October - 2003 / Features

The Lockerbie Precedent
writer: Alex Ionides


Thirty years after a passenger plane was shot out of the sky by two Israeli fighter jets, a victim's son is launching a quest for justice. A look at the facts of the case -- and what it might take for Salwa Hegazi's son to get some satisfaction.

Critics claim that while the families of Lockerbie and UTA victims have gotten cash payouts, they haven't gotten justice.

Professor Hans Köchler is a professor of legal and political philosophy at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. He was one of five UN-appointed observers during the two-year-long criminal trial of Al-Megrahi and Fahima. Köchler maintains that politics played a large role in the criminal trial, and believes that Libya, the US and the UK were in a hurry to put the situation behind them, regardless of whether the truth came out or not.

"The prosecution's case was entirely built on the premise that the two defendants acted together, yet only Al-Megrahi was found guilty," Köchler explains. "The verdict made no sense logically, because the two men were essentially tried on the same evidence."

"My personal guess," Köchler continues, "is that none of the three parties were interested at this stage in the truth coming out, because it is quite clear that the one person who is in jail -- if he has committed the crime -- could never have done so alone."

Not only would Libya have a lot to explain if a full investigation was carried out, Köchler says, but so too would the US and the UK for having agreed so readily to the conclusion of the criminal trial without fully questioning whether all of those involved in the crime have been brought to justice.

All the wrangling has left a sour taste in the mouth of at least one Lockerbie victim's family, which has refused its compensation deal, saying justice was not served. There was no conclusive evidence, says Matt Berkley, whose brother Alistair died in the bombing, that Libya was responsible.

Instead, he thinks, the deal was struck for political reasons.

He doesn't expect the UN to play much of a role, either. "I don't think there will be any such actions. Is the international community ready to put sanctions [against Israel] given America's position on Israel?" Köchler agrees that there will be no UN political pressure on Israel to settle "because pressure could only come from the five permanent members of the Security Council, and they won't have any motivation to press Israel."

At any rate, the duty lies with the Arab governments involved, he says.

"If there is a certain sense of dignity left in the Arab world," he says, "the Egyptian and Libyan governments should begin to raise the issue in the international forum."

Full text at www.egypttoday.com