UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Friday called on Libya to release four detained International Criminal Court staff members who are accused of smuggling documents to Muammar Gaddafi’s son in custody.
The ICC personnel were detained last week while visiting Saif al-Islam Gaddafi in Zintan after it was alleged they gave him documents from supporters.
The ICC staff members were identified as Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor, Lebanese-born interpreter Helene Assaf, Esteban Peralta Losilla of Spain, the chief of the Counsel Support Section at the ICC, and Alexander Khodakov of Russian, external relations and cooperation senior adviser at the registry of the ICC.
Human rights groups, the court in The Hague, and the Australian government all have demanded they be released immediately but Libyan prosecutors say Taylor and Assaf will be held for at least 45 days while they are investigated.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council said in a statement that it expressed “serious concern over the detention in Libya since 7 June 2012 of the International Criminal Court staff members, and urge Libyan authorities at all levels and all concerned to work towards immediate release of all the ICC staff members.”
A delegation from the International Criminal Court and ambassadors from Australia, Lebanon, Russia and Spain visited them on Tuesday.
In a statement on Friday the ICC said the four staff members indicated that they were in good health and were being treated well.
“The court is very keen to address any regrettable misunderstandings on either side about the delegation’s mandate and activities during its mission in Libya,” the ICC said.
“The ICC expresses its strong hope that the release of the four detained persons will take place with no delay, in the spirit of the cooperation that has existed between the court and the Libyan authorities,” it said.
The ICC said Saif al-Islam Gaddafi was entitled to have adequate time and facilities to prepare his defense and to communicate freely and in confidence with his lawyer.
“Such communication may include discussing and exchanging documents and discussing potential witnesses and defense positions in the case,” the ICC said.
Gaddafi did not choose to appoint a lawyer so the ICC judges appointed two counsel from the Office of Public Counsel for the Defense to represent him, the court said.
The ICC issued a warrant for Gaddafi last year after prosecutors accused him of involvement in the killing of protesters during the revolt that toppled his father, who ruled Libya with an iron fist for 42 years.
Western-educated Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s one-time heir apparent, was captured by fighters from Zintan in Libya’s southern desert in November, dressed as a Bedouin tribesman, and taken to their hometown.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Bill Trott