Published July 06, 2012
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An International Criminal Court defense lawyer held in Libya for more than three weeks said Friday her detention shows that Moammar Gadhafi's son, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, cannot get a fair trial in his home country.
Speaking publicly for the first time since her release Monday, Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor denied any wrongdoing in Libya, where authorities accused her of endangering national security while meeting with her client, Seif al-Islam.
"I would like to unequivocally state that I believe that my actions were consistent with my legal obligations" under International Criminal Court rules, she said.
Taylor was appointed by the court to represent Seif al-Islam, who is charged with crimes against humanity for alleged involvement in attacks on civilians in the early stages of the popular uprising against his father's four-decade rule. Seif al-Islam is now the focus of a judicial tug of war between the court and Libyan authorities who want to put him on trial at home for torturing and killing rebels as well as other crimes.
Taylor was released by rebels in the western town of Zintan after the Hague-based court apologized for the incident and pledged to investigate her and three colleagues held with her. She declined to discuss the Libyan claims in detail due to the court's ongoing investigation and security concerns.
Taylor said Zintan rebels who held her and the three other staff "treated us with respect and dignity," but she slammed Libya for its treatment of the court delegation and her client.
"These recent events have completely underscored that it will be impossible for Mr. Gadhafi to be tried in an independent and impartial manner in Libyan courts," she told reporters.
Taylor said she would file a report next week on her detention and her visit with Seif al-Islam in a defense submission to ICC judges on Libya's application to be allowed to prosecute him.
The Australian said she was allowed only one five-minute phone call with her family during her detention.
"As you can imagine, speaking to my 2-year-old daughter under such circumstances was both an emotional lifeline and heartbreaking," she said.
The ICC is a court of last resort — meaning it can only take on cases in countries unwilling or unable to prosecute them. The Security Council called on prosecutors in The Hague to launch an investigation in Libya last year after widespread reports of atrocities committed by forces loyal to Gadhafi.
Organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International harshly criticized Libya's detention of the four court staffers.
"Not only has it denied them their liberty and stopped them from performing their functions, but it has also undermined Seif al-Islam Gadhafi's right to an effective defense and delayed the ICC's decision on the Libyan authorities' recent application to bring him to trial in Libyan courts," said Amnesty International's Marek Marczynski.
Taylor expressed gratitude Friday to court officials and Australian diplomats and Foreign Minister Bob Carr for their efforts to secure her release and that of her three colleagues.