Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Aljazeera's Lockerbie inaccuracy

[An item on the Aljazeera website accompanying a programme entitled Flight 1103 and subtitled “Is there a connection between Libya's worst-ever aviation disaster and the Lockerbie bombing?” contains the following:]

On December 22, 1992, Libya witnessed the worst aviation disaster in its history when, six minutes before landing, Flight 1103 from Benghazi to Tripoli plummeted 1,000 metres in just 13 seconds. All 157 people aboard were killed.

It was exactly four years and one day after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland.

But while a Libyan national was convicted for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people, and Muammar Gaddafi, the country's then leader, eventually conceded Libya's responsibility for the crime, the two disasters, officially at least, appeared to have little in common.

One was regarded as a state-sponsored act of terrorism; the other as an accident attributed by the Libyan government to a mechanical fault.

[Aljazeera really should know better, particularly in the light of its own films Lockerbie: The Pan Am bomber and Lockerbie: Case closed. It simply is not the case that Colonel Gaddafi “eventually conceded Libya's responsibility for the crime”. Libya accepted “responsibility for the actions of its officials”.  The full text of the relevant document can be read here.]


  1. MISSION Lockerbie, 2013:

    That was an accident with a MIG military fighter.
    But was then exploited for protest against U.S. for spare parts boycott.
    The statements of the two MIG pilots are trustworthy

    by Edwin Bollier, MEBO Ltd. Telecommunication Switzerland. Webpage:

  2. There is a certain focus on this subject, whether it means anything whether Gadaffi & Co said one thing or another.
    Of course it does not.

    Nearly 3 bn USD were paid by Libya in compensation to Lockerbie families.

    Does anyone think that it happened because Gadaffi was "sorry" for something, and his bad consciousness bothered him?

    Whatever words came from Gadaffi about Lockerbie and Libya's involvement, it is as important for evaluating the truth in the matter, as are words coming from any other top politician.

    People putting weight into a journalists word that this or that state leader has conceded something has understood nothing about journalism and politics.

  3. EBOL is quite right. While there was serious negligence leading to the collision this had nothing to do with Lockerbie save the attempt to blame the disaster on UN sanctions.

    I fail to see the distinction between Gaddafi (de facto the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya) accepting responsibility for the Crime and accepting responsibility for the actions of its officials when said official was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. What's the difference? Simply the implication Mr Megrahi exceeded his authority?

  4. ‘Accepting responsibility for actions of Libyan officials’ is not an admission that Megrahi was an official or acted in the way he was alleged to have acted.

    The following is copied from ‘Government lies about Libya’, Labour & Trade Union Review April 2004.

    ‘As this magazine has said before, the Government has also continuously lied and dissembled about the Libyan connection to Lockerbie. While Blair was en route to Libya on 25 March, Jack Straw told a barefaced lie on the Today programme: he said that Libya has accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing.

    For Libya to accept responsibility, it would have to say clearly that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the bombing of Pan Am 103, is guilty, and that he was acting on behalf of the Libyan state when he carried it out. Libya has said neither.

    When the compensation arrangements were agreed between Libya and the US/UK last autumn, Libya made a formal statement about Lockerbie in a letter to the President of the Security Council on 15 August 2003. The letter said that Libya “has facilitated the bringing to justice of the two suspects charged with the bombing of Pan Am 103 and accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials”.

    No doubt, those words were agreed in advance with the US/UK. They do not say that al-Megrahi is guilty, nor that he was a Libyan “official”. But they are the sole basis for the Government’s claim that Libya has accepted responsibility for the bombing. It has not.

    Following this formal statement by Libya, the Security Council passed resolution 1506 which lifted UN sanctions permanently. That resolution does not say that as a pre-condition Libya had accepted responsibility for Lockerbie (as it was supposed to do). It merely welcomes Libya’s “acceptance of responsibility for the actions of Libyan officials”. Speaking after the vote on resolution 1506, the US representative said that Libya “has formally stated that it accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials”; again, he didn’t say that Libya had accepted responsibility for the bombing – he just repeated the agreed formula.

    In the House of Commons, Jack Straw has always been more circumspect than on Today. For example, when he made a statement to the House on 5 January on Libya’s abandonment of “weapons of mass destruction”, he did not say that Libya had accepted responsibility for Lockerbie. He used the agreed formula several times, saying, for example, that discussions over several years had led “to Libya agreeing to pay compensation to the families of those killed at Lockerbie, and to the Libyans accepting full responsibility for the actions of their officials”.

    Lying to the House of Commons may have serious consequences, which is presumably the reason for his circumspection’.

  5. Would that be David Morrison you quoted? It sounds like his work.

  6. Yes I have quoted the article before without knowing the author’s name, but I looked up the site again and David Morrison’s name appeared too.

  7. As I have frequently pointed out sanctions were not a peripheral issue but the key issue and "Libya's" objective was to bring them to an end. The demands made of Libya to end sanctions went beyond Lockerbie.

    Did Libya pressurise Megrahi to continue with his appeal? Not at all, they wanted the matter closed. "Libya" had given the Criminal Justice system a punt, Megrahi was convicted and that was essentially the end of the matter.

    Did Gaddafi even mention the word Lockerbie in his address to the UN?

    Notwithstanding the views of the Labour and Trade Union Review 2004 (not exactly written on tablets of stone!) Libya accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials and paid compensation. If Libya never admitted Megrahi was an "official" then they wouldn't have paid compensation. De facto "Libya" accepted responsibility as the letter of the 15th August 2003 makes clear. Of course some ambulance-chaser came up with an acceptable form of words (obviously the world had changed post 9/11). Was "Libya" under duress to accept responsibility or did they do so freely and voluntarily? Go figure.

  8. Some republicans cross their fingers and swear the oath of allegiance to the Queen in order to take their seats in Parliament.

    Libya was prepared to do the same and exchange an admission of responsibility for the lifting of sanctions.

    And yet the US/UK chose to use a form of words in the official record that could be spun as an admission of responsibility, but which wasn’t an actual admission of responsibility.

    Therefore despite Libya’s willingness to accept responsibility with crossed fingers, the official record does not contain a Libyan admission of responsibility.

    US/UK did this because they prefer not to actually lie in official reports, whereas Libya publicly said they were prepared to lie to get sanctions lifted.

  9. I presume the form of words was by negotiation or agreement. The form of words is not that of the US/UK but in a letter from the Libyan representative to the UN. Perhaps they should have taken out an ad in the New York Times. I take the view that as they paid compensation the official record does contain a Libyan admission of responsibility. (I am not saying Libya was actually responsible just that this is a matter of International Relations not criminal Justice.)

  10. Neither in Western nor in Arab law does payment of compensation amount to an admission of responsibility or liability. There are many reasons, other than recognition of guilt, for paying up. One very common one in practice is realization that fighting a claim will be more costly,(financially or in terms of business dislocation or adverse publicity) than settling.

  11. Also as I understand it there was no direct legal link between the compensation payments and the 'admission of responsibility'.

    They were dealt with separately!

    This means the compensation payments were made voluntarily, as a gift, and not in exchange for lifting sanctions.

    No doubt a legal arrangement made to prevent the money having to be repaid at a later date when Megrahi’s conviction is overturned!

    This was the basis of the new regime’s charges against the two former Libyan officials who made the payments.

    It was claimed that the payments were a misuse of public funds because there was no direct linkage and therefore no guarantee that sanctions would be lifted as a result of the payments.

    These charges were dropped under US/UK pressure, because a guilty verdict would have required the new Government to ask for the money back and the resulting legal action would have incited more questions about the ‘admission of responsibility’.

  12. Dave, you're making things up again. Compensation and admission of responsibility were linked in UN security Council resolutions from the very earliest days of Libya's "identification" as the state responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. The "responsibility letter" itself makes this clear, even if you aren't minded to consult the relevant UN documents:

    "I am pleased to inform you that the remaining issues relating to the fulfilment of all Security Council resolutions resulting from the Lockerbie incident have been resolved. I am also pleased to inform you that my country is confident that the representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States of America will be confirming this development to you and to members of the Council as well. The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya has sought to cooperate in good faith throughout the past years to bring about a solution to this matter.

    "In that context and out of respect for international law and pursuant to the Security Council resolutions, Libya as a sovereign State:
    • Has facilitated the bringing to justice of the two suspects charged with the bombing of Pan Am 103 and accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials.
    • Has cooperated with the Scottish investigating authorities before and during the trial and pledges to cooperate in good faith with any further requests for information in connection with the Pan Am 103 investigation. Such cooperation would be extended in good faith through the usual channels.
    • Has arranged for the payment of appropriate compensation. To that end, a special fund has been established and instructions have already been issued to transmit the necessary sums to an agreed escrow account within a matter of days."

  13. What is ambivalent about the phrase "accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials." Having gone down the "Camp Zeist" route "Libya" accepted the verdict and therefore the conclusions of the Court that Megrahi was a Libyan official (which he was.)

    I note the letter also states that
    "Libya as a Sovereign state has facilitated the bringing to justice of the two suspects charged with the bombing". The letter accepts they were brought to justice not just to trial.

    Sometimes you just have to suck it up. Libya did, paid the compensation without having to bother about a Public Accounts Committee then extorted the money from Western oil companies (and Italy)and was soon rehabilitated.

  14. I agree that ‘compensation payments and admission of responsibility’ are linked in the UN reports.

    But if the admission of responsibility is not an actual admission of responsibility, could the compensation payments not be actual compensation payments for Lockerbie, but a ‘gift’ to get sanctions lifted?

    A difference that could exist because of the legal processes followed!

    An idea I drew from the following Lockerbie Case report: Politicians linked to Lockerbie case return to court - Tuesday, 16 October 2012.

    The report said: “These two former senior officials are charged with treason for engaging in negotiations with the lawyers of the victims' families, with the full knowledge that lawyers are not authorised by the US administration to negotiate the conditions of trade sanctions and terrorism suspects”.

    And: “The presiding judge has argued that the compensation deal was a waste of public money since there was no guarantee that the conditions would be met”.

    If this is true, it implies that Libya had to officially negotiate compensation payments with lawyers, acting independently of the American government!

    Was this was done to keep the payments and the lifting of sanctions as legally separate issues?