Sunday, 12 September 2010

Hague snubs US inquiry into Megrahi release

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Sunday Times. It can be accessed online only by subscribers to the newspaper's website. The article reads in part:]

The foreign secretary, William Hague, has banned government officials from co-operating with a US Senate team investigating the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

He has told them not to liaise with the Americans despite a request from the US government for a meeting with investigators when they arrive in Britain this week.

The Foreign Office said the request had been rejected because of concerns about “extraterritoriality” — the convention that members of one government are not accountable to another — and also because the civil service code bars officials from discussing the policies of a previous administration.

While visiting Washington in July, David Cameron joined President Barack Obama in condemning the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi a year ago. He asked Sir Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, to examine whether classified papers on the events leading up to it could be released. (...)

The investigating team of senators’ staff members had hoped that key figures with knowledge of the events leading up to Megrahi’s release would agree to meet them informally to discuss the case.

Alex Salmond, the Scottish first minister, has turned down their requests to meet his ministers while they are in Britain but has offered to make justice department officials available to discuss the case.

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, and Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary responsible for Megrahi’s release, said they were not answerable to America for their decisions.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We have had to decline this request given concerns over extraterritoriality and also on the basis of the civil service code. Officials are accountable through ministers to the British parliament.

“However, we are committed to being constructive. The foreign secretary has written in detail to the Senate committee, setting out the British government’s position, and will write again once the cabinet secretary’s review has concluded.”

[It appears that Richard Baker MSP, Labour Party Justice spokesman in the Scottish Parliament, is going to meet the US Senate staffer. A report from The Press Association news agency contains the following:]

Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker has revealed that he is to meet an official connected to the US Senate inquiry into the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Mr Baker said he will call for publication of the bomber's medical reports when he meets the representative of US Senator Robert Menendez in Edinburgh on Thursday.

The MSP said: "Kenny MacAskill and other SNP ministers took the decision to release (Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al) Megrahi and the medical evidence that they relied upon has not been published.

"I will make it clear that to get to the truth of the matter the Senators should focus their attentions on that advice."


  1. It would be more constructive if the new Government went the same road as the Scottish Government and reminded the Americans that this is none of their business. If Hague cites "extraterritoriality" for refusing to participate he can't then ignore those concerns by partly co-operating with a foreign government in this way.

  2. Scotland appears to be invoking a bit of a double standard on this issue of extraterritoriality.

    When the indictments against Megrahi and Fhima were brought down Libya had no extradiction treaty with either America or the UK. The accusing countries gave no evidence to Libya (which any country is reasonably entitled to receive when an extradiction request is made) whereby Libya might reasonably consider an extradiction request.

    America, the UK and Libya were all signatories to the 1976 Montreal Convention, a treaty that set out how the countries that were parties to the Agreement would cooperate in air disaster type situations. Libya correctly suggested the parties follow the Montreal Convention, but America and the UK refused.

    The UK and therefore Scotland had no problem using extraterritoriality to force UN sanctions on Libya and force it to give it's citizens up for trial. Now when America tries similar tactics on Scotland to get answers to why Megrahi was released, Scotland claims sovereignty.

    So the double standard is that Scotland supported extraterritoriality when it was in its interest to do so to get Megrahi and Fhima to trial, but now cries foul with regard to America's current tactics towards it.

    All countries should insist that every country follow international law, particularly when one of the "big boys" tries to beat up on a "smaller boy". In Libya's case with respect to Lockerbie it got very little international support, and this was all presumably justified because Libya had a "bad boy".

    Of course if the international community at large condones actions involving extraterritoriality, then individual members of such community open the door to the same thing negatively affecting them in the future. Their sovereignty is at stake.

    No wonder Libya has cried foul and complained it has been treated like a second class citizen of the world community - it has been treated like one.

    Luckily for Scotland America has stated this issue won't generally affect relations between the two countries.