Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Lockerbie telegram must remain sealed until 2032

[This is the headline over an article in today's edition of The Times. It reads in part:]

Ministers have refused to disclose the contents of a telegram sent to the prime minister three years after the Lockerbie bombing, claiming it would be harmful to Britain.

A message sent to John Major in 1991, containing information about the atrocity from an unnamed overseas government, is held at the UK National Archives at Kew, west London.

An application made by The Times to view it has been rejected on the basis that it would be damaging to national interests.

The cabinet office’s dismissal of the freedom of information request means the document will remain closed to the public until 2032 at the earliest. It has fuelled suggestions from campaigners that evidence relating to Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity is being concealed.

National Archive records confirm that Mr Major received a telegram relating to the Lockerbie bombing on November 15, 1991. [RB: Significantly, this is the day following the announcement by the UK and US governments that they were bringing charges against Abdelbaset Megrahi and Lamin Fhimah:]

Freedom of information requests are meant to be ruled on within 20 working days. It took almost six months before ministers finally decided that the telegram could not be brought into the public domain.

A response to the request says: “In this instance, we believe the release of the information received in confidence would harm UK relations with the country which provided the information. This would be detrimental to the operation of government and would not be in the UK’s interest.

“In light of the potential harm to UK relations with the country concerned, and UK interests there, it is judged that release of the material would not be in the public interest." (...)

Robert Black, a legal expert who helped to establish the Lockerbie trial, has raised concerns about a lack of transparency from successive UK governments.

The professor emeritus of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, who is convinced a miscarriage of justice took place, said: “It is extremely difficult to understand how a document dating from November 15, 1991, could still in 2019 adversely affect the national interests of the UK or its relations with the country of origin. Much more likely is that the contents of the documents would embarrass the UK by showing just how tenuous is the case for Libyan responsibility for the Lockerbie tragedy.”

Iain McKie, of the Justice for Megrahi group, said: “It beggars belief that the UK government, after 30 years of widespread and well-founded doubts about various aspects of the Lockerbie investigation and trial, continues in its efforts to hide the truth about the tragedy.

“That they should claim to be protecting the public interest only adds insult to injury for the family and friends of the 270 souls who perished.”

More than 50 government files relating to the bombing on December 21, 1988, are held at the archives.

Late last year a file containing records from the prime minister’s office relating to the “Pan Am 747 air crash” was declassified and listed in records as available to view.

When The Times asked to see it, reporters were told that it had been retained by the government on an indefinite basis.

Dozens of other files, listed under “Aviation security: destruction of Pam Am, Flight 103”, have been closed until 2032. Applications to view them are met with a notice saying that they are “closed and retained”.

[RB: I suspect that the document in question is, or is related to, the one from King Hussein of Jordan in respect of which then Foreign Secretary David Miliband issued a public interest immunity (PII) certificate barring disclosure to Megrahi's legal team in the run-up to his second appeal:  

The sorry saga of the UK government's PII claim, as it unfolded in Megrahi's 2008 appeal following the SCCRC's reference of his conviction back to the High Court of Justiciary, can be followed here:]

1 comment:

  1. I am not to sure that the telegram came from Jordan. What if it came from America and gave instructions to Britain as to what America required of them in regards to pinning the blame on Libya.I doubt a spate with Jordan could cause us to many problems but a spate with America would be far different especially if it confirmed how we were totally under their control