Last week, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court issued a decision with important implications for the privileges and immunities of counsel acting at the ICC, and also of ICC staff. In its decision, the Pre-Trial Chamber confirmed that the immunities provided for in Article 48 of the ICC Statute apply to defence counsel and to staff of the ICC involved in the ICC proceedings against Saif Gaddafi. It also held “that the inviolability of documents and materials related to the exercise of the functions of the Defence constitutes an integral part of the treatment that shall be accorded to the Defence pursuant to article 48(4).” This means that these documents may not be seized by States, and in this particular case, the ICC held that Libya is under an obligation to return such seized documents.
The decision arose out of the detention in Libya, last June, of four members of staff of the ICC, including Melinda Taylor a lawyer at the Office of the Public Counsel for Defence (OPCD). The ICC staff were detained by the militia holding Saif Gaddafi (who is represented by the OPCD) when they were in Libya to meet with Saif. At time of the detention, I and others argued that these detained persons were entitled to immunity from criminal process in Libya (see previous post).
There are three interesting points that arise out of this decision. The first relates to the applicability of the Statute (and in particular Art. 48) to Libya. The second relates to which part of Art. 48 applies to defence counsel employed by OPCD. The third, and perhaps most important, point is that the decision implies the applicability of the 2002 Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court to States that have not ratified it.