Thursday, 9 February 2017

The World Court and Lockerbie

[What follows is excerpted from Justice Weeramantry and the Bridges of Understanding published today in the Sri Lanka Guardian:]

When two Libyan men were accused of causing the explosion of a bomb in the Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988, which killed all 259 passengers and crew, as well as eleven residents of the town of Lockerbie, The UK and US Governments requested Libya to extradite the accused so that they could be prosecuted in Scotland or in The United States. The matter came up before The International Court of Justice where Judge Weeramantry was one of the Bench hearing the case. One of the issues in the case was whether the Court had jurisdiction to issue provisional measures as applied for by Libya, in the face of Article 25 of the United Nations Charter which obligated member States to carry out decisions of the Security Council, which impliedly precluded the members from being obligated to carry out measures prescribed by the ICJ. Judge Weeramantry opined that both the Security Council and the Court were created by the Charter and therefore were complimentary to each other, ascribing to the court much needed credibility and jurisdiction.
As part of his judgment, Justice Weeramnatry said: “A great judge once said that the laws are not silent amidst the clash of arms. In our age we need also to assert that the laws are not powerless to prevent the clash of arms. The entire law of the United Nations has been built up around the notion of peace and the prevention of conflict… [T]he Court, in an appropriate instance where possible conflict threatens rights that are being litigated before it is not powerless to issue provisional measures conserving those rights by restraining an escalation of the dispute and the possible resort to force”.
[RB: My views on this very important World Court case can be read here. It is one of the minor tragedies of Lockerbie that the case was dropped after the Lockerbie trial. Had it proceeded, it is likely that it would have established that the ICJ had jurisdiction to review the legality of UN Security Council resolutions, which would have amounted to a significant brake on the power of, particularly, the permanent members of the Council.]

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