Dan Nancarrow June 11, 2012
As a University of Queensland law student she was talented and idealistic, quickly graduating from studying at St Lucia to advising Slobodan Milosevic at The Hague.
It's not surprising, then, that Melinda Taylor would travel to Libya to help defend the son of Muammar Gaddafi.
"She wouldn't knowingly put herself in a situation where there is a serious risk, but plainly what you and I would say is a risk and what she would say is an acceptable risk is two different things," her former lecturer at the UQ, Anthony Cassimatis, said.
Ms Taylor, 36, has been held in the north-west Libyan city of Zintan since last week after meeting with Saif al-Islam, the man she has been appointed by the international court to defend against allegations of war crimes.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been assured Ms Taylor, who has been accused of espionage, is "safe and well". But her family, a husband and daughter in the Netherlands and parents in Brisbane, remain concerned for her safety.
Ms Taylor has spent her entire career most concerned with international criminal justice.
A high achiever with a Masters degree from Oxford, Ms Taylor helped set up the International Criminal Court's public defence counsel in 2006, working on defence cases before the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
She worked to ensure fair trials were undertaken in cases she followed, a pursuit she described as satisfying to Lawyers Weekly in 2010.
"This [her work with the ICC] is about a fair trial for both sides," she told Lawyers Weekly.
"A defendant has a right to a fair trial. A victim has a right to the truth. There must be a fair trial for a judgment to have traction in local communities. If there is not a fair trial – if there is injustice – it can lead to future conflict."
Dr Cassimatis, an associate professor in the law school at the University of Queensland, first came into contact with Ms Taylor at university and got to know an extremely talented and hard-working student with high ideals, keeping in touch with her since her graduation in 1998.
He said her acceptance for an internship to work on the International Criminal Tribunal in the late 1990s, and her subsequent employment with the ICC, showed her competence and professionalism.
"As an indication of how highly regarded she was in the Yugoslav tribunal, Milosevic refused to have a defence team so the tribunal had to work out how best to give him a fair trial. She was amongst the lawyers who were assigned to provide that assistance to Milosevic," Dr Cassimatis said.
"I've had a number of former students who work in The Hague and they all report back as well and a number of them have commented to me that of the people working in the international criminal court the most professional and highly regarded include Melinda."
Dr Cassimatis said Ms Taylor's credentials and ability had never been in doubt.
"She has consistently, over the entirety of her career, dedicated herself to international criminal justice in terms both victim protection and ensuring a defendant gets a fair trial," he said.
"She wouldn't in anyway behave in an unprofessional manager and or in anyway be contrary to her duties as a defence lawyer."