Tuesday 18 November 2008

UK and Libya sign prisoner transfer agreement

The United Kingdom Government and the Libyan Government have just signed the prisoner transfer agreement that was negotiated between them some time ago. The relevant Foreign and Commonwealth Office press release can be read here.

Two points are made very clear. (1) The Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) allows the return of a prisoner to serve out his sentence in his home country where both jurisdictions are in agreement. Prisoners do not have an automatic right to transfer: the consent of the authorities in both states is required before transfer can take place. (2) No individual can be transferred under the PTA until all criminal proceedings in relation to that individual have been exhausted.

In the case of a prisoner serving his sentence in Scotland, it is the Scottish (not the UK) Government that would require to decide whether transfer should be allowed; and the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, has so far made it abundantly clear that in his view the PTA negotiated by the UK Government should specifically have excluded anyone convicted in respect of the Lockerbie bombing. On 2 February 2008 he said:

"My role, the role of the government is to defend the integrity of the judicial system in Scotland and that's exactly what we intend to do.

"We've made it quite clear that, in terms of prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, we thought it would be appropriate if anyone connected with the Lockerbie atrocity was excluded specifically from any prisoner transfer agreement.

"Until very recently, that was also the position of the UK Government."

It might therefore appear that, if an application were made for Abdelbaset Megrahi to be transferred back to Libya (and there has been no hint that one is likely to be made), the Scottish Government would not be disposed to grant it.

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