ZINTAN, LIBYA (BNO NEWS) — Libyan authorities have released four staff members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who were detained last month following a meeting with Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader, court officials confirmed on Monday.
The release came after ICC President Judge Sang-Hyun Song traveled to Libya and personally apologized to the Libyan government and its people, assuring them concerns raised by Libyan authorities will be fully investigated. “The ICC is grateful to the Libyan authorities for their agreement today to release the Court’s staff members so that they can be reunited with their families,” he said.
A special plane was provided by the Italian government to fly the released ICC staff members, Song and other court staff members from the Libyan capital Tripoli to the Netherlands. The group left Tripoli at approximately 9 p.m. local time and arrived at Rotterdam Airport in the Netherlands on early Tuesday.
The staff members were detained on June 7 when they traveled to the city of Zintan where Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader, is being held. Saif Al-Islam, who was captured in November 2011 following a months-long civil war, has been indicted by the UN-backed court for crimes against humanity. Libyan authorities have so far refused to hand over Saif Al-Islam to face trial in the Netherlands, the seat of the ICC.
Among those detained was 36-year-old Australian ICC lawyer Melinda Taylor who has been appointed to represent Saif Al-Islam. Members of the brigade holding him have accused Taylor of attempting to pass on ‘dangerous documents’ to him, including a letter from a former confidante of his who is now on the run in Egypt. Reporters were earlier shown the documents from a short distance but have not been allowed to read them.
ICC officials have previously said they wished to address any “regrettable misunderstandings”, but emphasized that ICC suspects have the right to communicate freely and in confidence with their lawyers. “Such communication may include discussing and exchanging documents and discussing potential witnesses and defense positions in the case,” the Court previously said.
The other staff members have been identified as 60-year-old Alexander Khodakov from Russia, 48-year-old Esteban Peralta Losilla from Spain, and Helene Assaf (born in 1978) from Lebanon. The UN Security Council last month expressed its “serious concern” over the detention of the ICC staff members and urged Libyan authorities at all levels to work towards their immediate release.
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who previously traveled to Libya to discuss the issue with Libyan authorities, welcomed Monday’s release. “This is the news we’ve been hoping for – a swift end to Melinda Taylor’s detention and the resolution of what has been a protracted diplomatic negotiation,” he said. “I thank the Libyan authorities – in particular Prime Minister el-Keib and Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz, whose personal intervention was instrumental in bringing this matter to a close.”
The four staff members did not address the media following their release, but officials said they were well treated during their detention. “Ambassador Ritchie has advised that Ms Taylor is in very good spirits, and is looking forward to being reunited with her family,” Carr said on Tuesday.