Monday, 14 December 2015

We need to know the whole truth

[What follows is the text of a letter from Martin Cadman published in The Independent on this date in 1998. I cannot trace the letter of 7 December to which it is a response:]

Mervyn Benford is mistaken (letter, 7 December). As a signatory of the Montreal Convention, which it has not denounced, Britain is evidently content with the Libyan system and legally obliged to accept that Libya should try the two men accused of the Lockerbie bombing in Libya.

Under Article 7 of the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation 1971, signed by Britain, Libya and the USA, a contracting state in whose territory an alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution. That is the legal position. Morally and ethically Britain may take a different view.

As the father of a Lockerbie victim, my concern is not whether the two men, acting on their own or as agents for the Libyan state, contrived to get a bomb through all the checks in Malta, Frankfurt and Heathrow with or without assistance by others. My concerns are: why Pan Am 103 was blown up; how it was blown up given the intelligence services and aviation security systems, and how terrorism can be prevented by enabling people or countries with grievances, real or imagined, to get a fair hearing so that they are not driven to terrorism.

I hope that the present moves to get a trial in The Hague succeed. But the trial, whatever its outcome, would not alleviate by one little bit our pain. We need to know the whole truth and perhaps could then find some grain of comfort from that knowledge contributing to preventing acts of terrorism.

[Here is something that I wrote a few years ago about the Montreal Convention:]

On 27 November 1991 the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States each issued a statement calling upon the Libyan government to hand over the two accused to either the Scottish or the American authorities for trial in Scotland or the United States.  Requests for their extradition were transmitted to the government of Libya through diplomatic channels.  No extradition treaties are in force between Libya on the one hand and United Kingdom and the United States on the other.

Libyan internal law, in common with the laws of many countries in the world, does not permit the extradition of its own nationals for trial overseas.  The government of Libya accordingly contended that the affair should be resolved through the application of the provisions of a 1971 civil aviation Convention concluded in Montreal to which all three relevant governments are signatories.  That Convention provides that a state in whose territory persons accused of terrorist offences against aircraft are resident has a choice aut dedere aut judicare, either to hand over the accused for trial in the courts of the state bringing the accusation or to take the necessary steps to have the accused brought to trial in its own domestic courts.  In purported compliance with the second of these options, the Libyan authorities arrested the two accused and appointed a Supreme Court judge as examining magistrate to consider the evidence and prepare the case against them.  Not surprisingly, perhaps, the UK and US governments refused to make available to the examining magistrate the evidence that they claimed to have amassed against the accused, who remained under house arrest in Libya until they were eventually handed over in April 1999 for trial at Camp Zeist.


  1. ... and how terrorism can be prevented by enabling people or countries with grievances, real or imagined, to get a fair hearing so that they are not driven to terrorism.

    Things have only got worse in that respect since that statement was made. Libya is destroyed, Syria is destroyed, Iraq is destroyed, Afghanistan is destroyed, and they'd destroy Iran too, for two pins.

    And all on the ludicrous premise that the faults are all on the middle-eastern side, and that the western countries are just, fair and honest. What a travesty.

  2. This is why the Lockerbie case is important: we are living on and acting upon lies, and don't really care as soon as problems are outside our own backyard.

    But while politics are complicated, the Lockerbie case is simple.
    Getting that right just might help, for a start.
    One battle won will help.
    The war will never be won, such is mankind.