A commentary on the case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted of the murder of 270 people in the Pan Am 103 disaster.
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
Why we must have an inquiry into events at Camp Zeist
[This is the headline over a letter from Dr Jim Swire published in today's edition of The Herald:]
Regarding the recent release of selected government papers under the 30-year rule, I am grateful that at least, under Douglas Hurd as British Foreign Secretary in 1992 we UK Lockerbie relatives were described thus: “Jim Swire, the father of a Lockerbie victim, has campaigned to clear Megrahi's name. He met the foreign secretary in 1992 and is described in the papers as a 'sensible man with whom it is important to keep in touch'".
Years later however, Lord Carloway, for the Scottish High Court turned down the UK relatives’ request for a further appeal against the Megrahi verdict. But would not he have been aware that the verdict reached against Megrahi was at least "unsafe"? The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commision after three years' hard research had told him so. Therefore clearly any agreement to a further review of the evidence might overturn the verdict, raising dire questions about the function of the Scottish criminal prosecution authorities.
Anyone doubting the need to review events at Zeist should turn to those parts of these papers which refer to the opinion of the UN’s appointed observer at the trial, Professor Hans Koechler of Vienna. Review of his work suggests that far from being merely "flawed justice" the failure of the Crown to share critical information with the defence team rendered the whole process invalid as a criminal trial.
It is a task of the Scottish criminal prosecution authorities to produce a just outcome in murder trials, and to see to it that their case is argued in a level playing field where critical information is shared and debated between the defence and prosecution. "Equality of arms" cannot exist where the prosecution which inevitably has the powers necessary to elicit the facts, chooses to sequester many of those facts from the eyes of the defence and the court.
Until the evidence is reviewed in a full and fair open court, or a fully empowered inquiry, how is the Scottish public to be confident that their system is not simply hiding behind an incestuous cloud of opacity in order to conceal its own shortcomings?
Better to lance the boil and review the evidence in public now, rather than to await a situation over which they may have lost control. Even so the period when delay in justice becomes synonymous with denial of justice has been passed long since in this case.
Perhaps some may now begin to believe that Scotland’s system, proudly independent despite the Act of Union, is now obstructing rather than furthering that great ideal, and denying the people it must serve the right to question what their rulers tell them.
Twenty-nine years later we still need to know all that is known about the failure of the protection of our families, and about those involved in perpetrating this diabolical atrocity. Since justice may have failed us all at Zeist, it may become evident that the procedures there have done little but protect the real perpetrators from justice.