Monday, 17 August 2009

Scots justice system must not be tainted over Lockerbie bomber’s plight

[This is the headline over a leading article posted this evening on the new heraldscotland website, which will become the main online showcase for both The Herald and The Sunday Herald. It reads in part:]

What is now more evident than ever is the reality that Lockerbie, with its inter-connected diplomacy and the political dealing which has evolved since 1988, has become a trading post event; Libya, once the five-star outlaw of international law, has used Lockerbie to trade its way back to respectability. And when the United States and the UK needed a former villain to turn over a new leaf and show that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq offered a lesson to rogue states, ­Gaddafi’s Libya obliged. These games are still in play, this time around the commercial viability of BP’s potential £20 billion investment in Libya’s vast and untapped oil and gas reserves. The 40th anniversary of the military coup that brought ­Gaddafi to power is also close, and again this shrewd and manipulative leader needs a notable success to show his popularity and status is still deserved.

These are the unofficial constituents of a complex political equation, and ones difficult to identify with any firm certainty. They remain unquantifiable events that exist in the shadows of international politics and diplomacy. They will remains so until a court of law, or an independent judicial investigation, is allowed to re-examine what we now know about the events that led to the deaths of 270 innocent people on board flight 103.

If the Scottish justice secretary does allow Megrahi to go home, as now seems inevitable, a crucial chapter of ­Lockerbie’s aftermath will be blank. If there is to be no appeal then an examination carrying a similar legal authority has to brought in to continue the judicial process. At the moment, regardless of whether Megrahi is innocent or guilty, questions need to be addressed. Evidence needs to be re-examined, the international web of sovereign involvement has to be looked at again. All of this cannot be dismissed just because Megrahi is ill and is allowed home to die. A full judicial inquiry, camped firmly on the ground sifted over by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, is perhaps the only way to ensure the process of justice, and ­Scotland’s legal reputation, continues and remains untainted by the odour of political manipulation.

The guilt or innocence of Megrahi is therefore not the sole issue that will be at stake this week. Every family of those killed is entitled to want justice to be seen to be done. But there will be no such justice if Megrahi is simply put on a plane to Tripoli and the case is marked “closed”. With unanswered questions, no file can be closed – and Lockerbie has never been a case where convenient and diplomatically timed justice would be acceptable.

A horrific crime took place over Lockerbie in 1988. Who did it, who was responsible, who was involved: there remains a legal duty to deliver answers to these questions and a judicial inquiry, even after 21 years, remains an obligation neither the Scottish government nor the UK government can afford to trade away, whatever the price.

1 comment:

  1. Seemingly impossible to post comments on the new 'heraldscotland' website, so here goes on the lockerbiecase.blogspot:


    As a former British diplomat, I think we should look at the bigger picture here.

    While the Lockerbie appeal continues there is the possibility - some would say the likelihood - of Megrahi's conviction being overturned. Three permanent members of the UN Security Council - the US, Britain and France - are desperate to ensure this doesn't happen by having the appeal dropped tomorrow in Edinburgh's High Court.

    That will mean Mr Megrahi remains 'guilty' of the Lockerbie bombing and Libya, having accepted 'responsibility for the actions of its officials' in relation to both Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772 (six Libyans convicted 'in absentia'), is firmly in the dock at the United Nations.

    The Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September 2009, when he is expected to call for a 'United Nations Inquiry into the death of UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing' (see

    What's the betting that next month Gaddafi, an undisputed 'convicted terrorist', will be refused entry into the United States?

    Strange to say, it might actually suit Gaddafi to be able to blame the US for his non-appearance at the United Nations. And the Americans would be spared the embarrassment of having President Obama's opening address at the UN being immediately followed by a lengthy diatribe from Gaddafi.

    Also, think of the security nightmare that Gaddafi's arrival in New York would entail: where to pitch his bedouin tent (Central Park?); how to deal with the Amazonian guard and to ward off the inevitable assassination attempts?

    Despite Hillary Clinton's reported protestations and those of the seven U.S. Senators, the Americans are perfectly ambivalent on the question of Mr Megrahi's release or whether he spends the rest of his life in a Scottish jail. All that Britain, France and the US (and maybe Libya) want is for Megrahi's appeal to be abandoned.

    What now has to happen (without fail) is that Megrahi's lawyers withdraw the Minute of Abandonment of his appeal against conviction for the Lockerbie bombing at the procedural hearing of the High Court of Justiciary on Tuesday 18 August 2009.

    When this happens, there will of course be red faces in Washington, Westminster and the Elysée palace (possibly in Tripoli), but Kenny MacAskill can hold his head up high whatever decision he takes on the question of Megrahi's release: because the appeal will continue and the truth will out....eventually.

    Justice for Megrahi!