Sunday, 24 November 2019

Lockerbie verdict "an aberration in the history of international law"

[What follows is an English translation (by me, with assistance from Google Translate) of an article published today on the website of the German newspaper Die Welt:]

Verdict over Lockerbie attack to be reviewed

In 1988, a bomb tore apart a plane over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.  A Libyan intelligence officer was convicted for the terrorist attack. But there are some indications that he was not the culprit. At the beginning of 2020, the case could be reconsidered.

More than 30 years after the attack on a jumbo jet of the former US airline Pan Am over Lockerbie, Scotland, a completely new legal review of the terrorist act may take place. In 2001, the Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basit Ali al-Megrahi was convicted as the culprit, but his family has applied for a review.

According to information obtained by Welt am Sonntag, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) will decide at the beginning of 2020 whether to allow an appeal to the High Court of Justiciary, the highest criminal court in Scotland. 

In Germany, the Lockerbie case made headlines in the spring.  The SCCRC had made requests for judicial assistance to the German judiciary, and dozens of former employees of the GDR state security were interrogated. [RB: The interrogation of former East German Stasi officers took place at the instigation of Scottish police and prosecutors, not the SCCRC, as explained here and here. We do not know what information the SCCRC is seeking in Germany, but here is what I said to a Scottish journalist in July:  "I really have no idea what it is that the SCCRC is seeking evidence about in Germany. The only German connections that spring readily to mind are (a) Operation Autumn Leaves in Neuss []; (b) the alleged movement of the bomb suitcase through Frankfurt Airport; and (c) Edwin Bollier's supply of MEBO timers to the East German Stasi. Because the court order granting the SCCRC a European Investigation Order refers to a specific person and his involvement with the Pan Am 103 case (and to possible criminal proceedings), I think (a) is the most likely. But this is merely guess-work."]

The background is that in the early 90s the investigation also followed a trail to East Berlin, which is now being pursued again. The bomb aboard the Boeing 747 exploded on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew. Eleven inhabitants from Lockerbie also died.

The verdict against the Libyan agent al-Megrahi is controversial. Austrian international law expert Hans Köchler, who observed the Lockerbie trial for the United Nations, told Welt am Sonntag: "The Lockerbie trial was more like a secret service operation than ordinary court proceedings." The result was an "aberration in the history of international law" that the international community must correct for its own sake.

The British doctor Jim Swire, who lost his daughter in the attack, considers a new procedure overdue. Swire told the newspaper, "I expected my country to find the truth, the whole truth." That the truth has been suppressed so far is "an insult to my murdered daughter."

The SCCRC deals with miscarriages of justice, and describes itself as "independent of Parliament, the Scottish Government, the Crown, the judiciary and the defense." As early as May 2018, the Commission stated that it was "in the interest of justice" to accept the request of the family of the convicted Libyan to consider whether they should be allowed to contest the verdict. At that time it stated that it wished to undertake a "total review", which is now almost complete, reports Welt am Sonntag.

A preliminary investigation into Lockerbie (file reference 50 Js 42.401 / 88) is pending at the public prosecutor's office in Frankfurt am Main. The authority is acting in support of the Scots: "Currently, in Germany witness hearings are taking place by way of legal assistance," said the prosecutor to Welt am Sonntag. In the disaster, four Germans lost their lives, two women and two men, from Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia.

[RB: A much longer article, with extensive interviews with Dr Jim Swire, Edwin Bollier and Professor Hans Köchler also appears today, behind a paywall, in Welt am Sonntag]


  1. Don't know if anyone else ever tells you this, but thank you for keeping this site going. I'm not sure if the truth will ever see the light of day (I'm much too old to be an optimist) but it matters that people try - I can make do with that.

    Hasta la victoria siempre, I suppose.

    1. Many thanks for this. I truly hope that this dreadful injustice will be rectified very soon, albeit too late for poor Abdelbaset himself. I am as convinced as ever that this will eventually happen, but I'm beginning to fear that I will not be around to see it.

  2. Who colluded with whom in an attempt to fool the world into blaming Libya and exonerarating Iran? One assumes leaders of government are involved, who enjoy immunity from investigation, let alone prosecution. However: is the International Criminal Court not the place to hold these leaders accountable? Why are they not investigated and exposed?