x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Australian minister in Libya over ICC detentions

Foreign minister arrives in Libya to press for the release of an International Criminal Court team being held after meeting the son of slain dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

TRIPOLI // Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr arrived in Libya on Monday to press for the release of an International Criminal Court team being held after meeting the son of slain dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Carr is expected to seek the release of the ICC delegation including Australian Melinda Taylor and colleagues from Lebanon, Russia and Spain, who were detained on June 7 as they helped Saif Al Islam choose a defence lawyer.

"I've got modest expectations, but I'm here to press the case of the Australian government," Carr told ABC radio on arrival, according to a transcript released by the Australian consulate in Tripoli.

"Melinda Taylor was here working for a respected international organisation -- the International Criminal Court -- that work attracts immunity. That role ought to be respected," he said.

Shortly after landing in the capital, Carr met interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim Al Kib and was also due to meet other senior government officials, Kib's office said.

Libyan officials have alleged that Taylor was carrying a pen camera and attempted to give Al Islam a coded letter from his former right-hand man, Mohammed Ismail, who is on the run.

Carr, who did not comment on the allegations, said he would push for greater consular access and for Taylor to have the capacity to get in touch with her relatives while the issue is being resolved.

"We'd like (Ambassador) David Ritchie to be able to to see Melinda Taylor more regularly. We'd like her to be able to phone her husband Geoff in The Hague... and her parents, John and Janelle, in Brisbane."

"I'm going to continue to press that with the people I meet here and I hope that by underlining that on this visit we get some progress out of it.

"Progress is to see her judiciously released... But in the shorter term, if she's going to continue in detention, we see that she's got that consular access and capacity to phone her family."

The ICC wants to try Al Islam, 39, for crimes against humanity during his father's rule. Tripoli insists he should be tried locally and filed on On May 1 a motion challenging the ICC's jurisdiction to put him on trial in The Hague.

Carr said Taylor inadvertently got caught up in that dispute.

"There is a broader well-rehearsed dispute here and that is the dispute that Melinda Taylor has inadvertently become involved in.

"She is doing her duty for the ICC, but the Libyan authorities, and none more than the authorities in Zintan, are contesting the right of the ICC to do that," he said.

Al Islam has been held in the town of Zintan, 70 kilometres southwest of Tripoli, since his arrest on November 19 last year. Taylor and her team are being held in the same town.

On Friday, the UN Security Council expressed "serious concern" over Libya's detention of the four.

It reminded the Libyan authorities that they have to cooperate with the ICC under UN resolutions on the conflict last year that led to Qaddafi's overthrow.