IN the violent wake of the Rodney King verdict, the American
justice system has received international scrutiny. Critics used
the King case to argue that our legal system may not be as fair as
we Americans would like to believe. Libyan leader Col. Muammar
Qaddafi used the occasion to dramatize his point: If an
incontrovertible video could not lead to an obvious verdict, how
could the Libyan nationals accused by the United States government
of the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie,
Scotland, possibly hope for a fair trial in an American court?
Many friends of the US question the neutrality of our
criminal-justice system, especially in cases with a significant
political dimension. If we want to bring the Lockerbie terrorists
to justice, the US should support the establishment of an
international tribunal to hear the case, thereby reaffirming our
commitment to the rule of law as the foundation of a new world
order and establishing a precedent that could lead to an
international court to which the United Nations Security Council
could refer appropriate cases.
The American government has always urged the acceptance of the
rule of law, objectively defined and fairly administered, as the
basic premise of a world seeking peace and social justice. The
trials of war criminals in Nuremberg and Tokyo after World War II
were an effort to punish crimes against humanity that transcended
From its earliest days, the UN discussed the creation of an
appropriate tribunal for such crimes. Since 1951, the US has been
among the countries that have supported "A Draft Code of Crimes
Against the Peace and Security of Mankind." The cold war prevented
the adoption of such a code, however.
Then in 1987 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev announced
support of the concept of an international criminal court. The next
year, the US Senate called upon the president to begin discussions
with other countries toward establishing such a court with
jurisdiction over international terrorism and drug trafficking.
Last March the Senate called for Saddam Hussein to be tried before
an international court.
President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker III have
brilliantly won UN affirmation of our indictment of the alleged
Lockerbie terrorists. The civilized world now shares our insistence
that the responsible criminals be prosecuted and punished. If we
were to agree to an appropriate international forum rather than a
national court for the prosecution of the case, the Libyans would
be compelled to submit or else face international sanctions.
The situation is at a stalemate. Libya is not going to deliver
its citizens to the hostile control of the US, Britain, and France. …