Hotties, Pro Bono, Public Interest

Why Is This Australian ICC Defense Attorney Being Detained in Libya?

We don’t hear often enough about attorneys trying to do good for the world. Sex scandals, violence, and dirty politics are much more common to hear about than attorneys working to advance the public interest.

So it’s particularly unfortunate that we have to write about an Australian defense lawyer at the International Criminal cCourt in the context of her involuntary detainment in Libya, that fun little African country known for its leader’s kooky costumes.

Without further ado, let’s learn more about the detained Australian, Melinda Taylor (and see a photo of the beautiful young attorney)…

The Herald Sun gives us the developing story:

They were on an official embassy visit to Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the country’s deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Seif al-Islam has been imprisoned in Zintan since his arrest in November.

The court and the Libyan government are trying to determine whether he will be tried for war crimes at the international court in The Hague, Netherlands, or in Libya.

El Abdallah said the court had received no official word from Tripoli as to why the four staffers were being held.

Libya has put Taylor and her three colleagues in “preventive” detention for 45 days.

If I had to choose anywhere on the planet to be preventively detained, I’m pretty sure Libya would be right at the bottom of the list. Maybe just above North Korea and Saudi Arabia. Luckily, it appears at this point that the situation is mostly unsettling (and not yet a full-on Avery Jessop Third World kidnapping crisis).

Here’s what the Libyan government has to say about the situation:

The four were detained after Taylor was allegedly found carrying documents for Seif al-Islam that were considered a “threat to national security”.

Ahmed Jehani, Libya’s envoy to the ICC, has said the Australian lawyer was caught “exchanging papers with the accused Seif al-Islam”.

Jehani alleged that Taylor was carrying a pen camera and a letter from Mohammed Ismail, Seif’s former right-hand man who is now on the run.

He said the letter contained drawings and symbols, a “code” that would be understood only by the sender and the intended recipient, Seif.

“According to Libyan law, it would be spying, communication with the enemy,” the envoy said.

It seems that Taylor, a 36-year-old mother of one, is anything but some anonymous bureaucrat. Various reports indicate that she is well-loved and respected by her coworkers. Not to mention the fact that it probably takes quite a pair (gender-neutral) to venture into Libya in the first place and interview the son of the (now deceased) craziest dictator this side of Iran.

Seth Engel of the Huffington Post has some kind words to say about Ms. Taylor:

Miss Taylor is the second-in-command at the International Criminal Court’s defense office and my former boss. She is also a person who her colleagues have called “an oasis of humanity in the sometimes harsh area of international criminal law” and, per my own experience, one of the most knowledgeable, caring, and helpful lawyers I have ever encountered.

It sounds like the situation is still changing quickly, but things seem a little unclear, partly because I’m not sure if Libya has the internet yet. Either way, we wish Melinda Taylor a speedy return home, and we hope she stays safe and sound.

Trapped in Libya [Huffington Post]
International Criminal Court says the detention of Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her colleagues in Libya is illegal [Herald Sun]

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