her colleagues could be released?

BOB CARR: Too many imponderables to settle on a timetable or to place timing on the roadmap. But I think we’ve got a roadmap in place, and there is goodwill from the prime minister of Libya, remarkable goodwill.

I think the judicial investigation being carried out by the prosecutor general is complete. If that’s smooth, then I think all we need is a satisfactory concession by the ICC and their people will be allowed to leave the country.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The ICC would then, what, vacate the field and allow Libya to continue to prosecute Gaddafi’s son?

BOB CARR: No, all we’d say is that beyond that point the ICC and the Libyans would talk about protocols for continued ICC work. They’d talk about how the responsibility for prosecution is shared between both entities.

TONY EASTLEY: The Foreign Minister Bob Carr, speaking to Alexandra Kirk before he left Tripoli after the meetings he held there.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr (who will undoubtedly see his reputation sore after his role in this situation) has criticized the Court for not doing enough to protect its staff in Libya. The Telegraph quotes Carr as saying:

“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…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.”

Carr also suggested that Australia could become a mediator between the ICC and Libya: Both Libya and the ICC “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.”

June 20: A number of voices have risen up to criticize the idea, propagated by Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, of the ICC apologizing to the Libyan government over the situation facing Melinda Taylor and the other ICC staff members. Amnesty International is claiming that an apology would undermine the legitimacy and authority Court. For example, Widney Brown of Amnesty International said:

“I understand the urgency of the Australian government to see Melinda Taylor released, but I would urge the Australian government to have a much longer-term view of whether you want to undermine the independence of the International Criminal Court and create a precedent where governments think well, if we just lock somebody up then we’ll get them to back off.

‘We know that the best way to undermine justice is to attack those who defend the rights of those who are on trial, so this detention is utterly illegitimate; she should be released immediately and there should be no need to apologise.”

Over at Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller has added his much-needed critical voice to the debate. I encourage everyone to read the entire piece, but here’s a snippet:

“…notice what is not in the interview: even the slightest blame for the Libyan government for wrongfully detaining an Australian citizen who is working on behalf of an international organization — one to which Australia is ostensibly committed.  Nor is there any mention of SC Res. 1970, cooperation obligations, or the international outcry against Taylor’s wrongful detention.  Indeed, Carr does not even bother to actually identify what Taylor supposedly did wrong — all we get are vague generalities about deficient “protocols” and “conventions” and “procedures.”  That’s a pretty significant omission, particularly given Libya’s consistent refusal to provide Saif with any kind of legal representation and its previous refusal to let the OPCD talk to Saif about the conditions of his confinement in private.  (And recall that, in the few moments during the OPCD’s previous visit where the Libyan government official left the room, Saif quickly implied that he had been mistreated by his captors.)

I cannot speak for Taylor, though what I know about her leads me to believe that she would never want the ICC to apologize to a brutal, lawless government for letting her do her job as a defence attorney.”

June 21: According to Chris Stephen (whose reporting on Libya over the past year has been second to none), there is little-to-no chance that Melinda Taylor and Helene Assaf will be granted an early release. The ICC staff continue to be investigated and, according to Libyan government spokesman Nassar el-Manee, “[a]n  interrogation of them is under way.” The report also notes Taylor has been held incommunicado since June 12 (9 days and counting) and that Helene Assaf has been told she is free to leave Libya. Previously, reports had suggested only Russian Alexander Khodakov and Spaniard Esteban Losilla were allowed to leave. It appears all three are staying in support of Taylor.

Reacting the article by Stephen, Kevin Jon Heller has written that

“this latest development provides clear evidence that Bob Carr was simply being played by the Libyan government.  The government obviously had no intention of releasing her; it simply wanted the Foreign Minister of a major western power to go on record with his belief that the ICC, not Libya, was responsible for Taylor’s detention.  I guess blaming the victim wasn’t such a good idea, after all.  May we please take the ICC apology off the table now?”

Kevin also has a post criticizing the media’s coverage of thisongoing saga.

June 22: Reports continue to suggest there it appears unlikely that Taylor will receive an early release (see also here). Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib has been quoted as saying Taylor “compromised national security” and that she would not be released from detention. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, David Ritchie, Australia’s ambassador-designate to Libya, has responded to El-Keib’s statement by saying:

“[The Prime Minister] did make a speech overnight last night, where he talked about Libya’s concerns about this matter in general. But both Libya and the ICC are discussing the issues surrounding this matter in the Hague today … we are presently taking with caution the report that the Prime Minister said she was guilty and would not be released.”

At RNW, Chris Stephens writes that the prosecution of Melinda Taylor is “impending”. Moreover, a spokesperson for Libya was quoted in the Tripoli Post as saying that regardless of whether the ICC apologizes, a criminal investigation into Melinda Taylor’s actions may proceed.

Libyan government spokesman Nassar el-Manaa said that they are being interrogated. “There is evidence that proves they have breached the law,” he said.

The decision comes after the Australian foreign minister, Robert Carr, met el-Keeb, earlier this week, announcing a hope that Taylor would be released if the ICC issued an apology.

Manaa said such an apology would not prevent a criminal case being launched. “They (the ICC) should say: ‘We have made a mistake,’” said Manaa. “When the interrogation is complete we will explain everything.”

Here at JiC, I posted a document that I received, a letter from Libya’s UN ambassador to the UN Security Council. Its content are not particularly controversial but the letter represents Libya’s version of events and indicates that it is engaging seriously with the Security Council on this matter.

Here at JiC, I posted a document that I received, a letter from Libya’s UN ambassador to the UN Security Council. Its content are not particularly controversial but the letter represents Libya’s version of events and indicates that it is engaging seriously with the Security Council on this matter.

Yesterday, the ICC also issued a statement of regret to Libya. I posted my thoughts on the statement at JiC. Kevin Jon Heller wrote a much more thorough critique of the Court’s press release at Opinio Juris.

Former ICTY Chief Prosecutor Richard Goldstone has a fantastic op-ed in The Guardian where he argues that the unfolding crisis facing the ICC staff detained in Libya clearly indicates that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi should be tried in The Hague, not in Libya.

“The current arrest in Libya of four officials of the international criminal court is quite clearly a violation of international law. The four were inLibya to meet with Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader, who has been charged with war crimes as a result of an investigation instigated at the request of the UN security council.

Libya is bound by that resolution and obliged thereby to cooperate with the court; its actions clearly violate the international rule of law. Talk of securing a “deal” for the release of the four risks compromising the global authority of the court, which is backed by the full authority of the UN and the international community.

What is effectively an act of kidnapping also regrettably demonstrates that there is as yet no rule of law in Libya domestically. Ultimately, what has happened has justified the insistence by the ICC that Saif should be tried in The Hague.”

June 23: Despite the ICC’s pseudo-apology, doubts of an early release for Melinda Taylor still abound. Meanwhile, media covering the ICC’s statement have focused on the fact that the Court has promised to investigate and possibly punish (see here and here) For another take, focussing on the ICC’s “regret” see this article from Reuters, which ends by noting that a “Libyan spokesperson for the prosecutor general’s office said they were holding discussions on Friday night regarding the ICC’s statement.”

June 24: George Grant, writing at the Libya Herald, has a different take on the ICC’s de facto apology. Grant believes that recent actions by the Court suggest it is “closer to admitting Melinda Taylor culpability”:

“The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said that “appropriate sanctions” would be applied to any of its members found guilty of misconduct, following a visit to The Hague by Libya’s attorney general, Abdelaziz Al-Hassadi, yesterday.

During a meeting with ICC president Sang-Hyun Song and other officials, Al-Hassadi and his delegation presented the court with information that led to the detainment of Melinda Taylor and three other ICC representatives following a visit to Saif Al-Islam Qaddafi in Zintan on 7 June.”

Bob Carr believes that the ICC’s statement of regret regarding Melinda Taylor is “effectively an apology”. However, despite the ICC’s statement of regret, sources say that the release of Melinda Taylor from custody remains “some way off”. This would seem to confirm Libya’s earlier statement that the apology would not blockAccording to AFP, Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr declared:

“I think, and I regret to have to say it, that they (Libyan authorities) will need some time to work this through their political system,” he said.

Carr, who has previously said that an “apology for inadequate consultation on protocol and procedures” could speed up the four’s release, said the ICC statement was not a concession of misconduct.

“But clearly there was a gap between the way the ICC saw its role in Zintan in interviewing Seif al-Islam Kadhafi and the perception that the Libyans had,” he said. “The Kadhafi name is hated in Libya, especially in Zintan.”

The report also suggests the ICC’s statement was linked to negotiations between Libya and the ICC. Bob Carr, who has assumed something of a mediation role between the Court and Libyan officials, is quoted as saying the ICC’s pseudo-apology was “what we were after”. Ongoing talks between the conflicting parties have been described as “constructive” and “productive”.

June 25: Still no word on when Melinda Taylor will be released from custody. There is also no indication that the other three members of her team intend to leave Libya until Taylor is released.

Bob Carr has said that Libya is “embarrassed” that Taylor has been unable to contact her family. According to the AAP:

Despite repeated requests, Ms Taylor has not been given the opportunity to call her family back in Australia.

“We are asking for this on at least a daily basis, sometimes twice a day,” Senator Carr told ABC Radio on Monday.

“I think it’s clear to say that the deputy foreign minister in Libya is somewhat embarrassed that they have not been able to deliver.”

The Majalla has a brief piece assessing what the detention of Taylor et al means for the rule of law and reconciliation in Libya. The article also claims that the ICC’s statement of regret “demonstrates the desperation of the institution in bringing back its representatives.”

The Guardian has posted excerpts from the full letter I published a few days ago. The letter is from the Libyan government to the UN Security Council and explains Libya’ views of the events that have transpired.

Eric Morse has a provocative op-ed in the Toronto Star where he suggests that the ICC was insufficiently prepared to send staff into Libya:

“It’s one thing to assert the supremacy of the court. It’s quite another to be so ignorant of the situation on the ground — or so breathtakingly arrogant — as to send four civilians into what are effectively ungoverned lands and expect that nothing will happen.”

June 26: The Sydney Morning Herald has a piece outlining and putting in context the last few days of this ongoing debacle.

To follow news regarding Esteban Peralta, one of the ICC staff remaining in Libya, see this facebook page and this blog.

June 27: In a small but encouraging step, according to numerous reports, Taylor was granted a 20-minute meeting with David Ritchie, Australia’s ambassador to Libya. This is only the second time Taylor has received a consular visit. Taylor was also able to finally contact her family, which she had not been able to do during the entire period of her detention (see also here). It is unclear whether the other three ICC staff members have been able to contact their embassies or families.

Update: According to an astute commenter, the other ICC staff members - Helene Hassaf, Alexander Khodakov, and Esteban Losilla - were also able to contact their families for the first time yesterday.

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About Mark Kersten

Mark is a PhD student in International Relations at the London School of Economics. His work focuses on the nexus of international criminal justice and conflict resolution. Specifically, he is examining the effects of the ICC on peace processes and negotiations in northern Uganda and Libya.
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22 Responses to Updates on Melinda Taylor, Helene Assaf and ICC Staff Detained in Libya

  1. Pingback: Libya Explains Detention of ICC Staff to the UN Security Council | Justice in Conflict

  2. reformeurope says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think Melinda Taylor should be freed. There are serious questions for her to answer over her conduct in Libya. I note that the ICC has already had to issue a half-hearted apology over her behaviour. What\’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The ICC has thrown its weight around in the past in dragging people before it. Does it think that it’s own employees should be exempt from responsibility for their actions? Again, we see another Australian at the ICC interfering in other countries\’ affairs. Surely if representation is needed for Saif Gaddafi it should be provided by a lawyer who speaks Arabic rather than by an Australia who can only communicate through a translator? However, considerations like that will never stop the gravy train that is the ICC. I hope that if Melinda Taylor is innocent of the charges against her she is released. But given how long detainees have had to wait for trials before the ICC while ICC judges and prosecutors swan around the world giving speeches she can hardly complain if she has to wait in Libya for a couple of years before coming to trial. And if Melinda Taylor is guilty of the charges against her then I hope that she will receive the justice that she deserves.

    This whole debacle reflects the naivety of the ICC and its employees. Melinda Taylor went from graduate studies straight into the ICTY and then on to the ICC. She has no meaningful experience of domestic practice of criminal law. She is married to another junketeer at the ICC and has spent her past nine years living in the bubble that is The Hague. The world should not be taxed simply to provide a bureaucracy for frustrated law graduate students who consider practising law in their home countries beneath them and would like to assume a neo-colonial role in relation to the rest of the world.

    • Peter says:

      As far as I understood Ms. Taylor has not been appointed to be Mr. Gaddafi’s lawyer – she has been to Libya to support him choosing a lawyer. Mr. Gaddafi himself wished to see her again on that case (pls see the report she filed to ICC supreme court after her visit in March).

      One might consider it a possible scenario that someone in Libya wants to “punish” her for the clear words she used in this report. I am absolutely not sure about the role of ICC-liaison lawyer Dr. Gehani/Jehani. In her report she attacked him quite openly, recommending to disengange him from this function. It disturbs me that he was one of the sources telling the world about circumstances of her detention. We must consider talking about an arabic society and he might have been pissed off (excuse me) by her attack…

      She might have tried something to get Mr. Gaddafi out there considering the circumstances of his detention which she saw during her first visit. I can’t blame her for that. But we do not know what happened, so far we only know the Libyan “officials” story – which is not very convincing for my part. Therefore these of course are only assumptions

  3. Peter says:

    Dear Mark, thanks for keeping on covering this troubling matter. I must say I am quite disturbed about Libyan “authorities” handling this case. What is troubling me most is that after the first visit by the Australian ambassador some days after detention there has been no further sign, whether of Ms. Taylor nor of one of her colleagues. We do not know what is happening there at the moment and can only refer to statements of Libyan representatives who btw do not seem to have complete control over the situation themselves. The fact that also the three colleagues of her who – at least following to official statements – are free to leave obviously are not able to establish any communication to the outside world leads me to the assumption that maybe they are not as free to do what they want as Libyan athorities want us to believe.

    I hope that this matter can be resolved quickly but fear it is going to be a long process. After all – even though Libya claims to have changed some things after their revolution it seems they are still working the same instruments as Gaddafi – taking foreigners as hostage for reaching their own purposes.

    Keep on going.
    Best
    Peter

  4. Valle says:

    Thank you for opening this thread to post all updates on ICC staff detained in Libya. We have created a Platform for the release of Esteban Peralta on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/plataformaporesteban) and also a blog (http://libertadparaestebanperalta.wordpress.com) where we post any news concerning this regrettable matter.
    I cannot believe the comment by “reformeeurope”: if Melinda Taylor has incurred in any mistake or has overstepped the ICC´s mandate, she will have to respond before the ICC according to its procedures, but not a single evidence of her doing so has been proved by the Libyans. Let´s keep in mind that the four of them have been detained for 19 days now in a country without a real democracy where no constitutional guarantees are in force.

  5. Pingback: El blog Justice in Conflict ha creado un hilo especial para seguir toda la actualidad de los miembros de la CPI detenidos en Libia. | Libertad para Esteban Peralta

  6. Peter says:

    Good news – so there has been granted consular access as well as contact home. Good to know she obviously is well, even though the news do not say anything about her colleagues.

    I am wondering what happens next. Libya can’t finish this just releasing her and telling everyone it just has been a huge misunderstanding and we are BFF. For this the allegations they did seem to harsh. On the other hand dealing with it the way they use to do – trial her for espionage, sentence her for a certain amount of time in jail and then expell her from the country – would cause more tension with ICC and also give her a detailed look into their court system. This information she could use against them in the fight over the trial of Mr. Gaddafi. Therefore I’d rather expect them to use the occasion and put up the real big show to show everyone they are able to hold fair and adequate trials on example of Ms. Taylor. Question is: what about her status of immunity?

    I still hope there will be another solution securing their quick release and still enabling every party involved to save face. But at the moment things seem to be pretty complicated… Keeping my fingers crossed.

  7. Valle says:

    Yes, the other three ICC staff members were also allowed only yesterday to have a short phone conversation with their families.
    I know that language is a barrier, but it would be encouraging for the four families affected by this situation that you all stop writing about Melinda Taylor only. There are another three people under arrest along with her.

    • Peter says:

      So, the other three colleagues really are under arrest and not staying on their own will? That would mean Libyan authorities lied?

      • Mark Kersten says:

        Thanks for the comments Peter.

        The other three are not under arrest although Assaf originally was detained with Taylor. They are staying on their own will but likely in the same facilities at Taylor herself. As a result, their ability to communicate with their families is likely to be the same as Taylor’s.

      • Valle says:

        There are two different facts, Peter: its is true that no charges have been brought against Esteban, Alexander and Helena, but from the moment they were told to leave the country and chose to stay with Melinda, they are being held exactly in the same conditions as Melinda, isolated and with all possibilities of communicating with anyone forbidden by the militia. They have received two visits of their Embassadors during this period and only have been granted the possibility of communicating with their families upon the last visit paid by the Embassadors on Tuesday.

        I know that Esteban Peralta asked the militia for permission to get out to do some shopping and he was not allowed to do so. To me, when you cannot walk out freely, you are under arrest, aren’t you?

    • Mark Kersten says:

      Thanks for the comments Valle.

      I have tried consistently to cover any news regarding the other three staff members. Very little news (at least English news) has emerged regarding their situation. Whatever has, I hope, has been covered in this post. If you have links that you think should be included on this page, send them my way. I have also added a notice for the facebook group and blog concerning Peralta to this post as well as spread the two links via Twitter.

      • Valle says:

        Thank you Mark, I really appreciate your help. Everything published in the Spanish media has been posted in our blog http://libertadparaestebanperalta.wordpress.com. Anyway, the amount of news released by Spanish media is incredibly small, as the Spanish Government is pressing to discourage them from publishing anything, something we cannot understand. Even the former Spanish Foreign Ministry, belonging to another party, is exercising the same pressure on the media.

  8. Peter says:

    Thank you Valle, for the explanations concerning Mr. Peralta. So they share the fate of their Australian colleague. If this results on their own decision not to leave her alone that really has been a remarkable and honourable move. Let us hope that things will come to a good end for all of them very soon. Background information about the complicated relation between NTC and the Zintan brigades and the brigades possibly using them as bargain is troubling though.

  9. Peter says:

    There is word that the ICC team is going to be released soon according to Lebanese FM – hoax or truth? See http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/45151-libya-to-free-helene-assaf-icc-team-soon

  10. Valle says:

    We are expecting good news for tomorrow or Tuesday at the latest. An important negotiation has been carried out today and a lot of pressure has been put on Libya by the International Community. Fingers crossed!

  11. Esteban Peralta and the other three ICC staff members have been released an hour ago and are flying to The Hague now. This is great news, thanks to you all for your help and support.
    Cheers!

  12. Liz says:

    Believe we know the answer to this question:Who will put Saif al-Islam Gaddafi on trial, the ICC or Libya from Australia.

    Australian Ambassador designate to Libya David Ritchie says the ICC has power to demand Saif al-Islam’s extradition, but Australia is supporting Libya’s development as a democracy.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-03/ambassador-designate-ritchie-joins-lateline/4108402

  13. Dana says:

    Saif, you will be in Hague soon! I believe it from all my heart…

  14. Pingback: John Jones, Amal Alamuddin & Libya: A Financial Cache of Libya’s ICC Case | The New Libya Report

  15. Pingback: ‘History is written by the Victors’ or is it the Bullies? The Eradication of the Melinda Taylor Incident | The New Libya Report

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