Sydney: The release of a legal team held in Libya since a visit to slain leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif Al Islam more than two weeks ago appears some way off despite “constructive” talks, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr said on Sunday.
Four International Criminal Court (ICC) staff, including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, have been held in Zintan since June 7 after travelling there to help prepare Saif Al Islam’s defence.
Carr said Friday’s talks in the Hague between the ICC and Libyan authorities had resulted in a statement “that had the ICC expressing regret, effectively an apology for any misunderstandings”.
“It’s what we were after,” Carr told ABC television.
“The talks in The Hague between the ICC and the Libyan authorities, including their attorney-general, were very constructive.”
But he said the release of Taylor, who has been accused of carrying a pen camera and attempting to give Saif Al Islam a coded letter from his former right-hand man, Mohammad Esmail, and her colleagues was some way off.
“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 Saif Al Islam and the perception that the Libyans had,” he said. “The Gaddafi name is hated in Libya, especially in Zintan.”
The ICC vowed on Friday to probe the behaviour of its team, which includes colleagues from Lebanon, Russia and Spain.
“The information reported by the Libyan authorities will be fully investigated in accordance with ICC procedures following the return of the four staff members,” The Hague-based court said in a statement.
“When the ICC has completed its investigation, the Court will ensure that anyone found responsible for any misconduct will be subject to appropriate sanctions,” it added.
The ICC wants to try Saif Al Islam, 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.