Monday, 31 March 2008

Libya's Lockerbie compensation proposal

There have recently been a series of press reports about a Libyan proposal to resolve outstanding compensation issues regarding the La Belle disco bombing and the destruction of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie and UTA 772 over Niger. Here, reproduced from Mathaba.Net, is Patrick Haseldine's perceptive commentary:

'It is hardly surprising that details have not been revealed about the 'comprehensive settlement agreement' which Libya has proposed to resolve the question of compensation for the terrorist bombings of Berlin's La Belle discotheque in April 1986, Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie in December 1988 and UTA Flight 772 over Niger, West Africa, in September 1989.

Libya has never admitted responsibility for the La Belle attack. Nonetheless, in August 2004, the Gaddafi International Foundation for Charity Associations (GIFCA) agreed with lawyers representing the German victims a final compensation figure of $35 million. US victims were presumably excluded from this agreement because of the USAF retaliatory air raid on Tripoli in June 1986, in which Muammar al-Gaddafi's adopted daughter Hannah was among dozens of casualties.

On August 15, 2003, Libya's UN ambassador, Ahmed Own, submitted a letter to the UN Security Council formally accepting "responsibility for the actions of its officials" in relation to both aircraft bombings. The Libyan government offered $2.7 billion compensation to relatives of the 270 Lockerbie bombing victims and proceeded to pay each family $8 million (from which legal fees of about $2.5 million were deducted). As a result, the United Nations cancelled the sanctions that had been suspended four years earlier, and US trade sanctions were lifted. A further $2 million would have gone to each family had the US State Department removed Libya from its list of states regarded as supporting international terrorism, but as this did not happen before the deadline set by Libya, the Libyan Central Bank withdrew the remaining $540 million in April 2005 from the escrow account in Switzerland through which the earlier $2.16 billion compensation for the victims' families had been paid. A civil action against Libya continues on behalf of Pan Am, which went bankrupt partly as a result of the Lockerbie attack. The airline is seeking $4.5 billion for the loss of the aircraft and the effect on the airline's business.

In January 2004, the Libyan leader's son Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi signed an agreement on behalf of GIFCA with French relatives' group "Les familles du DC-10 d'UTA en colère" offering a compensation payment of $170 million, or $1 million for each of the 170 UTA victims. By May 2007, it was reported that 95% of this compensation money had been distributed. However, the families of the seven American victims refused to accept their $1 million awards and are pursuing the Libyan government through a federal court in Washington. On September 19, 2006, the court was asked to rule that the Libyan government and six of its agents were guilty of the September 19, 1989 destruction of UTA Flight 772. Damages of more than $2 billion were claimed for the loss of life and the destruction of the DC-10 jet. In April 2007, D.C. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy found Libya directly responsible for the bombing and presided over a three day bench trial from August 13 to August 15, 2007. On January 15, 2008 Judge Kennedy issued an order awarding $6 billion in damages to the families and owners of the airliner. Libya has appealed this decision.

There are, however, strong reasons for believing that Libya was "fitted up" for these two aircraft bombings. According to French investigative journalist, Pierre Péan, the FBI conspired to incriminate Libya for the sabotage of both Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772. Péan wrote an article published in 'Le Monde Diplomatique' in March 2001, just after the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial had ended with the conviction of Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi on the strength of just one piece of hard evidence: a tiny fragment of a timing device manufactured by the Swiss firm Mebo.

Two years earlier, six Libyans were tried 'in absentia' and convicted in 1999 by a Paris court for the UTA Flight 772 bombing. Péan claimed there was something wrong:

"It is striking to witness the similarity of the discoveries, by the FBI, of the scientific proof of the two aircraft that were sabotaged: the Pan Am Boeing 747 and the UTA DC-10. Among the thousands or rather tens of thousands of pieces of debris collected near the crash sites, just one PCB fragment was found in each case, which carried enough information to allow its identification: Mebo for the Boeing 747 and "TY" (from Taiwan) for the DC-10."

Péan went on to accuse judge Jean-Louis Bruguière of ignoring the results of an analysis by Claude Colisti of the Direction Centrale de la Police Judiciaire (DCPJ) – one of the world's foremost explosives experts – that the "TY" timer fragment had no trace of explosives residue, and could not therefore have been connected to the bomb that destroyed UTA Flight 772. Furthermore, neither a forensic inquiry by the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) nor an examination by the scientific laboratory of the Préfecture de Police (PP) could make any connection between the timer fragment and the bomb. According to Péan, judge Bruguière had therefore taken at face value the word of an FBI political operative (Thomas Thurman), who had been discredited in 1997 by the US Inspector-General, Michael Bromwich, and told never again to appear in court as an expert witness, rather than accept the findings of French forensic experts. It was revealed at the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial that the British scientist, Dr Thomas Hayes, had also failed to test the Mebo timer fragment for explosives residue. Such reckless disregard for the integrity of forensic evidence is likely to have the most profound effects upon the Scottish judicial process in relation to Megrahi's second appeal against conviction at the Edinburgh Appeal Court in 2008.

There have been suggestions that, if Megrahi's appeal is successful and his conviction is overturned, Libya could seek to recover the compensation that has already been paid. Interviewed by French newspaper 'Le Figaro' on December 7, 2007, Saif al-Gaddafi insisted that the seven Libyans convicted for the Pan Am Flight 103 and the UTA Flight 772 bombings "are innocent". When asked if Libya would therefore seek reimbursement of the compensation paid to the families of the victims ($2.33 billion in total), Saif al-Gaddafi replied: "I don't know".

Thus, the proposed 'comprehensive settlement agreement' - that Libyan officials discussed in London last week with David Welch of the US State Department - is more likely to involve a refund of compensation to Libya, rather than any further payments by Libya.'

Here is an article on the compensation issue from The Wall Street Journal of 2 April 2008.


  1. Your comment: "Thus, the proposed 'comprehensive settlement agreement - that Libyan officials discussed in London last week with David Welch of the US State Department - is more likely to involve a refund of compensation to Libya, rather than any further payments by Libya." appears (like many of your comments) to be inaccurate, and misleading.

    Check the U.S. State Department Web site for accurate statements:
    "QUESTION: Anything new on Libya from this morning about the substance of the talks between David Welch and his Libyan counterpart?

    MR. MCCORMACK: I have a couple points that folks have given me to help describe what it is that we are trying to accomplish. Let me just run through these.

    Libya has promised to respond to the American court cases brought against it in good faith, and we expect that Libya will honor this commitment. Libya has retained legal representatives and is fully participating -- fully -- and is participating fully in the U.S. judicial process. Recently, however, Libya has raised concerns of its own and suggested a way to expedite resolution of these cases through a comprehensive settlement agreement. The Administration is exploring this possibility with Libyan representatives to determine if it would help American victims receive fair compensation in the shortest possible time and with greater certainty.

    We remain committed to helping American victims of terrorism attain justice through fair compensation.

    So that’s the half of the issue that David Welch was dealing with in London. That’s just -- this has been provided as a brief description as to what he was trying to accomplish there. He’ll report back to the Secretary when -- I think he arrives back today, and he’ll talk to her either today or tomorrow.

    The second part of what we’re trying to do has been reported as well, is the letter that’s been signed by the three cabinet secretaries -- Secretaries Rice, Gutierrez and Bodman -- up to the Hill to talk -- to start a dialogue with the Congress to try to get at this issue of the Congress writing into law the provision for a waiver that would allow us to determine in our national security interest for -- that we can provide a waiver for states that are no longer designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

    Now, the way this is worded and the specific conditions in this case, it would only apply to Libya, although one can imagine other cases down the road in which the condition would (inaudible). That was the same case for Iraq as well, but because of the need to quickly pass a legislation that contained this provision for an Iraq waiver, we moved forward with the Congress on that. Now, we’re trying to go back and address the specific case of Libya. So we’re trying to work both halves of the issue: work with the Libyan Government on this idea of a fair, just, efficient, speedy, comprehensive settlement for victims of terrorism and their families; and working with the Congress as well so that, on the other side of the equation for the Libyan Government, there’s some certainty about this particular issue looking forward.

    QUESTION: Okay.

    QUESTION: So how recently is this?

    MR. MCCORMACK: The letter?

    QUESTION: No, how long -- how long have you been exploring this comprehensive settlement idea?

    MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have the exact timeline, Matt. I think it’s been something they’ve been thinking about -- certainly, while they’ve been working on settlements in each of these --

    QUESTION: Right.

    MR. MCCORMACK: -- in these cases for quite some time, I can’t tell you what the particular origin in time is of this idea on the Libyan side. So you’ll have to ask them about what their thinking was. But it’s something that, in the interest of getting some compensation and justice for these American citizens, we thought it worthwhile exploring with them.

    QUESTION: Who did he meet with?

    MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know exactly with whom he met. We can try to find that out for you. (Inaudible)"

  2. Berlin Bombing Victim,

    In response to this article, I would like to express, that as one of the victims of the 1986 attack. I feel that the US State Department’s stance has been weak, as it relates to Libya and their legal troubles in the US. To think that the Libyans will act in good faith and honor any US legalities is absolutely ludicrous.

    Two years ago our lawyers, reached a settlement agreement with the Libyans. But the agreement was derailed by the Current Administration. Clearly the war on Terror wasn’t going quite well, and the Bush administration needed to demonstrates some wins on the war on Terror. Thus sacrificing US serviceman, and making a deal with the Devil. Once the Libyans were removed from the terrorist list, and the sanctions lifted, we lost our leverage, and the Libyans quickly reneged on the settlement deal.

    Fast forward two years later. The tireless efforts of Senator Frank Lautenberg, and others passing the HR. Defense Authorization bill 1585, and particularly section 1083.

    Once again the Victims of the Libyans terrorist act have leverage again. Once again the Bush administration feels the need to protect the interest of the Oil, and other global suppliers who are salivating over the potential deal flow to build up Libya.

    Finally, why would congress provide a waiver for the Libyans, when they are the reason the bill was introduced in the first place.

    Our attorneys, was successful in placing liens on US/Libyan interest. Now the US State department has decided to get involved, my thinking is that President Bush is probably catching it from his oil buddies.

    Victim of Terror
    Labelle Disco
    Berlin 1986

  3. This story creates several very wrong impressions. First, the FBI (and Scottish police) never "fitted" anyone up for the Lockerbie bombing. The evidence was meticulously collected by the police in Scotland and the "team" followed the evidence which led to a conviction in 2001. If a French journalist (Pean) stated that somehow the FBI conspired to frame Libya for both the UTA and Lockerbie attacks,he should have offered some sort of proof. Anyone can claim anything--it is far another to prove it. I would like to see his offer of proof.
    It is somehow incredible that Libya was able to demand that the United States remove them from the state sponsors of terrorism list by a specified date otherwise their agreement to compensate the families was null and void. After "admitting" their actions, Libya had no standing to extort the victims through their own demands.
    One reason (this is an assumption on my part) that Dr. Hayes may not have subjected the MEBO fragment to an explosives residue test is that it was found blasted into a piece of cloth which did have explosive residue on it. How else could it have gotten there?? I guess some would claim it was "planted" yet no one has yet made that claim.

  4. Edwin Bollier (whom the court deemed to be an unreliable and untruthful witness in the Lockerbie trial, appeal and SCCRC review) claims the MEBO fragment was planted. He even went so far as to get one of his (now ex) employees, Ulrich Lumpert to write an affidavit stating that he switched the timer with one stolen from MEBO. This Affidavit was most likely coerced out of Lumpert by Bollier. But who is going to believe Bollier anyway? Not me. And hopefully not anyone else in their right mind.

  5. I commend Ludwig De Braeckeleer's excellent article "Key Lockerbie Witness Admits Perjury" ( to Richard Marquise and to anyone who disputes Pierre Pean's claim that the FBI fabricated the timer fragment evidence in order to incriminate Mr Megrahi and Libya for the Lockerbie bombing. For ease of reference, the article was reprinted in full on this blog on 7 September 2007.

    And last week's news that the Arab League are supporting Libya by pressing for the release of the document(s) that Foreign Secretary David Miliband insists Mr Megrahi should not see is an important development in the appeal process. The fact that the Arab League also "reconfirmed the legitimate right of Libya to reparations for the human and material losses incurred by the unjust sanctions that had been imposed on it" adds credence to my suggestion that the "comprehensive settlement proposal" is more likely to involve a refund of compensation to Libya rather than any further payments by Libya.