Letter: Libya is legally correct over Lockerbie

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sir: At a time when Libya is being coerced to deliver the two Lockerbie suspects for trial in the West, James Cusick is right to observe that the 'isolation of the two Libyan agents in the charge list surprised many experts in the field of international terrorism' ('Gaddafi prepares a sacrifice', 30 September). Publicity has been given to the complicity of other states and terrorist groups in addition to Libya. It is important to remember the legal position.

Terrorist attacks against civil aircraft are properly addressed by the 1971 Montreal Convention, to which both Britain and Libya are signatories. Since there is no extradition treaty between Britain and Libya, Article 7 of the Convention applies:

The Contracting State in the territory of which the alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged, without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution.

If Britain were to dispute the good faith of Libya in trying the alleged terrorists, then Article 14 of the Convention makes provision for arbitration and reference to the International Court of Justice. In fact, the evidence suggests that Libya has observed its legal obligations.

In April 1992, Francis A. Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, prepared a memorandum of law on the US/Libyan dispute over Lockerbie. In assessing Libya's liabilities under the Montreal Convention, he commented:

Libya has fully discharged its obligations . . . there is no obligation whatever for Libya to extradite its two nationals to either the United States or the United Kingdom . . . both the United States and the United Kingdom have effectively violated most of the provisions of the Montreal Convention.

In the same vein, Marc Weller, research fellow in international law at St Catherine's College, Cambridge, concluded a detailed analysis with the observation that Libya has responded 'in accordance with international legal requirements' and that the US and UK governments 'may well have contributed to, or brought about, an abuse of rights by the Security Council'.

Yours sincerely,




30 September

The writer's book 'Libya: the Struggle for Survival' was published by Macmillan in March.