Freed ICC staff arrive in the Netherlands
Militia based in town of Zintan frees four staff members of international court of justice after almost a month.
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2012 00:17

Four workers from the International Criminal Court (ICC), who were detained in Libya after visiting Seif al-Islam, son of slain leader Muammar Gaddafi last month, have arrived in the Netherlands.

"The four ICC staff members, released (Monday) from Libya, has arrived in the Netherlands," the ICC tweeted on their official site on the social network Twitter.

The four, including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, have been held in Zintan since June 7 after travelling there to help prepare Seif's defence.

Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and Lebanese-born interpreter Helene Assaf were accused of smuggling documents and hidden recording devices to Seif's prison cell.

Two male ICC staff who were travelling with Taylor and Assaf stayed with them.

ICC apology

The four were freed on Monday after an apology from the ICC, whose president, Sang-Hyun Song, travelled to Zintan for the release after weeks of pressure from the Hague-based court, the UN Security Council, NATO and the Australian government.

"I wish to apologise for the difficulties which arose due to this series of events. In carrying out of its duties (the ICC)
has no intention to compromise the national security of Libya," Song told a news conference in the western town.

Taylor and Assaf emerged after the news conference from a small room where they had been waiting and were taken to another area where they ate lunch. They looked tired and were dressed in lack Islamic robes with their hair partially covered, but were smiling. They did not respond to questions from the Reuters news agency.

Taylor had been sent to Libya to represent Seif al-Islam, whom the ICC wants extradited to face charges of war crimes allegedly committed during the NATO-backed revolt that toppled his father last year.

Libya has so far refused to extradite Seif, saying it would prefer to try him in its own courts.

Negotiations sealed

"The agreement was that there would be a continuation of the negotiations with the ICC," Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz told the news conference.

"If the ICC wants to send another team they will have to send one that respects Libyan sovereignty."

Judicial experts say Seif is unlikely to get a fair trial in Libya, where the arrests of the ICC officials only served to highlight the challenges the interim government faces in imposing its authority on the myriad militias who helped topple Gaddafi and are now vying for power.

The western mountain town of Zintan is effectively outside central government control.

With Seif in its custody, the Zintan brigade gained leverage in dealings with the Tripoli government as it tries to negotiate his fate with the ICC.

The arrest of the ICC officials also put the interim government in an awkward position where it was essentially negotiating a deal between his captors and the outside world.

Late last month, the ICC expressed regret to Libyan authorities in what seemed to come close to an apology designed to secure the release of its employees.


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