By Chris Stephen.
Benghazi, 16 December 2012:
Melinda Taylor, the Australian lawyer detained in Zintan this summer accused of passing secret documents to Saif . . .[restrict]Al-Islam Qaddafi, has launched a scathing attack on judges of the International Criminal Court for failing to admonish Libya.
She told The Australian newspaper that the failure of the Hague court to criticise Libya has given Tripoli a “green light” to flout the rules.
And she said it has left the impression that a “behind the scenes” deal has been agreed between the court and Libya over Saif’s fate.
Her outburst comes with Hague judges due to announce whether they will accept Libya’s request to hold Saif’s trial in Tripoli.
Taylor was detained with three other ICC officers by Zintan authorities in June after they accused her of trying to pass documents to Saif that were not part of her legal brief.
As a result, she was held for 26 days in Zintan, with former prime minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib declaring that the documents “compromise the national security of Libya.”
Her attack creates yet another twist to the most controversial saga in the court’s ten-year history.
Saif Al-Islam was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC last year, along with his father, Muammar, and Libya’s former intelligence chief Abdullah Al-Senussi.
Saif was captured last November, and Senussi earlier this year in Mauritania, and has been held ever since in Zintan.
Since then, he has become part of a three-cornered battle between Zintan, the Tripoli authorities, and the ICC.
On three occasions, Libyan justice officials have pledged to hold the trial of Saif but no trial has yet transpired.
Also unclear is whether Zintan will release him to the custody of the government.
The wrangle between the court and Tripoli has meanwhile taken several bizarre turns: on the first visit of court officials to see him in Zintan, court documents say only female ICC officers were allowed to meet Saif.
Those documents also claim that ICC officers were told by a Libyan law officer that Saif was not being investigated for war crimes, but for “alleged failure to have licenses for two camels, and the cleaning of fish farms.”
For the outside world, the allegations remain a mystery, with neither Taylor, the ICC or Libya making public the documents she allegedly had with her.
Also unclear to many is Taylor’s role. Saif has apparently not chosen a lawyer, which would mean her role is to represent the defence interests of the case on the part of the ICC, a narrower brief than if she were his attorney. Were she to become his lawyer, questions would be asked about whether the ICC gave Saif a full choice of attorneys, as it is mandated to do.
What is clear is that the judges face a highly charged decision.
If they rule that Libya has the ability to hold a fair trial, and the trials of Saif and Senussi are less than fair, the Hague judges will have some explaining to do.
If they decide Libya cannot hold a fair trial and refuse the formal challenge, and Tripoli goes ahead with a trial anyway, the ICC will face a severe loss of credibility.
A joint trial is not really an option: Libya could call on international help for any war crimes trial, but in the end a court must have one master.
The Hague itself would help its own credibility if it explained what truth if any there is in allegations that Taylor acted improperly, making the evidence public with a full inquiry. [/restrict]