ICC to investigate four staff following release, return to Netherlands

By Mike Corder, AP

THE HAGUE, Netherlands–Four International Criminal Court (ICC) staff held for nearly four weeks in Libya on allegations that they shared sensitive documents with the jailed son of former dictator Moammar Gadhafi face an internal investigation into Tripoli’s claims, the court said on Tuesday.

Libya freed the staffers Monday after the court’s president flew to the country to oversee their release and apologized for the incident.

The four have not spoken to media since flying into Rotterdam in the early hours of Tuesday, and the court says it will now investigate Libya’s claims that they showed documents to Seif al-Islam Gadhafi that could harm Libya’s national security.

“The four of our colleagues are in good physical shape and in good spirits as well,” said court spokesman Fadi El Abdallah. “They were very happy to be reunited with their families.”

Libyan officials have handed details of their investigation to the court, but ICC officials in The Hague say they need to conduct their own probe.

The court spokesman declined to give details of the allegations to be investigated, but said that the detention of the four staff could have been the result of a misunderstanding.

“What can be accepted under international law might be not allowed under national law so there was maybe some misunderstandings or conflict of what has to be applied during the privileged meeting by the ICC (and) a suspect of the ICC,” El Abdallah said.

Mark Ellis, Executive Director of lawyers’ organization the International Bar Association, criticized Libya for holding the four court officials.

“Detaining ICC staff members on an official visit was a violation of the privileges and immunities accorded to ICC staff members under international law,” he said. “However, we commend both Libya and the ICC in their handling of such a delicate and unprecedented situation, resulting in the freeing of the ICC staff.”

Seif al-Islam was the most senior member of the ousted Gadhafi regime to be captured in last year’s civil war. Long viewed as a likely heir-apparent to his father, he faces ICC charges of crimes against humanity. He was captured by a militia in western Libya after his father was taken captive and then killed last October following more than 40 years as Libya’s eccentric, authoritarian ruler.

Libya’s new leadership accused Seif al-Islam of torturing and killing rebels, as well as other crimes.

His trial has been at the heart of a dispute between the ICC and the Libyan government. Libyan authorities have challenged the ICC’s right to try Seif al-Islam, saying the international court is a tribunal of last resort, intended to try suspects from countries that cannot or will not prosecute them.

The court had expressed concern that Libya’s judiciary is not yet ready to give Seif al-Islam a fair trial. ICC judges ruled on June 1 that Libya doesn’t have to hand over Seif al-Islam at least until a ruling on Tripoli’s challenge.