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Moscow calls on Tripoli to release ICC officials

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Konstantin Garibov
Moscow demands that Tripoli should immediately release four representatives of the International Criminal Court (ICC), one of whom is Russian citizen Alexander Khodakov, the ICC secretariat’s adviser for external relations. Russia also insists that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon should interfere to help resolve the problem.
The four ICC officials, among them citizens of Australia, Spain and Lebanon, were detained on June 7, when they met Saif al-Islam, son of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who is currently in prison in the Libyan city of Zintan. On June 12, the ambassadors of Russia, Spain and Australia, plus the Lebanese charge d’affaires in Libya met the four detainees, a meeting that took place on the Zintan Brigade’s premises, where Saif al-Islam is being held in custody. The brigade is thought to be behind the bloody execution of Colonel Gaddafi. It was confirmed during the meeting that initially Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her Lebanese interpreter Helen Assaf were detained, and that the Libyans have no claims on the Russian and the Spaniard. In a conversation with the Russian ambassador to Libya, Alexander Khodakov said that he had categorically refused to leave Zintan without his colleagues even though he had been asked to.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Libyan prosecutor-general’s office said that the ICC officials face 45 days in detention in Zintan while an investigation into Melinda Taylor’s meeting with Saif al-Islam is under way. Earlier, members of the Zintan Brigade claimed that they had discovered documents including a letter from Saif al-Islam’s former confidante Mohammed Ismail who earlier fled Libya. They argued that it was Taylor who allegedly tried to hand over these documents to Saif al-Islam. A representative of the Libyan government, in turn, pledged to release Melinda Taylor if she agrees to reveal information related to Ismail’s whereabouts.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, for his part, believes that Libyan authorities should ensure the speediest release of Alexander Khodakov and his colleagues, especially given that UN Security Council Resolution 1970 requires Libya to provide full cooperation with the International Criminal Court. Nikolai Tikhomirov, of the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry, comments. (voice):

Libyan rebels are obliged to release the ICC officials without preconditions given that they were on a mission endorsed by the United Nations, Tikhomirov says. It is only natural that the rebels want to clarify the situation, and in this regard, they can ask some questions as far as the four detainees are concerned. Interrogations, however, are out of the question because no arrest orders were officially issued for the ICC officials, Tikhomirov concludes.

Earlier this week, the Zintan Brigade commander said that the ICC officials would only be freed after a “thorough interrogation.” This may be fraught with serious implications as far as the fate of the ICC officials is concerned, warns Sergei Demidenko, of the Institute of Strategic Assessments and Analysis in Moscow. According to him, Libyan militants may play down Russia’s call to involve UN chief Ban Ki-mmon in the resolution of the conflict.

“As I see it, Demidenko says, members of the Zintan Brigade perceive the UN Secretary General as representative of an international structure, the status of which is Greek to them. This is why the only way to release the ICC officials is to pay the ransom to the militants, Demidenko says, adding that another option is to appeal to the tribal elders. This will certainly be followed by protracted negotiations, something that will mean that the ICC officials are unlikely to be released in the immediate future,” Demidenko concludes.

The ICC is seeking the extradition of Saif al-Islam who is accused of crimes against humanity. He was arrested in November 2011 right after the execution of Muammar Gaddafi. Tripoli insists that he must be brought to justice on Libyan territory.




Jun 14, 2012