[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.