Invited Consultants –
Dr Hans Koechler, President of the International Progress Organisation (IPO), Vienna.
Prof Robert Black QC, Professor Emeritus of Scots Law, University of Edinburgh.
Robbie the Pict, Lockerbie Justice Group.
The participants were invited to reply to four questions put by the Convener in the hope of guidance in the pursuit of proper justice for all in relation to the destruction of PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie in December 1988.
The questions asked were answered as follows:
QUESTION 1. Did the Foreign and Commonwealth Office arrangements for a trial at Kamp Zeist deliver an independent and impartial tribunal?
No. We draw attention to five principal defects:
a) It would have enhanced the appearance of independence and impartiality if the Judicial Bench had been composed of Judges from countries other than the United Kingdom with a Scottish Judge in the Chair. This is principally because the case involves the interests of more than one state and the appointment of all the Judges from only one of the concerned states does not meet the required standards of independence and impartiality. The Consultants present today would both have preferred a tribunal wherein a Scottish Judge chaired a panel of Judges from other countries but this was rejected by the relevant UK authorities. It should be kept in mind that there was an ongoing political dispute between the UK and Libya at this time which had led to the severing of diplomatic relations.
b) The presence of American advisers in the well of the Court, later identified to the IPO as FBI agents, having frequent discourse and consultation with the Crown prosecution team contributed to the appearance of outside influence on the conduct of the prosecution. These persons were not identified at any point and their names did not appear on the official brochure which, amongst other things, named the prosecution and defence teams. Concerns were raised in the course of the trial that these persons appeared to be guiding witness responses by facial gestures.
c) We are of the view that if, in an adversarial system, the defence does not properly play its antagonistic role, the interplay of forces is set off-balance. This demands both equality of arms procedurally, and a determined and dedicated wielding of these arms. We draw attention to the new burden placed upon all Judges under Section 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) to ensure that there is indeed an equality of arms in their Court.
d) Whilst we accept that circumstantial evidence alone can be sufficient to convict, we are not satisfied that the Court, in its written judgment, adequately explained its reasons for accepting incriminating inferences from that evidence and rejecting or dismissing evidence that supported non-incriminating inferences.
e) We have good reason to suspect that rewards and benefits of a direct or indirect nature have been paid to prosecution witnesses.
QUESTION 2. What should happen now?
a) In the event that the Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate is upheld by the Court and evidence is withheld from the Defence, we consider that this would render the conduct of a fair appeal impossible. We believe that, in actuality and in the public perception, such a denial compromises the principles of a fair hearing, which depends significantly upon equality of arms. In this context we would like to draw attention to the position adopted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on this matter, as contained in a letter written to the IPO on 27 August 2008. It reads:
“Under the Human Rights Act 1998 the Court has a duty to act in compliance with Convention rights in terms of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including the right to a fair trial. The UK Government has made clear its commitment to work closely with the Court to ensure that Mr Megrahi receives a fair trial and that sensitive material is handled appropriately.”
b) In the event that the present appeal proceeds, we recommend the following:
i) That the pending decision by the Appeal Court, regarding the scope of the appeal, be delivered with urgency. Preparation by both the appellant and the Crown is impeded whilst the precise parameters of the appeal remain unsettled. It is clearly desirable that any decision defining those parameters should give reasons for the rejection of any grounds submitted by the appellant.
ii) The phrase ‘the trial and any appeal’ in the Agreement between the Governments of the UK and the Netherlands concerning a Scottish Trial in the Netherlands permits the view that this further appeal should also take place in an international framework; however we consider that unlikely. We urge that the relevant Scottish and UK authorities take such steps as are necessary to secure the presence of international observers at any further appeal hearing.
c) Irrespective of the outcome of the current appeal, there should be a re-investigation of the incident by the Scottish authorities. A further Fatal Accident Inquiry would not be inappropriate given the amount of material that has become available since the original FAI took place. When the restricted scope of an FAI is considered perhaps it would be more appropriate to have a wider-ranging public inquiry.
d) Allegations have been made in the Press and elsewhere of incidences of tampering with evidence material to the case. The Lord Advocate should instruct that these allegations be investigated.
QUESTION 3. If Scotland was charged with managing such an international event in the future, what model is recommended?
a) Although this is a hypothetical question it offers the opportunity to advise the Scottish public of developments since the Lockerbie incident. The UK is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). This would mean that such matters could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
b) Where, for whatever reason, the ICC cannot be resorted to, the possibility exists of inviting non-Scottish Judges to participate in a Scottish trial. The following are illustrative precedents for such an approach:
i) The Special Court for Sierra Leone, established by agreement between the UN and the Government of Sierra Leone.
ii) The Special Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.
QUESTION 4. What changes should be considered for the better administration of justice in Scotland?
1. Whilst Scotland retains an adversarial system as opposed to an inquisitorial system, the existence of a real equality of arms is crucial to the delivery of justice. Following the coming into force of the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) the responsibility for ensuring a fair trial, which includes equality of arms, lies with the Court itself. Although this judicial obligation is already enshrined in the law, it could usefully be spelled out in an amendment to the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995.
2. It is inappropriate that the Chief Legal Adviser to the Government is also head of all criminal prosecutions. Whilst the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General continue as public prosecutors the principle of separation of powers seems compromised. The potential for a conflict of interest always exists. Resolution of these circumstances would entail an amendment of the provisions contained within the Scotland Act 1998.
3. The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 should be amended to oblige the Crown to disclose all prosecution witness statements. The current system, whereby the Crown’s disclosure obligation is met by simply supplying a list of possible Crown witnesses, encourages the fruitless expenditure of defence time, money and effort.
4. The absence of a particular and dedicated Criminal Appeal Court, especially when, unlike in civil matters, there is no further appeal available to a higher Court, renders the appeal system vulnerable to serious criticism.
16 September 2008