Tuesday 22 December 2009

Lockerbie families sign up leading lawyer in bid for public inquiry

[The following are excerpts from a report by Lucy Adams in today's edition of The Herald.]

The British relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing have signed up one of the UK’s most high-profile human rights lawyers in a bid to bring about a full public inquiry into the disaster.

Dr Jim Swire and other relatives are working with Gareth Peirce to compel the UK Government under human rights legislation to allow an inquiry into the tragedy that killed 270 people 21 years ago.

Ms Peirce’s clients include the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Dr Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, said he was still waiting to hear from Gordon Brown after he and 10 other relatives delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street in October calling for a full public inquiry.

He wants the case to be taken in England as he says he has lost faith in the Scottish legal system.

“We are pestering him (Mr Brown) for a response,” said Dr Swire. “The next step will be a legal letter from Gareth Peirce explaining that they need to provide an inquiry under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

“There has been no public inquiry despite every Prime Minister in the past 21 years being asked for one. Lockerbie could have been prevented and we want to know why it wasn’t.”

Earlier this year Dr Swire received a letter from the Prime Minister saying he would not back an inquiry. (...)

Lawyers say that under Article 2 of the ECHR, which pertains to the right to life, there is also the right to an inquiry into how that life was taken.

“Although there was a Fatal Accident Inquiry in Dumfries, this was then undermined by new evidence including the break-in at Heathrow airport,” said Professor Robert Black, one of the architects of the original trial at Camp Zeist.

In a recent article in the London Review of Books, Ms Peirce wrote: “The devastation caused by the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, at the cost of 270 lives, deserved an investigation of utter integrity. Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights demands no less.

Where there has been a death any inquiry must be independent, effective and subject to public scrutiny, to provide the basis for an attribution of responsibility and to initiate criminal proceedings where appropriate. But, in the absence of this, a number of the bereaved Lockerbie families have of necessity themselves become investigators, asking probing questions for two decades without receiving answers.”

The Scottish Government has said it would back an inquiry but that it requires UK jurisdiction. (...)

The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission yesterday announced that in February it can release some of the material involved in its three-and-a-half-year investigation into the case, which led to it being referred back for a fresh appeal on six different grounds in June 2007.

A spokesman for Downing Street, said: “There will not be a public inquiry.”

Father Pat Keegans, the priest in Lockerbie at the time of the bombing, had been invited to address the memorial service at Arlington cemetery yesterday. However, Frank Duggan, president of group [Victims of] Pan Am 103 [Inc], took offence at the extract published in yesterday’s Herald and stopped the address going ahead.


  1. Interesting news and I got first comment. Sorry, it's big news but there's been too much after the early-December lull and it's too late and I got that silly Paul McCartney Christmas song stuck in my head, so I can't reasonably comment except to be the icebreaker that says this is good news. At the very least a good Don Quixote move.

  2. In the sixth paragraph of her article "The Framing of Al-Megrahi"
    Ms Peirce wrote:

    (a)"Major McKee a CIA officer returning to the US to report his concern that the couriering of drugs was being codoned"

    (b)a second suitcase recovered by a Scottish farmer contained packets of white powder that a local police office told him was undoubtedly heroin".

    It is clear where she is getting these gems from - the same people who identified a Washington resident as "Abu Elias" the "Lockerbie bomber".

    Good luck with the search for the truth!

  3. This is good news.
    It is quite bizarre how inquiries were so forthcoming into the deaths of Baby P and Victoria Climbie and yet in Lockerbie with so many killed and so many relatives in continual pain that an inquiry is denied.

  4. Surely the government is guilty of torture

  5. Among her peers Gareth Peirce is widely held to be one of the wrold's leading lawyers in resolving miscarriage of justice cases. Her attention to, and focus on, the evidence and the law, on fact rather than hearsay, enabled her to win the release and the clearing of names of some of the most entrenched terrorist cases in recent British history. What she postulated in the LRB article was that there is evidence for other scenarios which is at least as strong as the Crown's evidence. Many investigators believe that McKee had discovered that drugs were being shipped via Pan Am from Frankfurt, possibly in a drugs-for-hostiges deal. Similarly, there are many accounts from a variety of sources that quantities of heroin were found at Lockerbie. The point Peirce is making is the Crown disregarded this while fixing on one single theory.

  6. I do not know what Ms Peirce's reputation is amongst her peers. I am sure she is extremely competent. I am sure she would accept that her career benefitted greatly by the succession of Lord Taylor to Lord Lane.

    Aku praises her attention to "fact rather than hearsay." The claims I quoted are not fact but hearsay, even fantasy. While one of the Trial Judges predicted the Criminal Case Review Commission would be ineffectual I see no point in challenging the conclusion that "there is no evidence that Khalid Jafaar was involved wittingly or unwittingly in the bombing." (A conclusion I came to a long time ago.) Will a further investigation come to a different conclusion?

    I think a Judicial review of the Fatal Accident Inquiry is a possible way forward although the relevance of the Human Rights Act escapes me. Doctor Swire sets great store by the "Manley" break-in at Heathrow. The point therefore of Ms Peirce publishing articles claiming the bomb was introduced at Frankfurt also escapes me.

    "Many investigators believe that McKee had discovered that drugs were being shipped via Pan Am." Clearly Ms Peirce believes it, or at least put her name to this but is there a shred of evidence to support it? Brian Cox saying it does not make it true.

    I have read these "many accounts from a variety of sources that quantities of heroin were found at Lockerbie". I have read one that comes up with a shred of credible evidence - like Ms Peirce they just claim a farmer found a suitcase of drugs. Even if drugs were recovered how is it of relevance? Isn't this just a myth invented by Juval Aviv, and sustained by a procession of dupes, charlatans and fabricators?

    There are many theories of Lockerbie (some of which I regard as barking). Are they all true or should we all select elements from this Smorgasbord for no actual purpose?

    The Fatal Accident Inquiry concluded on the basis of a submission by the Lord Advocates Deputy and successor that the "primary suitcase" arrived at Heathrow on board flight PA103A (a conclusion shared by the drug conspiracy theory). This was based on dubious deductions made by John Orr. These deductions and the submission of Andrew Hardie QC were explicitly contradicted by the Camp Zeist Judgement. The actual evidence is that it was introduced at Heathrow.

    When in 1996 I responded to the PM's claim the investigation was "open" by pointing out the Police had made a colossal blunder in "eliminating" Heathrow the response was a letter drawing my attention to the conclusion of the Fatal Accident Inquiry.

    That is what Ms Peirce should be focusing on, the inadequacy of the Fatal Accident Inquiry rather than giving pointless interviews to express her view that Megrahi's case was a "wrongful conviction". She is not acting for Mr Megrahi.

  7. Some good points, Baz. I take Ms. Pierce as bright and genuine, but she's made a few mistakes. I note the Mebo-Ulrich Lumpert "brown" prototype MST-13 swap story would be a plank of Megrahi's defense. It wasn't and had no right being one, and can't even have the decency to make much sense.

    The whole field is murky with hoaxes, distractions, agendas, secrecy, and plain confusion. It's tough going.

    - Adam