Saturday 16 April 2016

'This is a sensible compromise solution, accept it'

[On this date in 1998 Dr Jim Swire and I had a meeting in Cairo with Dr Esmat Abdel-Meguid, the Secretary-General of the Arab League. What follows is a report on the meeting:]

The Scottish lawyer Robert Black said on the 16th of April in Cairo after the talks with Abdel Maguid, that his latest proposal to end a dispute between Libya, Britain and the United States over the trial of two Libyan suspects in a 1988 airliner bombing would be his last. Black gave no details on the modifications in the more recent proposal. But he said there was “fine-tuning” to make it more acceptable to the British and Americans.

“What we are hoping for is that continued pressure on these two governments will cause them to see the error of their ways,” Black said.

Robert Black told a news conference he was “51 percent sure” the Libyans would accept the modified proposal. He would not give details, but Black and Swire are suggesting the suspects be tried under Scottish law in a neutral venue by an international panel of judges, without a jury. But Robert Black, a legal expert advising the victims' families, said there was little hope the United States would accept the proposal, although international pressure might succeed in winning Britain's support. “One simply has to give up on the American government,” Black said. “They are unmovable.”

“It's now plain that the United States and the United Kingdom as far as I know are the only two nations in the civilised world which are not saying 'this is a sensible compromise solution, accept it',” Black said after meeting the head of the Cairo-based Arab League. “What I am hoping is that the United Kingdom can see the error of its ways if it is given an opportunity marginally to save face. They have to find a solution. If this proposal does not work, then I suspect that this may very well be the end of the line.

“I can't very well go on drafting scheme after scheme, that are accepted by one side but rejected outright by the other. All three are going to have to accept something with which they are not 100% happy in order for there to be a compromise,” he said. "If they are prepared to do that then there is a remote possibility of progress. But I wouldn't put it above saying there is a slight chance. But any chance is better than no chance."

Swire slammed the British government for not moving fast enough to end the crisis. “For six years, I have been waiting for the men charged with the brutal murder of my daughter to be put on trial but on March 20, the permanent representative of my country in the United Nations was busy telling the Security Council that the sanctions they imposed on Libya were not working.

“Why have you kept us waiting for six years when they are not working? They are demolishing the thing they invited us to depend on and if that doesn't make you angry, then it should.”

Jim Swire, who acted as representative for British victims of the bombing, said Abdel-Meguid would pass the new proposal to the Libyans.

[RB: Just over four months later the UK and US governments finally accepted the solution of a Scottish court sitting in a neutral country.]

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