A delegation from the International Criminal Court faces 45 days in detention in Libya while investigations into their meeting with Moammar Gadhafi’s captured son continue, the prosecutor-general’s office said on Monday. Meanwhile, a convoy carrying Britain’s ambassador to Libya was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Monday, injuring two of his bodyguards in the most serious of a spate of assaults on foreign targets.
It was the fourth attack in three months on a foreign mission in the city, the birthplace of the revolt which last year overthrew Col. Gadhafi. The attacks were reminders of how chaotic, insecure and fragmented Libya remains. The transitional leadership based in the capital Tripoli has failed to impose its authority on much of the oil-rich North African nation. Instability has only increased as cities, towns, regions, militias and tribes all act on their own, setting up independent power centres.
Adding to Libya's uncertainty, the electoral commission postponed the country's first general elections to July 7 from June 19, allegedly to give candidates more time to campaign and voters more time to register. Elections are crucial for Libyans because they will be the first step toward democracy after 40 years of being ruled by Col. Gadhafi's authoritarian whims. They will choose a 200-member assembly to form a government and select a committee to write the constitution.
The four-member ICC delegation has been detained in the western mountain town of Zintan after one of its lawyers, Australian Melinda Taylor, was found to be carrying allegedly suspicious documents for Saif Gadhafi.
“The order has been given to put them in detention for 45 days,” Taha Baara of the prosecutor-general’s office said.
He said Ms. Taylor and her female interpreter would be kept in a “detention facility” belonging to the justice ministry, without elaborating.
Ajmi al-Atiri, head of the Zintan brigade that captured Saif Gadhafi in November and is holding him, said the women’s two male colleagues wanted to stay with them “out of solidarity” and the four had been moved to the facility from a guesthouse.
A Libyan lawyer has said the suspicious documents included letters from Saif Gadhafi’s former right-hand man Mohammed Ismail, as well as blank documents signed by the prisoner. Mr. al-Atiri has said “spying and recording” materials were found when members of the delegation were searched.
The president of the International Criminal Court has demanded the immediate release of the delegation; court representatives flew to Tripoli on Sunday to try to resolve the issue.
Libya’s deputy foreign minister Mohammed Abdel Aziz earlier said the ICC representatives were holding talks with the prosecutor-general and were expected to visit their colleagues on Tuesday.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch called on Libyan authorities to do everything in their power to ensure the release of the delegation.
“It is deeply disturbing that court staff would be held while on an authorized, privileged visit to Saif al-Islam Gadhafi,” Richard Dicker, the International Justice Program Director at HRW, said in a statement.
Saif Gadhafi is wanted by the ICC for crimes during the uprising that ended his father’s 42-year rule last year. Libya’s new rulers insist he should be tried in his home country.
The ICC has previously expressed concern at the conditions under which he is being held. Human-rights groups question whether Libya’s justice system can meet standards of international law.
Reflecting Libya’s problem of powerful local militias and a weak central government, the Zintan brigade said on Saturday it would not agree to the government’s request that it free the four ICC staff before questioning them.
Monday’s attacks in Benghazi ambushed the British ambassador’s convoy metres from the consulate, firing the weapon at the front of one of the vehicles and blowing out the windscreen, local security officials said.
On Wednesday, a bomb went off next to the wall of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi without causing any injuries.
Earlier this month, militiamen briefly occupied the country's main airport with armoured vehicles and automatic weapons, forcing airport authorities to divert flights. In southern Libya, three days of clashes between an armed militia under the banner of the Libyan military and a tribe left at least three people dead before a truce on Monday.
In eastern Libya, the base of last year' armed rebellion, tribal leaders and militia commanders have formed their own transitional council as they push for a semiautonomous state in the oil-rich region. The move has angered the ruling council in Tripoli, which has said it fears the country will be torn apart.
With reports from the Associated Press
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