British Foreign Office corrects information on its Libya web site and affirms the Scottish Court's right to order disclosure of "sensitive" material
Foreign Office letter to UN observer Dr. Hans Koechler:
"Ultimately, it will be for the Court to decide whether the material should be disclosed, not the Foreign Secretary."
Vienna, 1 September 2008/P/RE/20260c-is
In a letter dated 27 August 2008, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom has informed Dr. Hans Koechler, an international observer of the Lockerbie trial appointed by the United Nations, that an erroneous entry about the Lockerbie verdict on the Office's country profile page on Libya has now been corrected. The Foreign Office's web site had wrongly reported that the verdict on the second Libyan suspect in the Lockerbie case, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was "not proven." The information has now been corrected to "not guilty." This is important because one of the main reasons for Dr. Koechler's criticism of the Lockerbie verdict had been its being inconsistent. (While the rationale of the indictment was based on the two Libyan nationals' having conspired together to get a piece of baggage containing a bomb loaded on a plane in Malta, the verdict had declared the first suspect, Mr. Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, "guilty" and the second suspect "not guilty.")
On 21 July 2008 Dr. Hans Koechler had alerted David Miliband about the misleading entry and had also expressed his concerns about the public interest immunity (PII) certificate issued earlier by the Foreign Secretary in connection with certain "sensitive" material that has been withheld from the Defence in the Lockerbie case.
In the above mentioned letter, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office has reiterated the Foreign Secretary's position that release of the material in question "would do real and lasting damage to the UK's relations with other states and the UK's national security." At the same time, the Foreign Office has acknowledged vis-à-vis Dr. Koechler that: "Ultimately, it will be for the Court to decide whether the material should be disclosed, not the Foreign Secretary." In the letter, the Foreign Office furthermore asserted the Scottish Court's being bound by the European Human Rights Convention: "Under the Human Rights Act 1998 the Court has a duty to act in compliance with Convention rights in terms of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including the right to a fair trial."
In a statement issued today, Dr. Koechler said that it is now up to the Scottish judges to assert the independence of the Scottish judiciary and ensure that the conditions for a fair trial (second appeal) are scrupulously met (which implies disclosure to the Defence of all evidence that is in the possession of the Prosecution). There is absolutely no doubt that in a country where the rule of law prevails a fair trial is ex definitione in the public interest. Dr. Koechler expressed the hope that the final decision on the disclosure of the "sensitive" material will not be delayed further. The new appeal cannot go ahead without this step.
Dr. Hans Koechler will visit Scotland next week for discussions on the Lockerbie case.
International Progress Organization