Thursday, 11 February 2016

Megrahi application to European Court of Human Rights dismissed

[On this date in 2003 an application by Abdelbaset Megrahi to the European Court of Human Rights was dismissed:]

On 12 September 2002 the applicant’s defence team lodged an application (number 33955/02) with the European Court of Human Rights in which they argued that the applicant’s right to a fair trial had been infringed by, inter alia, prejudicial pre-trial publicity. On 11 February 2003 the court ruled the application inadmissible on the basis that the applicant had failed to exhaust domestic remedies by raising these issues in the domestic forum.

[RB: The application was made on the advice of English human rights lawyers consulted by Megrahi's Scottish solicitor. There were Scottish lawyers (I was one) who took the view that the application would be unsuccessful because of failure to exhaust domestic remedies (such as application to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission). 

The background to the unsuccessful application is outlined in the following report on the BBC News website:]

The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is having his case taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Lawyers for Abdelbaset al-Megrahi have lodged a petition in which they allege the Libyan's human rights were breached during his trial and subsequent appeal at the special Scottish court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

Megrahi was jailed for life for the 1988 bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over the Scottish town, in which 270 people died.

He was moved to Glasgow Barlinnie prison in March when he lost an appeal against his murder conviction.

The lawyers who represented him during his appeal have since been replaced.
Eddie MacKechnie, who is now representing Megrahi, said that his client's trial and subsequent appeal under Scottish courts was flawed in several key respects.

Speaking at a press conference in Glasgow, Mr MacKechnie said he believed Megrahi was innocent and was the victim of a massive miscarriage of justice.

He said: "My client's right to a fair trial was prejudiced by unfair publicity and public statements by officials here and abroad.

"This extended over years. His photo and that of is his co-accused were circulated all over the world.

"There was a failure to disclose material information to the defence. The court failed to make sure the defence had access to key information and left it up to the Crown to decide what information was given."

The solicitor also cited intervention by the US government and its defence organisations, particularly the CIA, in the case as further grounds for the action. (...)

Mr MacKechnie acknowledged the European Court had no power to release Megrahi, but said he believed the Government in Britain would bow to pressure if the complaint was upheld.

He said he expected the process of bringing the case to court would take about a year, including the time to decide whether there was a case to answer.

He added that an application was being prepared to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission on Megrahi's behalf alleging among other things that his defence at the trial was inadequately handled.

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