Who's Right in the U.S. and U.K. Dispute with Libya over the Bombing of Pan Am 103? Two Views: U.S. Case Is Based on "Might Makes Right"

By Boyle, Francis A. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May 31, 1992 | Go to article overview

Who's Right in the U.S. and U.K. Dispute with Libya over the Bombing of Pan Am 103? Two Views: U.S. Case Is Based on "Might Makes Right"


Boyle, Francis A., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Who's Right in the U.S. and U.K. Dispute With Libya Over the Bombing of Pan Am 103? Two Views: U.S. Case Is Based on "Might Makes Right"

The dispute between Libya and the United States and the United Kingdom over the Lockerbie bombing allegations must be settled according to the principles of international law. The rights and obligations of each party are clearly laid out in various international treaties and the United Nations Charter, all of which support the principle of negotiation, mediation or arbitration in pursuit of a peaceful solution to international disputes. Libya has made a number of efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully, but the U.S. and the U.K. have consistently rejected these efforts. Instead, these states, in pursuit of their unfounded claims against Libya, are currently planning, preparing and conspiring to wage aggressive warfare against the people and government of Libya.

Libya and all U.N. Security Council members are parties to the 1971 Montreal Convention, which addresses acts of sabotage against civil aircraft such as the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. The Convention requires that a state whose citizen is accused of committing an act of sabotage must either extradite that suspect or prosecute the alleged offender itself. The choice between extradition and prosecution remains Libya's sovereign right. By instituting criminal procedures against Abdel Basset Ali Al Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, the two Libyan nationals accused by the U.S. and the U.K. of carrying out the Pan Am 103 bombing, and notifying the concerned states that it has the two men in detention, Libya fully discharged charged its obligations under the Montreal Convention.

Libya has made a number of efforts to resolve the crisis peacefully.

Libya is not required to extradite the two suspects under U.S. extradition law, either, which permits the government to extradite "only during the existence of any treaty of extradition with [a] foreign government." No such treaty of extradition exists between Libya and either the United States or the United Kingdom.

The Montreal Convention also stipulates that the signatories cooperate with Libya in prosecuting the two suspects, but the U.S. and Britain have so far refused to extend this cooperation.

Should the U.S. or U.K. object to the manner in which Libya is handling the allegations against the Lockerbie suspects, under the Montreal Convention they may demand international arbitration through the International Court of Justice (ICJ). …

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