The Libyan government has come under heavy international criticism as it continues to hold an attorney and three staff members from the International Criminal Court in the small town of Zintan, Libya. The attorney, Melinda Taylor, and her staff members have been held in the country since early June by Libyan officials who say that they will not release the party until Ms. Taylor answers questions about her conversations with Seif Al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the son of the former Libyan dictator.
The International Criminal Court, which was established to put an end to impunity and prosecute individuals responsible for the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other jus cogens, has been interviewing Mr. Qaddafi as part of their investigation of alleged crimes against humanity committed in the country by pro-government forces during the rebellion which eventually saw Muammar Qaddafi removed from power.
Under the principle of complementarity, Libya has the primacy to investigate and prosecute its own citizens for alleged crimes falling under the Rome Statute. However, Libya must demonstrate that they are both willing and able to do so. If they fail to convince the court of these two essential criteria, jurisdiction will be awarded to the International Criminal Court.
While the forum for the trial of Seif Qaddafi has yet to be determined by the International Criminal Court, it has continued with its own investigation which now sits at a quagmire as a result of Taylor’s detention. The brazen actions of the Libyan government have been met with condemnation back in The Hague, Netherlands where the court is based.
“These four international civil servants have immunity when on an official I.C.C. mission,” said Judge Sang-hyn Song, the President of the ICC.
The actions of the Libyan government are a serious violation of international norms and certainly won’t do them any favors with the court as it wrestles with the issue of complementarity and jurisdiction moving forward. It will be interesting to see how this situation is handled moving forward.