LETTER FROM DR HANS KOECHLER, INTERNATIONAL OBSERVER AT THE LOCKERBIE TRIAL,
TO BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY DAVID MILIBAND
CONCERNING MISLEADING INFORMATION ON THE FOREIGN OFFICE’S WEB SITE AND THE ADVERSE EFFECT OF MR MILIBAND’S ISSUANCE OF A PUBLIC INTEREST IMMUNITY (PII) CERTIFICATE ON THE NEW LOCKERBIE APPEAL
Vienna, 21 July 2008
I regret having to contact you again in the Lockerbie case – a matter that should have been resolved by now (almost twenty years after the tragic event) on the basis of the rule of law. Allow me, first, to refer to the Libya page on the web site of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The section related to the midair explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie states, inter alia, that “Al-Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah not proven [sic!].” While the information concerning Mr. Al-Megrahi is correct, the information concerning Mr. Fhimah is wrong. The accurate words in the case of the verdict reached on Mr. Fhimah would be “not guilty”. It is worthy to note that the sentence on the FCO web site is also semantically flawed. A person can be found “guilty” or “not guilty”, but not “proven” or “not proven”. Only an allegation/accusation, not a person, can be found “proven” or “not proven”. The sentence on the web site can easily be corrected if the word “proven” is replaced by the word “guilty”. ["On 31 January 2001 Al-Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah not guilty" instead of "On 31 January 2001 Al-Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah not proven".]* I trust that, for the sake of truth, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will correct this mistake. The accurate information about the verdict in Mr. Fhimah’s case is to be found in the official transcript of the High Court of Justiciary at Kamp van Zeist (record of Day 86, January 31, 2001, pages 10235 to 10236).**
As international observer, appointed by the United Nations, at the Scottish Court in the Netherlands I am also concerned about the Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate which has been issued by you in connection with the new Appeal of the convicted Libyan national. Withholding of evidence from the Defence was one of the reasons why the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred Mr. Al-Megrahi’s case back to the High Court of Justiciary. The Appeal cannot go ahead if the Government of the United Kingdom, through the PII certificate issued by you, denies the Defence the right (also guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights) to have access to a document which is in the possession of the Prosecution. How can there be equality of arms in such a situation? How can the independence of the judiciary be upheld if the executive power interferes into the appeal process in such a way?
In that regard, I have the honour to draw your attention to the recent decision of Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stay the proceedings in the case of the Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo because of the non-disclosure of exculpatory material (“Decision on the consequences of non-disclosure of exculpatory materials …” of 13 June 2008). The judges stated that “The Chamber has unhesitatingly concluded that the right to a fair trial – which is without doubt a fundamental right – includes an entitlement to disclosure of exculpatory material“ and referred to an ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] ruling according to which “the public interest [...] is excluded where its application would deny to the accused the opportunity to establish his or her innocence”. (In a further decision, dated 2 July 2008, Trial Chamber I of the ICC ordered the release of Mr. Dyilo.) I sincerely hope that the British Government will not ignore the basic principle of fairness as expressed in these rulings of international criminal courts and will not insist on a measure that would, if upheld, effectively prevent the Scottish High Court of Justiciary to go ahead with Mr. Al-Megrahi’s Appeal. It is fair to expect that the standards of criminal justice adhered to in the United Kingdom (and within the devolved justice system of Scotland, for that matter) should not be lower than those of international criminal courts and should definitely be in conformity with the requirements of Art. 6 of the European Human Rights Convention.
Should further appeal proceedings become impossible because of the forced non-disclosure of evidence to the Defence, not only myself, who followed the proceedings in the Netherlands as international observer, but the relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie tragedy will be prevented from any further chance of knowing the truth about those responsible for the midair explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie. Many who, like myself, initially trusted in the integrity of the judicial process under Scots law, will feel betrayed. There is no justice without truth – and there can be no truth if evidence is withheld in a criminal case by governmental decree.
* Under Scots law, the judges had three options for their verdict: guilty; not guilty; not proven. In Mr Fhimah's case, their ruling was "not guilty" (and not "not proven"). See also Hans Köchler's Lockerbie trial report of 3 February 2001, Para. 12.
International Progress Organization