Washington, DC (June 11, 2012) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) strongly condemns the unlawful detention in Zintan, Libya, of the Australian criminal defense lawyer Melinda Taylor, who was appointed by the International Criminal Court to represent Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. The Zintan milita have also imprisoned Ms. Taylor’s interpreter. Two other members of the ICC delegation who traveled to Zintan were released, but so far have chosen to stay in Zintan.
Saif Gadaffi is the son of the late Libyan strongman Col. Muammer Gadaffi. The militia claims that Ms. Taylor and her interpreter, ICC employee Helene Assaf, passed a coded message to Saif from one of his father’s henchmen, who is still at large. But her colleagues say that she would never act unprofessionally.
The militia stated earlier today that Ms. Taylor and Ms. Assaf will be held for 45 days for investigation. “That is completely unacceptable,” said NACDL President Lisa Wayne. “The arrest and detention of a defense lawyer and her assistants fundamentally undermines the rule of law and international standards of criminal justice. These women must be released at once.”
The president of the ICC, Judge Sang-Hyun Song, and the International Criminal Bar have also called for Libyan authorities to ensure their immediate release from custody.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has been in Zintan militia custody since his capture. To date, the militia has not indicated that it would be willing to turn him over to Libyan provisional authorities in Tripoli or to the ICC for war crimes prosecution in The Hague.
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.