Expressing concern over their safety, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has requested the immediate release of four of its staff members who have been detained in Libya since Thursday last week.
"We are very concerned about the safety of our staff in the absence of any contact with them. These four international civil servants have immunity when on an official ICC mission," said the ICC President, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, in a news release issued over the weekend.
"I call on the Libyan authorities to immediately take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and security and to liberate them," he added, noting that the ICC is communicating with the relevant authorities of Libya to ensure their release.
In accordance with the ICC's Pre-Trial Chamber I decision of 27 April 2012, the staff members travelled to the North African nation on Wednesday last week, to meet with Saif Al-Islam Qadhafi in Zintan, in part as a privileged visit by the Office of Public Counsel for the Defence, currently appointed to represent Mr. Qadhafi in the case brought against him.
The Pre-Trial Chamber decision was related to the roles of Mr. Qadhafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, and the country's former intelligence chief, Abdullah Al Sanousi, in attacks against protesters and rebels during Libya's pro-democracy uprising last year.
The ICC delegation also included members of the ICC Registry with the view of discussing with Mr. Qadhafi the option to appoint counsel of his own choosing.
According to the ICC, Libya made a submission to the Pre-Trial Chamber ensuring that it would facilitate access to Mr. Qadhafi by his lawyers. This agreement had been further confirmed during the contacts between the Libyan government and the ICC Registry.
The ICC added that in accordance with the Security Council's resolution 1970, which seized the ICC with the Libyan situation, Libya has the legal obligation to fully cooperate with the ICC, including the respect of the legal regime imposed by the Rome Statute which emphasizes the rights of the suspects to have privileged contacts with their lawyers.
In the news release, the ICC indicated that it hopes that the detention of its staff will be "speedily resolved in the spirit of the cooperation that has existed between the Court and the Libyan authorities."
The ICC is an independent, permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes if national authorities with jurisdiction are unwilling or unable to do so genuinely.
Libya is due to hold legislative elections on 7 July. Some 2.7 million people in the North African nation have registered to vote for members of a new National Congress, which will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Libya.
The polls will be the first free elections in decades in Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year led to civil war and the deposing of his regime.