The Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, has told the chief of the International Criminal Court an official apology to Libya might smooth the way for the release of the Australian lawyer held on suspicion of espionage.
Senator Carr suggested the international court apologise for inadequate consultation with Libyan authorities over the defence of Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam. He made the suggestion last night in a 20-minute telephone call with the ICC president, Sang-Hyun Song.
But Widney Brown of Amnesty International said the plan could undermine the authority of the court.
''I understand the urgency of the Australian government to see Melinda Taylor released, but I would urge the Australian government to have a much longer-term view of whether you want to undermine the independence of the International Criminal Court and create a precedent where governments think well, if we just lock somebody up then we'll get them to back off,'' Ms Brown said.
Melinda Taylor, an Australian defence counsel with the court, has been held in the north-western city Zintan for the past fortnight after being accused of passing coded messages to Saif.
Ms Brown called on Libya to immediately release Ms Taylor and the three other members of the defence team held in Zintan.
''We know that the best way to undermine justice is to attack those who defend the rights of those who are on trial, so this detention is utterly illegitimate; she should be released immediately and there should be no need to apologise,'' she said.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, also raised Ms Taylor's case yesterday with her Italian counterpart, Mario Monti, hoping Italy's historic ties to Libya would give it some sway.
Senator Carr made a six-hour visit to Libya, pressing the Prime Minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib, to release Ms Taylor and offering Australia as an intermediary to air Libya's concerns with the international court.
He later told ABC radio the onus was on the ICC to lay out clear protocols and procedures before it sent its lawyers to Libya. ''Without that, I believe the ICC team were left somewhat exposed to those misunderstandings.''
According to a spokesman, Senator Carr earlier spoke with the ICC representatives in Libya who indicated they would not oppose his suggested apology, but Justice Song would need to make the decision.
Last week, Ms Taylor and her colleagues were told they would be held for 45 days as Libya investigates alleged threats to its national security.