Leading Article: The Scottish legal system is on trial with the suspects
Wednesday 07 April 1999
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York was nothing other than an act of mass murder against innocent people. Since the Sixties, such attacks on civilians have been a growing menace. Civilians throughout the world would be continually available as targets for whoever felt like taking a pot-shot unless perpetrators of terrorism are always punished.
However, revenge perverts justice. Any attempt on the part of the Americans to kidnap the two suspects would only have been to compound one crime with another. Criminals should be brought to trial by legal means. In this case, the absence of extradition agreements between Libya and either the United Kingdom or the United States made that more difficult. But through the endeavours of Mr Swire, Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa, and officials at the United Nations it was achieved.
The trial must be fair. Although the suspects are being held in a Dutch air base and will be tried in the Netherlands, they will be tried by Scottish judges under Scottish law. Therefore, the Scottish justice system is as much on trial as Messrs al-Megrahi and Fhimah.
There have been persistent rumours denying the guilt of these particular men, or of the involvement of Libya in the bombing. There were, and are, other groups and countries in the Middle East with grudges against America and Britain who would be prepared to bomb airliners. The Scottish judiciary has the highest standards and Britons will be confident that they will not convict unless the case is proved beyond reasonable doubt. However, it would be a stain on Scotland's criminal justice system if there were even the impression that the judges had bowed to governmental pressure to send these two men down. The Arab world must see that this trial is irreproachable. Otherwise it will merely feed the suspicion that there is one law for the West and another for the rest.
The fact that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has allowed these men to stand trial points to the likelihood that there will not be a trail leading back to his country. If the Libyans are not guilty they may well be aware of who is. The Lockerbie families and the Western governments must be prepared for the fact that this is not the end of the process. But wherever the process goes, diplomacy must be its engine.
Arts & Ents blogs
There is a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refle...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
Further Space Oddity: Jeremy Paxman grills British astronaut Major Tim Peake in weirdly aggressive Newsnight interview
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
Cannes Film Festival 2013 review: Behind The Candelabra - Michael Douglas brilliantly captures Liberace's showmanship
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
- 1 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 2 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 3 China agrees to impose carbon targets by 2016
- 4 Exclusive: Championship clubs set to push for safe-standing trials
- 5 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.