Tuesday, 12 September 2017

UN urged to investigate Lockerbie

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]

The UN General Assembly is being urged to hold an inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing, it has emerged.

Campaigners say they are optimistic the UN will put in place a commission to investigate the 1988 atrocity which resulted in the deaths of 270 people.

An appeal by Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi against his conviction for the bombing has been dropped, raising fears the whole truth of the case could be lost.

Hans Koechler, the UN observer at the original trial, backs the campaign.

Professor Robert Black, one of the original architects of the trial at Camp Zeist, is also supporting the campaign.

He said: "It's about trying to get an inquiry of some description into Lockerbie.

"Now that al-Megrahi has been released, that method of trying to secure some truth through an appeal has vanished and this is about trying to look at other methods."

Megrahi - who is the only person convicted over the bombing - is dying from cancer and was released from jail on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government last month.

He had been pursuing an appeal against conviction which campaigners hoped would have shed new light on the case, but he dropped this just before his release.

Prof Black said: "The original trial was set up through the UN and that's the reason that many countries other than UK co-operated.

"The obvious thing to do would be to ask the security council of the UN to hold an inquiry, but in realistic terms that's not going to happen, because the UK and US have vetoes and don't want it.

"They don't have vetoes on the General Assembly."

It comes as Libya prepares to take over the presidency of the Assembly later this month.

Prof Black said the move is being driven by the Justice for Megrahi campaign, but that it has the backing of Hans Koechler, the UN observer at the original trial, and Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the tragedy.

Father Patrick Keegans, the priest in Lockerbie at the time of the bombing, has also backed the move.

Asked about the chances of success, Prof Black added: "I think it's pretty good.

"There are a lot of countries that don't think we've seen the truth and would like to see that uncovered."

According to The Herald newspaper, Prof Hans Koechler, of the University of Innsbruck, said the General Assembly had set up such a commission in 1968 to look at Gaza.

He told the paper: "As the General Assembly is a deliberative body it has only moral authority and no coercive powers.

"It could however raise international awareness of the different issues involved and name and shame certain countries enough to ensure they do something about it. It could pressure Britain into holding an inquiry."

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who made the decision to free Megrahi, has said he would support a UK inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing, while Westminster has consistently refused.

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