[On this date in 2003 the case brought by Libya against the United Kingdom in March 1992 over the call by the UK for the extradition of Megrahi and Fhima was by consent removed from the roll of the International Court of Justice. An identical action by Libya against the United States of America was similarly removed.
Here is what I have previously written about this chapter in the Lockerbie affair in an article headed “The Lockerbie Disaster” published in (1999) 3 Edinburgh Law Review 85-95:]
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. Requests for their extradition were transmitted to the Government of Libya by diplomatic channels. No extradition treaties are in force between Libya on the one hand and the United Kingdom and 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 the 1971 Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation, to which all three Governments are signatories. Under article 7 of that Convention 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 steps necessary to have the accused brought 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 entirely surprisingly, perhaps, the UK and US Governments have refused to make available to the examining magistrate the evidence that they claim to have amassed against the accused who, to this day, remain under house arrest.
The United Nations Security Council first became involved in the Lockerbie affair on 21 January 1992 when it passed Resolution 731 strongly deploring the Government of Libya's lack of co-operation in the matter and urging it to respond to the British and American requests contained in their statements of 27 November 1991. This was followed by Security Council Resolution 748 (31 March 1992) requiring Libya to comply with the requests within a stipulated period of time, failing which a list of sanctions specified in the Resolution would be imposed. Compliance was not forthcoming and the sanctions duly came into effect. On 11 November 1993 the Security Council, by Resolution 883, further extended the range and application of the sanctions. The imposition of sanctions under the last two Resolutions was justified by the Security Council by reference to Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations on the basis that Libya's failure to extradite the accused constituted a threat to peace.
On 3 March 1992 (after the passing of Security Council Resolution 731, but before Resolutions 748 and 883), Libya presented applications to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for declarations that she was entitled under Article 7 of the 1971 Montreal Convention to put the accused on trial in Libya and that the United Kingdom and the United States were in breach of their obligations under that Convention in insisting upon trial in the UK or the USA. The Governments of the United Kingdom and United States sought to have these applications dismissed without a hearing on the merits on the grounds inter alia that (1) the ICJ had no jurisdiction to consider them and (2) the Security Council Resolutions of 31 March 1992 and 11 November 1993, imposing upon Libya an international obligation contended by the UK and the USA to be superior to that embodied in Article 7 of the Montreal Convention, had rendered the applications pointless. On 27 February 1998 the judges of the ICJ by substantial majorities [RB: 13 to 3] (and with the American and British judges dissenting) rejected the submissions of the UK and the USA, thereby clearing the way for decisions at some time in the future on the merits of Libya's applications.
[RB: This judgement was followed within six months by the UK and US volte face whereby they agreed to a neutral venue trial; and after that trial and the subsequent appeal were concluded the ICJ cases were quietly dropped. This is regrettable since the cases might well have led to a finding that the ICJ had authority judicially to review the legality of acts of the UN Security Council, which would have significantly reduced the influence of the Council's permanent members, including the USA and UK, and might possibly, for example, have judicially stymied the invasion of Iraq.]