[What follows is the text of a press release issued by the Crown Office on this date in 1997:]
The Lord Advocate, the Rt Hon Lord Hardie QC, today reaffirmed his commitment to bring the two Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing to trial in Scotland or the United States and accused Libya of prevarication and inconsistency in preventing this.
Speaking at the International Court of Justice at The Hague this morning Lord Hardie, who is leading the British legal team at the case brought by Libya against the United Kingdom, said in his concluding remarks:
“This is not an ordinary case. I remind the Court of my primary responsibility as Lord Advocate of Scotland. It is my duty to bring persons charged with crimes to justice. In this case justice is being delayed and justice has therefore been denied since Libya first refused to hand over these two accused in 1991. I want to discharge my duty, which amounts to no more and no less than the presentation of the case to a jury of 15 ordinary citizens chosen at random.”
Replying to suggestions that the United Nations Security Council, which supports Britain’s position, did not fully represent international opinion the Lord Advocate said:
“I will say only this. It is from the whole membership of the United Nations that the changing membership of the Security Council is drawn. It is the whole membership of the United Nations who have entrusted the responsibility of international peace and security to the Security Council. It is the whole membership of the United Nations who have agreed to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. It is the whole membership of the United Nations who now look to Libya to implement the resolutions of the security council without further evasion and procrastination.
“On behalf of the relatives of the dead, on behalf of the people of Scotland, on behalf of the broader international community, who are watching these proceedings, I would urge this court to reach a decision which will expedite a trial of these men in Scotland or the United States of America.”
Earlier the Lord Advocate had said that while Libya had repeatedly talked about removing its constitutional impediment to the handing over of the accused it had done nothing about it. The Lord Advocate pointed out that several times in the past Libya had referred to action which could be taken to overcome these internal obstacles to extradition of its nationals. “If action had followed these words,” he said, “there would be no obstacle to a trial in Scotland.”
The Lord Advocate also repeated his offer to invite international observers to attend and monitor the trial and detention of the accused and stressed that any matter relative to the fairness of the trial could also be considered under the European Convention on Human Rights. He rejected as “offensive and without substance” Libyan claims that “incantations on the virtues and impartiality of Scottish or American judges are derisory” and underlined that the United Kingdom had been at pains to avoid making statements which prejudge the criminal case. He said “potential jurors are more likely to have been bombarded with ubiquitous reports, films, books and articles putting forward alternative explanations for the responsibility of the crime and suggesting the innocence of the accused.”
It is expected that the International Court will come to a decision on the case brought by the Libyans early in the New Year.
[RB: The case in the International Court of Justice was withdrawn by Libya after Megrahi and Fhimah surrendered themselves for trial. The UK and the USA had earlier sought to have the case dismissed on the basis that the UN Security Council Resolution requiring Libya to hand the suspects over trumped the Montreal Convention which entitled Libya to try them in its domestic courts. The Court resoundingly rejected the UK/US arguments (with the UK and US judges dissenting).
It was another nine months from the date of Lord Hardie’s statement before the UK and the USA agreed to a non-jury trial in the Netherlands, a proposal that had been accepted by the Libyan Government and the Libyan defence lawyers since January 1994. The history can be found here.]