Saturday, 23 July 2016

Questions remain over Lockerbie

[This is the headline over four letters that were published in The Guardian on this date in 2010. They read as follows:]

I support President Obama's call for "all the facts to be laid out" regarding the Lockerbie affair (Cameron tells Obama he will release Lockerbie files, 21 July). He should be reminded that the Montreal convention of 1971, enacted under the UN-linked International Civil Aviation Organisation, was the proper legal instrument to address the terrorist bombing of flight PA 103 over Lockerbie.

The US, resenting the convention provision that the two suspects could be tried in Libya, orchestrated UN sanctions in an attempt to force their surrender to an American or British court. The sanctions caused the deaths of most of 15,750 Libyans suffering from serious medical conditions because they could not be evacuated by air for treatment abroad. In addition, more than 780 Libyans died in ambulances en route to neighbouring countries. It was judged that there had been 1,135 stillbirths and 514 maternal deaths caused by the shortage of medicines, serums and vaccines blocked by the sanctions. A UN report in 1998 confirmed the impact of sanctions on Libya.

The conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was a farce. Even Lord Sutherland, presiding over the arbitrarily contrived Scottish court in Holland, emphasised the "uncertainties and qualifications" in the case, referred to parts of the "conflicting" evidence "which might not fit" and to a conclusion "which is not really justified". The US ignored international law, imposed sanctions on Libya which resulted in 16,000 deaths, and orchestrated a blatant miscarriage of justice.
Geoff Simons

As politicians in both Britain and the US queue up to comment on the release of Megrahi, they remain silent about the need for an inquiry into the atrocity itself. To deny the families of the 270 victims of Lockerbie an investigation into this gross act of terrorism is an international disgrace, and the failure to seek to identify those responsible encourages more acts of terrorism.

I have a personal concern about the failure to hold an inquiry as I was with Bernt Carlsson, the UN assistant secretary general, shortly before he checked in on Pan Am Flight 103. As president of the development committee of the European parliament I had invited him to Brussels, where he spoke about his hopes for an independent Namibia and the end of apartheid to a packed meeting of MEPs.

David Cameron should call for an independent inquiry led by the UN to find out the truth about Pan Am Flight 103.
Michael McGowan
Former MEP for Leeds (1984-99)

However appalling the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 was, and if Libya were responsible, at worst Megrahi was following orders. That doesn't excuse his putative actions, but it is then hard to identify a moral distinction between his behaviour and eg that of the USAF aircrews attempting Gaddafi's assassination in the US bombing raid on Tripoli that killed 59 people, including Gaddafi's adopted daughter, or the behaviour of the (subsequently decorated) captain of the USS Vincennes when he shot down Iran Air flight 655 in 1988, killing all 290 passengers and crew.

David Cameron has no business trying to curry favour with the US administration by criticising the lawful and probably just decision of the Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds. He should instead have lectured Obama on the subject of motes and beams; there was plenty of material for him to draw on – he could have started with the comfortable retirement in Miami of Luis Posada Carriles, an ex-CIA stringer responsible for the bombing of Cubana Flight 455 in 1976, despite his conviction in absentia in Venezuela and their related extradition requests.
Andy Smith
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

In all the hype about releasing Megrahi, one crucial fact seems to have got submerged. He was about to appeal with new evidence, and very likely win, when "persuaded" to abandon the appeal and be sent home "on compassionate grounds". Cynics might think this was to avoid the embarrassment of the court deciding that all along they had the wrong man. A case where two wrongs make a right?
Anthony Cheke

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