Friday, 30 July 2010

Challenge to senators to support wide-ranging Lockerbie inquiry

[What appears below is the full text of the letter sent by Robert Forrester on behalf of the Justice for Megrahi campaign to Senators Gillibrand, Lautenberg, Menendez and Schumer.]

You may be aware that group of signatories, many of international repute, have lobbied both the United Nations Organisation General Assembly (September 2009) and more recently the Scottish Government (July 2010) in an effort to establish a thorough, all encompassing and open public inquiry, which would cover all matters relating to: the investigation into the downing of Pan Am flight 103 (1988), the Kamp van Zeist trail of Mr Al-Megrahi and Mr Fhimah, the acquittal of Mr Fhimah and the conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi (2001), and the eventual release of Mr Al-Megrahi (2009). The petition to the Scottish Government received the endorsement of seventeen signatories (see at the end: the list of signatories to the letter sent to the Scottish Government last week followed by a copy of the UN petition).

For your convenience, this link will provide you with a report on the Scottish letter and a link to the letter itself. The letter was sent both to First Minister, Alex Salmond, and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill:

In light of recent developments taking place in Washington, signatories to the Scottish Government letter wish to extend an invitation to members of the Senate of the United States of America to add their support to lobbying the Scottish Government for an inquiry by becoming signatories to the letter themselves.

We all deeply sympathise with the position of those bereaved families and friends resultant from the 103 tragedy who are satisfied that the Zeist conviction of Mr Al-Megrahi was safe. Given their position, it is hardly surprising that they are outraged at his release and return to Libya. Nevertheless, on the basis of the evidence laid before their Lordships at Kamp van Zeist, it has always been our contention that Mr Al-Megrahi may have been a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice. This view is clearly supported by the fact that the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred the case to the Court of Appeal. This appeal was in progress up to a point immediately prior to Mr Al-Megrahi's release. We feel that the current focus on the circumstances surrounding Mr Al-Megrahi's release, whilst engaging in their own right, pale into insignificance if indeed there was a miscarriage of justice.

With regard to the release we too have questions. The Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) reached by Prime Minister Blair and Colonel Gaddafi appears to be in direct contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1192. It, moreover, seems to be rendered invalid by an existing agreement between the UK and US governments, which states that the prisoner was required to serve out his sentence in Scotland. If the PTA was in violation of the aforementioned, why was outrage not expressed on both sides of the Atlantic at the time of its being signed? See this link for details:

As it happens, and as you will be cognisant of, the PTA was not utilised in the release of Mr Al-Megrahi. He was released via due process under Scots Law by the device of Compassionate Release available the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Mr MacAskill, resulting from consideration of his medical condition. However, the following sequence of events may be worthy of investigation: Mr Al-Megrahi's appeal commences, Mr MacAskill visits Mr Al-Megrahi in Greenock gaol for a private interview, Mr Al-Megrahi drops his appeal, Mr Al-Megrahi is released and repatriated to Libya. Given that under Scots Law there is no requirement to drop an appeal to be granted Compassionate Release, many of us would like to know why this was done and what transpired during the meeting between Mr MacAskill and Mr Al-Megrahi at Greenock.

Dr Swire, in his capacity as one of those many bereaved by the tragedy over twenty-one years ago now, has already made an impassioned plea for support in his quest for justice to Senator Kerry recently. It is essential, even after the passing of so many years, to address the question marks which continue to hang over the entire Lockerbie affair. The bereaved rightfully deserved justice from Zeist in the same way that Mr Al-Megrahi rightfully expected it. However, the verdict produced such controversy that it is simply not sustainable to continue claim that it was safe because it was the one preferred by the three judges at the time. This is why we have courts of appeal and why the SCCRC referred the case to the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh. Now that this legal avenue is no longer open, it appears that the only possible recourse to addressing the doubts surrounding the issue is by means of an inquiry.

It is inappropriate in this letter to list the litany of shortcomings in both the investigation of the disaster itself and the prosecution evidence laid before the court at the subsequent trial. The criticism is copious and has long been in the public domain. Professor Robert Black (oft referred to as the ‘architect’ of Zeist) and Dr Hans K√∂chler (International Observer at Zeist – appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan) have both variously and very publicly stated views ranging from the verdict’s being a clear miscarriage of justice to one which seemed more concerned with political expediency than justice. If protestations of this calibre alone are not enough to generate an inquiry, one feels obliged to ask: what is? If ever a case were crying out for an inquiry, it is this one. Not only for the bereaved, not only for Mr Al-Megrahi but for justice itself.

High above courthouses worldwide stands statue of Justice holding scales in her left hand and in her right a sword. She is a symbol of the glue that binds together the very fabric of society. We depend on justice and her instrument, the law, to provide cohesion in our relationships. If justice loses its lustre or becomes tarnished we degenerate into a world of cynicism and chaos. Surely it is a sign of a great society if that society can reflect on its deeds and not be afraid to revisit perceived mistakes to seek redress and right wrongs where they have been committed. To have the resolve to take such action is not an admission of weakness but a sign of supreme strength.

An inquiry will no doubt bring with it embarrassment for some as it calls into question their reputations. However, if justice is regarded as a tool with which to achieve expedient results and defend human frailties by obscuring the truth, we all in a very sorry state indeed. We do not seek retribution, we seek the truth. The ghosts of Lockerbie must be laid to rest.

We hope, therefore, that you will feel able to identify with the sentiments expressed in this letter and join with us in lobbying the Scottish Government by adding your names to the list of signatories.

We all thank you for your time and attention, and look forward to hearing your response.


  1. Good question. Otherwise, awesome letter, Robert! You really gave them something to think about and it might even make it into some dark corner of one of their brains and gnaw away.

  2. I don't know what calibre of names are required on such initiatives. Presumably this isn't a general petition, and signatories must have some recognised standing?

  3. Dearie me Patrick that last comment was deplorable. From what I can see the issue we focus on here is Lockerbie and we really should be united in our wish to get to the truth. Much of the bile you are posting against Rolfe is inconsequential indeed. You tarnish us all by behaving like this and you also damage the reputation of the site. Please apologise to Rolfe and for goodness sake let's move on.

  4. The following response to Rolfe comes from Robert Forrester of the Justice For Megrahi campaign:

    Dear Rolfe,

    Thank you very much for your above comment. The suggestion contained in it requires to be addressed.

    Yes, with the exception of the block of Justice For Megrahi Committee Members included as petition signatories, the approach to seeking other prospective endorsements has indeed been selective. Naturally, I fully understand how one could come away with the impression that elitism is alive and well, and thriving at JFM. However, and as my own presence on the committee will testify, nothing could be further from the truth.

    Both in our UN petition and the current Holyrood one, not to mention the appeals to the Government of Malta, some months ago now, and the recent invitation sent to American senators, uppermost in our thinking have been A: impact, and B: coordination.

    A: Impact. We do not live under the jurisdiction of Swiss Law, where a given number of signatories places government under a mandatory obligation to hold a referendum on a particular matter of public interest. Petitions outwith that Alpine reserve are, unfortunately, frequently the only channel left to activists in their often forlorn hope of seeking redress. With this in mind, therefore, we feel that a shorter list comprising of prominent public figures is preferable to one comprising hundreds of lesser known, but no less committed, members of the general public. The, albeit limited, media coverage resultant from the various campaigns we have been involved in may have served to justify this course of action.

    B: Coordination. JFM feels a strong sense of responsibility to keep anyone who puts their name to its ventures as fully and frequently informed as possible where JFM may be doing something in their names. As a result, I, a long time ago, lost count of the number of emails and telephone calls I have had on such matters as petitions etc with signatories. That does not include all the other correspondence with non signatories.

    I hope the above answers any doubts anyone might have concerning the nature and activities of JFM satisfactorily. This is the first time I have been aware of this issue being raised and I am sincerely grateful to you, Rolf, for having provided a platform upon which it can be addressed.

    May I also take this opportunity to apologise to readers for the behaviour of the two errant indefinite articles in the text to the senators. The letter was put together in some haste. I can assure you all that the grammatical items in question received a severe reprimand and agreed to conform to the normal rules of English grammar in the hard copies that were sent to Washington.

    Thank you,
    Robert Forrester (JFM)

  5. I fully understand Mr. Forrester's points. This indeed was how I had assumed the situation to be. Once an initiative like that starts accepting signatures from just anyone, then the entire exercise is diluted, and to counter that, unfeasibly large numbers of signatures of Joe and Jane Bloggs need to be added. Far better to have a solid block of signatories of repute.

    My question was merely intended to confirm that my understanding was correct, and that additional signatures weren't being sought from those of us who may be soundly convinced of Mr. al-Megrahi's innocence, but have no legal or personal standing in the case.