Wednesday, 4 March 2015

International pressure led UK and USA to agree to neutral venue trial

[What follows is an item headed Libya Sanction Hearings Sought in the UN Security Council posted on this date in 1998 on The Pan Am 103 Crash Website:]

Arab and African countries are urging an open Security Council debate to pressure Britain and Washington to ease sanctions imposed on Libya after the 1988 Pan Am bombing. The 15 council members had been scheduled to review -- and presumably renew -- the sanctions for another 120 days this week. Such reviews are routinely done in closed sessions.

But Arab and African members of the Security Council are urging the current president, Abdoulie Momodou Saleh of Gambia, to postpone the review and schedule an open debate, diplomatic sources said Wednesday on condition of anonymity. That would enable any UN member state to join the discussions.

The United States and Britain could block any decision to lift or ease the sanctions, which were imposed in 1992 to pressure Libyan revolutionary leader Moammar Gadhafi to extradite two suspects in the fatal bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The bombing killed 270 people. Still, an open debate would draw attention to calls by the Arab League and the Organization of African Unity to lift the sanctions. Libya has proposed sending the two Libyan suspects to a third country for trial. Washington and London insist they be tried in Scotland or the United States.

But a growing number of council members, including Russia, have urged the council to consider Gadhafi's offer. The use of sanctions as a means of pressuring governments has lost favor among many of the 185 UN member states, in part because they cause suffering among populations who often have little influence on their governments' policies. In an attempt to head off the debate, Britain and the United States have asked UN legal officers for a ruling on whether the review must be completed by the end of the week, the sources said.

If so, there would not be enough time under UN rules to organize an open debate.

[RB: Apart from the Arab League and the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Non-Aligned Movement were losing patience with the intransigence of the United Kingdom and the United States in the face of Libyan willingness to countenance a trial of Megrahi and Fhimah in a neutral country. Here is the text of a communiqué issued on 25 September 1997 at the conclusion of a meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Heads of Delegation of the Non-Aligned Movement:] 

73. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Heads of Delegation reconfirmed the position of the Movement as contained in paragraph 163 of the Final Document of the Eleventh Summit in Cartagena. They expressed concern at the non-acceptance by the three Western countries of the appeals of regional and international organizations and their efforts to reach a peaceful settlement based on the principles of international law. They also affirmed that the measures imposed on Libya are no longer justifiable, and urged the Security Council to expeditiously review the air embargo and the other measures imposed on Libya with a view to lifting them. They further underlined that the escalation of the crisis, the threat to impose additional sanctions and the use of force as a means of conducting relations among States are a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement. They reiterated their support for the proposals submitted jointly by the Organization of African Unity and the League of Arab States, as contained in the declaration of the 65th regular session of the Council of Ministers of the Organization of African Unity held in Tripoli from 24-28 February 1997. These proposals are as follows:

Option 1: To hold the trial of the two suspects in a third and neutral country to be determined by the Security Council.
Option 2: To have the two suspects tried by Scottish judges at the International Court of Justice ICJ at the Hague, in accordance with Scottish law.
Option 3: To establish a special criminal tribunal at the ICJ headquarters in the Hague to try the two suspects.

They called for refraining from resorting to the imposition of sanctions unless a real threat to international peace and security exists and only after all other peaceful means for settling the dispute have been exhausted. They also called for the refraining from adopting measures in the economic, financial, transportation and communication fields, due to their serious and inhumane effects on the people and should reflect the views of the General Assembly. The General Assembly is the only forum that reflects the position of all Member states. Where the imposition of sanctions is inevitable, they should be limited in their duration. After which, a decision should be made whether a consensus for their renewal exists and also serious consideration should be given to lift similar sanctions that are in place.

[RB: It was this erosion of international support for continuation of sanctions against Libya that motivated the UK and USA reluctantly to agree to a neutral venue trial in August 1998, some four years and seven months after my proposal had been accepted by the Libyan Government and the suspects’ defence team.]

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