Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr will visit Libya to personally push for the release of detained International Criminal Court (ICC) staff, including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, as global pressure builds on Tripoli over the arrests.
Taylor and Lebanese-born interpreter Helene Assaf were detained in the town of Zintan on June 7 and are accused of smuggling documents to Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Two male colleagues travelling with the ICC delegation have also remained with Taylor and Assaf.
“It is Australia’s view that Ms Taylor should be afforded consular access, and should no longer be detained,” Carr said on Monday, ahead of a visit to Libya for meetings with authorities, Reuters reports.
The ICC in The Hague, U.N. Security Council, the head of NATO and rights groups have all called for Libya to release the ICC delegates in what is shaping as the country’s biggest diplomatic challenge since last year’s uprising which ended Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.
Libyan prosecutors said they want to detain Taylor and Assaf for 45 days while they are investigated for allegedly passing documents to Saif al-Islam from his fugitive right-hand man Mohammed Ismail.
Australia has said the women should have been afforded the diplomatic protection while in Libya because they were doing work for the ICC.
Carr raised the issue directly with Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour bin Hayal on the sidelines of non-proliferation talks in Istanbul on Sunday, but said he had only “modest” expectations that the two women will be released.
“But we will press the case that Ms Taylor is in Libya under the mandate of the ICC and United Nations Security Council, and this mandate provides a legal immunity,” Carr said in a statement.