(41)  Lockerbie

On 24 August 1998 the British and US Governments announced that they had abandoned their opposition to the idea that Abdel Basset Ali al-Meghari and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the two Libyans accused of planting a bomb aboard the Pan-Am jet which exploded over on 21 December 1988, should be tried other than in Scotland. Both Governments have indicated that they are now prepared to countenance a trial taking place in an international court in the Netherlands, before four Scottish judges and subject to Scots criminal law and procedure; but without a jury. Any appeal would also be heard in the Netherlands but before a panel of five Scottish judges. This is a modified version of the proposals made by Professor Robert Black of the University of Edinburgh (for which see No 25 below). It appears that this proposal is in principle acceptable to the accused and to the Libyan Government, although final agreement has not yet been reached. If the trial takes place, the venue will be Camp Zeist, a Dutch airbase near The Hague. For a factual account of the events since the bombing and up to the beginning of this year, and an analysis of the governmental responses to his proposal to that date, see R Black, The Disaster, (1998) 9(2) Stellenbosch Law Review 207-216. If the trial takes place in the near future, serious difficulties will arise over the availability of judicial personnel. The appeal in the Piper Alpha case is expected to occupy most of the time of four judges in the First Division over the next legal year; if a further four were to be occupied in the trial, the other work of the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary could be gravely affected. (22 September 1998)