Thursday, 24 May 2012

Lockerbie inquiry calls rejected

[This is the headline over a report just published by The Press Association news agency.  It reads as follows:]

Fresh calls for an inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing have been rejected by the First Minister.

Only a court of law can determine guilt or innocence, Alex Salmond said during First Minister's Questions at Holyrood.

He was urged by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie to consider an inquiry less than a week after the man convicted for the atrocity died in Libya.

More than 40 politicians, religious leaders and journalists signed a letter on Tuesday calling for an independent inquiry into Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's conviction. The "perverse judgment" has left Scotland's criminal justice system a "mangled wreck", the letter says.

Mr Rennie said: "The First Minister has previously said he would be prepared to co-operate with a UK inquiry. If he has no objection to an inquiry in principle, and this group wants a Scottish inquiry, will he agree to hold it?"

Mr Salmond said: "The place where you determine guilt or innocence of an individual is a court of law.

"As Willie Rennie should know, the relatives of Mr Megrahi have the ability, if they so choose, to go back to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission and seek further leave to appeal. That is the process which can be followed."

Mr Rennie said the conduct of the Crown should be looked at, rather than focusing on guilt or innocence.

He asked Mr Salmond: "Surely it can't just be left in the hands of a family somewhere in Tripoli for that to be determined? If he chooses to act on this inquiry he'd have the support of Desmond Tutu, Terry Waite, John Pilger and so many others. This is not a normal case. It's Scotland's biggest terrorist atrocity. These are serious questions raised by serious people, and the world is watching."

Mr Salmond replied: "They're looking for an inquiry for the responsibility, ultimately, for Lockerbie. That touches on matters of huge international importance which would be beyond the ability of the Scottish inquiry to summon witnesses, compel evidence, etcetera."

[Mr Salmond gravely misrepresents the nature of the inquiry that Justice for Megrahi is seeking.  The true position is, as has been pointed out on many occasions, that what is being called for is an inquiry into the investigation, prosecution and conviction of Abdelbaset Megrahi. Each and every one of these matters is within the jurisdiction of Scots law and the remit of the Scottish Government:

The event occurred over and on Scottish territory.
The case was investigated by a Scottish police force.
The trial was conducted under Scots Law.
Mr Megrahi was convicted under Scots Law.
Mr Megrahi was imprisoned in a Scottish gaol.
The SCCRC referred the second appeal to the Scottish Court of Appeal.
Mr Megrahi was given compassionate release by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

That is the nature of the inquiry that Justice for Megrahi's petition is asking the Scottish Government to convene. A more wide-ranging inquiry into what really happened to Pan Am 103 would involve non-devolved issues.  Such an inquiry would have to be instituted by the UK Government (or by the UK and Scottish governments jointly -- the Inquiries Act 2005 specifically envisages such joint inquiries in section 32 read with section 1(2)). But we are and always have been clear that our request to the Scottish Government relates exclusively to matters that are within devolved Scottish jurisdiction.  

In a statement after First Minister’s Questions, Willie Rennie said:
“A liberal society should be one that is prepared to look hard at its justice system, even if it is worried about what it might find.
“I have called for a Scottish public inquiry into the Lockerbie prosecution.
“The First Minister has the opportunity to shine a light onto the conduct of the Crown Office, which for years has been left blemished by the six separate grounds of appeal identified by the Government's own Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission.
“On matters which relate to the integrity, fairness and justice of the Scottish justice system, it is simply not good enough to leave this to a family in Tripoli.
"Questions relating to Scottish justice are not a matter to be left to a UK inquiry. It has the backing of 40 leading figures, is about Scotland's biggest terrorist atrocity and potential flaws have been identified by the Government's own review body. We need the First Minister to act."]

No comments:

Post a Comment