THE International Criminal Court was warned about safety for its defence counsel in Libya three months before the Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and three fellow ICC staff were arrested by local authorities.
The revelations emerged as a ICC defence lawyer for Muammar Gaddafi’s daughter said the situation engulfing Ms Taylor may have been inflamed by highly critical filings from the defence’s office targeting the ICC’s prosecution team and the Libyan authorities.
Ms Taylor, of Brisbane, was arrested in Zintan after being accused of exchanging papers with Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, whom she is representing for the ICC’s Office of Public Counsel for the Defence (OPCD).
The purpose of the visit had been for Ms Taylor and others to discuss the ongoing challenge by the Libyans to the ICC’s move to try Mr Gaddafi and also to appoint an ICC defence counsel for him.
But ICC court documents show that during the previous visit to Libya, problems had also occurred relating to ”insufficient security” for the OPCD’s senior counsel Xavier-Jean Keita.
Mr Keita was excluded by the Libyans from the visit in March to Mr Gaddafi because of fears his African heritage might make him a target of rebels who were still angry over the role of African mercenaries who fought for the Gaddafi regime.
”Due to the widespread use of African mercenaries in murdering civilians during the 2011 revolution, male Africans in Libya are unfortunately at considerable personal risk from some former rebels who seek to be able to retaliate for atrocities,” said the May 30 response by the Libyan government to one of the OPCD’s defence requests.
The Libyans detailed the security issue as a response to ”outrageous” OPCD claims that delays in visiting Mr Gaddafi had been due to racial discrimination by the Libyan government.
Meanwhile the legal representative for Muammar Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha, Nick Kaufman, said a series of highly critical filings by the ICC’s office of defence accusing the Libyans of torturing Saif al-Islam and criticising the role of the ICC’s prosecutor would have played a role in inflaming tensions.
”This whole thing has contributed to creating a highly flammable atmosphere in Zintan and if you ask me, I believe Melinda
has fallen victim of this hostility which is because of the intensity of the litigation,” he said.
”The response to both the office of the prosecutor and the Libyans was very strong and very aggressive. There is no doubt that these filings contributed to cementing the, shall we say, anger of the local authorities holding Saif, against Melinda and her superior.”
Mr Kaufman, who is also a former ICC prosecutor, said from his knowledge of Ms Taylor, he finds it impossible to believe she acted unethically.
”I worked with her for a number of years and she is incredibly talented and highly ethical.”
Mr Kaufman said any claims that Ms Taylor knew the whereabouts of a fugitive former aide to Mr Gaddafi were most likely wrong.
An ICC spokesman, Fadi El Abdallah, said it was premature to speak of an environment of hostility as the ICC did not have the full picture of the incident. He said there was ”always a security risk” when operating in a post-conflict situation.
Mr El Abdallah said the group was visited on June 12 but it was not possible to speak to them privately.
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