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27 February 1996

Press Briefing



The ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) favouring its jurisdiction over the Lockerbie case clearly favoured Libya's position, the Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations, Abuzed Dorda, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

[The Court, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, found today that it has jurisdiction to deal with the merits of the case brought by Libya against the United States and the United Kingdom concerning the aerial incident at Lockerbie, Scotland. It also found that the Libyan claims are admissible. Libya, which submitted the case to the Court on 3 March 1992, contends that the United States and the United Kingdom do not have the right to compel it to surrender two Libyan nationals suspected of having caused the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988, in which 270 people died. Libya argues that the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation signed at Montreal in 1971 authorizes it to try the suspects itself.]

Continuing, the Ambassador said that the ruling was not merely a victory for Libya and its people, but for justice, righteousness and international law and accords. The ruling meant that the unfortunate accident of Pan Am flight 103 was a legal, not political case. It also meant that the sole venue with jurisdiction over the case was the ICJ and not the Security Council, and that the legal basis for the case was the Montreal Convention. The Security Council sanctions against Libya should be voided.

The American and British Governments were responsible for the long delay in the case, he said. Had they accepted the Court's jurisdiction on the basis of the Montreal Convention, the final ruling on the matter would have been issued by now. Moreover, the Libyans were "as much a victim as the victims of the Lockerbie accident itself". The aims of the two Governments were political -- "they both used the unfortunate accident and the blood of the victims of the accident and the victims among the Libyan people dying because of these sanctions in order to achieve these aims". Those who did not adhere to the Court's ruling would be "outlaws" in defiance of the international community.

Noting the Ambassador's repeated reference to the Lockerbie incident as an "accident", a correspondent asked if he did not accept the evidence that had been submitted by numerous experts that the plane was destroyed by a bomb in an act of terrorism. Mr. Dorda said that Libya had never received any evidence, although it had officially requested it since 15 November 1991. The "refusal" to provide any evidence caused him to doubt their was any. The many books and television programmes clearly indicated that Libya and Libyans -- including the two citizen suspects -- had nothing to do with the accident.

Investigations by the Maltese Government and by German Government officials also indicated that there was no basis on which to charge the accused.

Replying to a question about a comment made this morning by the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, that the United States' position on the matter remained the same, Mr. Dorda said that the aim of the United States was political and had nothing to do with the Lockerbie case. Time would reveal the reaction of the other Security Council members. The United States' reaction to the recent agreement reached by the Secretary-General concerning the situation in Iraq was another reflection of that country's political aims.

Asked if he thought the Court's ruling had any bearing on the sanctions imposed by the Security Council and whether Libya intended to request that the Council lift those sanctions, the Ambassador said "for sure we will ask the Security Council to lift the sanctions which were imposed illegally against my country". Council resolution 731 (1992) defied international law, as well as the United Nations Charter. The other two Council resolutions concerning sanctions, namely, 748 (1992) and 883 (1993) -- were based on 731.

Concerning a question about the impact of the sanctions on the Libyan population, Mr. Dorda said that his Government had already delivered a huge file detailing the effects of the sanctions, which he would pass on to the correspondent. Libya's material loss amounted to more than $25 billion. It was not possible to measure the degree of moral suffering, he said.

Another correspondent asked if the ruling meant that the ICJ could go ahead and try the case regardless of opposition by any Council members, and whether there had been reaction to the ruling from the victim's families. Mr. Dorda said that Libya's Legal Counsel would further study ICJ's procedure, and proceed accordingly. He had heard from some of the families today, who for a long time had sought a neutral venue that did not prejudge the two Libyans. The victims' families were suffering in much the same way that the Libyan population.

Pressed about whether Libya would extradite the two suspects -- as well as any others implicated in the course of a trial, including, possibly, Libyan government officials -- if the Court requested it, Mr. Dorda reiterated his claim of the innocence of the two suspects. Libya condemned terrorism, especially the kind unleashed on Libyan civilians, including women and children, by the United States.

To a question about whether Libya had the support of any Council members to reconsider the sanctions, the Ambassador said that "all of the Security Council members are supporting Libya, except those two". There was no problem between Libya and the United Nations, and between Libya and the Security Council. Those members indicated their willingness to support a solution between Libya and the concerned countries. Libya's efforts to have the sanctions lifted were

Libya Press Conference - 3 - 27 February 1998

supported by the major organizations of the international community, such as the League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the Non-Aligned Movement of Countries, among others.

Asked about the source of the animosity between Libya and the United States, the Ambassador referred correspondents to his General Assembly address last September, in which he described the desire of the United States to "go back (in time) and control our territory" -- because it had a very important strategic location -- and to control Africa, Europe and parts of Asia and the Mediterranean Sea, as well. Libya never broke relations with the United States, and always sought dialogue, as it did again today.

In response to a question about whether there were any Iraqi scientists or military personnel now working within Libya, Mr. Dorda said "for sure not", adding that the brothers in Iraq needed more soldiers and had no surplus to send abroad.

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For information media. Not an official record.