Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

TUESDAY, JULY 21, 1998

1-8PanAm #103 Suspects: Exploration of Possible Trial in Scottish Court Outside Scotland / Ensuring Judicial Standards in Third Country / Libyan Compliance
3-5, 7Effectiveness of Sanctions / Libyan Obligations Under UN Resolutions / US Policy
6Qadhafi's Health
6-7Secretary's Conference Call Today to Families of Bombing Victims / Families' Reactions
7Communications With Libyan Govt

DPB # 89
TUESDAY, JULY 21, 1998, 1:00 P.M.


QUESTION: The Pan Am situation - evidently the Secretary and Mr. Berger have talked to, what, about ten family members in a conference call and laid out for them the possibility of having this trial held in The Netherlands with Scottish judges. Since you've wanted the American or British justice system to prevail here, I wondered how far along this idea has moved and whether there would be any variations from American and British justice even with Scottish judges, if this is that live a possibility.

MR. RUBIN: Let me start by saying that we have worked very hard for ten years to impose and then keep on an effective sanctions regime against Libya, pending their compliance with UN Security Council resolutions requiring that these suspects face Scottish or British or American justice. We have been exploring alternative ways to meet that objective - that is, again, to bring the suspects who committed this heinous crime where over 180 Americans died before a trial, an effective trial before an effective justice system.

To date we have not found practical alternatives to a trial in the United States or in Scotland. Our bottom line is simple: the accused perpetrators of this heinous crime must face justice before US or Scottish courts. We are working to achieve that goal. It has been ten years, and this delay of justice has been a denial of justice. We have been working very hard to see whether there is a way in which it is practicable to hold a Scottish court outside the United Kingdom and what steps would be necessary to make this possible.

Determining whether such a proceeding might take place and how it might take place without affecting the integrity of the judicial process has taken a great deal of study and reflection, as well as extensive consultations with other governments. It will take a great deal more effort to make this procedure happen. We are exploring it. But let me emphasize very clearly, we have made no decision on this matter. What we are doing is seeing whether the question of a Scottish court in a third country with Scottish judges, Scottish procedures and Scottish justice can be arranged logistically and legally. If that happens, then it will be up to Muammar Qadhafi to comply with the Security Council resolutions which state that he must allow for a US or Scottish justice.

QUESTION: Well, if it does happen, if it does crystallize, this is bound to be seen - already at least one of the mothers of a young woman killed in the crash sees this as a whitewash, sort of Qadhafi winning out; because after all, the reason there hasn't been a trial is because Qadhafi wouldn't hand the suspects over. Is this in any sense a compromise - I don't mean it necessarily in the pejorative sense -- but are you trying to find a way to compromise the two positions - the US-British position and the Libyan position?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say that Secretary Albright and Mr. Berger did talk to some of the family members, and they can speak for themselves. But I think it's fair to say there is a wide spectrum of opinion on this subject.

With respect to the fundamental question, the issue is will the standards that apply in an American or a Scottish court - the standards of evidence, the legal acceptance that the world holds for the standards of Western justice in Scotland or in the United States - can those be applied in a third country? That question hasn't been answered; but if it can be answered in the affirmative, then the United States and the victims of this tragedy will get what they have been long denied - and that is justice before an American or a Scottish court. But there are many questions that have to be answered, and we are not saying we've made such a decision.

Frankly, the Libyans have refused to comply in any way with this resolution, and they have proposed any number of ideas as to what they would do. But if we had an arrangement by which the Scottish court could operate in a third country like The Netherlands, then the oneness would be on Libya, very clearly, to put forward these suspects. That is what the international community has demanded. If Libya were to do that, then Libya would be complying and the families and the United States that have sought justice would be getting the justice that has been denied so long. So it would be Libya turning over the suspects under the same procedures and the same details.

QUESTION: Why would you consider allowing a suspected criminal to negotiate the tribunal in which he's going to be tried? You wouldn't do that for anybody in Bosnia.

MR. RUBIN: He's not going to negotiate the tribunal in which he's going to be tried. Let me try to state this again.

The question is geography, not the quality of justice. We are not suggesting there would be any change in the quality of justice. The question is whether that justice system, with the same procedures, the same prosecutors, the same law, the same process by which justice is provided in a Scottish court would occur but in a different place. That is not allowing the suspect to choose the venue. The venue is a Scottish court. If it were in another location, it's still a Scottish court; it's a de facto Scottish justice system. That is the question. The point is to bring them to justice.

There have been indications that people speaking on behalf of Libya indicate the Libyans would do such a thing. We are skeptical. But if we created such a venue and an arrangement was made by which the Scottish court could be located somewhere else, then Libya would be in a position where they couldn't be seeking to mask their position by saying they would do something else. They would have to comply. They have to comply now; they have to comply then. In either case, it's a Scottish court.

If they don't comply then, then some of these people who have been suggesting that the Libyans would comply in some other form are going to be less supportive of the Libyan position, and that will be good for the maintenance of the sanctions regime and the strengthening of it.

QUESTION: Jamie, some have suggested - and I won't use the word critics, but just observers, people following the story, because I know how much you like that word - have suggested that since the US policy to isolate Libya has been basically ineffective over the last seven years or so, you're softening your stance toward the Lockerbie situation in order to not only bring the suspects to justice, but open up a new policy toward Libya. How do you respond?

MR. RUBIN: Those observers must have missed what's been going on over the last seven years. During those last seven years, the government of Libya has been isolated. It has had a sanctions regime imposed upon it. There is a travel ban for aircraft; there are oil parts that are not provided; there is a partial assets freeze. Believe me, all the indicators that are coming out of Libya are that they are desperate to get these sanctions removed. So they are feeling the sting of the sanctions; so those observers are incorrect.

With respect to a new policy towards Libya, they are equally incorrect. This is a simple question, which is how best to bring justice for the families of the United States and the United Kingdom whose family members were killed in this heinous crime. If this moving of the Scottish court to a third country will achieve that objective, the loser is Libya and the winner are those like the United States and like the families who have been seeking justice for this heinous crime.

QUESTION: So it's incorrect to view this in any way as a back-pedaling of policy?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Because you all have been adamant in saying that they should be brought either to the US or Britain; and now suddenly you're throwing it to a third court where you say Scottish law and Scottish judges. But the fact of the matter is, you're not going to get what you want - which is having them extradited to the US or Britain.

MR. RUBIN: The assertions in your question - all three of them - are incorrect. Number one, we have stated very clearly that we want to get a US or a Scottish court; that is what the resolution itself says - before US or Scottish courts. We have doubted in several occasions when Libya has talked about an international tribunal and opposed that - where it would be the World Court or some international court. Often people have mistaken that opposition for this kind of possibility. So it is incorrect -- your second assertion - that we have said that we could never support this idea. I've looked through what we've said about it; and what we've said is that the various ideas that have been out there have all involved an international court or international judges or some other internationalized justice system, which is unacceptable to the United States. What this is is a Scottish court with geography not changing the quality of the justice.

So we are talking about a change in geography, not a change in the quality of justice.

QUESTION: A couple questions - why a Scottish panel and not an American panel in a third country?

MR. RUBIN: It was believed - and this has not been worked out yet - that that would be the most compatible for allowing a third country to permit this sort of a trial on its territory. We have to work with a third country here, and the third country involved - it was decided the most likely way in which one can work this out, if these questions can be answered - and, again, we're in the exploratory phase and we have not made a decision - but the most likely possibility for this third country, The Netherlands, would be a Scottish justice system.

QUESTION: Do you think it would be any more palatable for the Libyans if it was Scottish rather than American?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to try to divine their -

QUESTION: I mean, I'm trying to divine your thinking.

MR. RUBIN: Our thinking was a legal thinking - how do you best make the legal adjustment so that you can have a Scottish court in a third country, in The Netherlands.

QUESTION: Okay, and also, is it the Administration's position that all Qadhafi has to do is extradite these two suspects -- who were allegedly in government employ when they conducted this operation - that all they have to do is extradite them to get the sanctions lifted?

MR. RUBIN: No, that's not our position. I will get you after the briefing some of the specific resolutions. But it is our view that not only do the suspects have to be provided, but the Libyan Government has to cooperate in the trial; that appropriate compensation has to be paid; and they have to stop their support for international terrorism. Those are the requirements, and those haven't changed.

QUESTION: That's if these people are - if the trial happens and if these people are found guilty and if the evidence indicates that the Libyan Government was, in fact, behind it, then those standards would have to be --

MR. RUBIN: Well, it is our view that compensation ought to be paid, and if these nationals from Libya were involved - the four issues that I mentioned are requirements for sanctions to be lifted. It's not enough to just hand over the suspects; there is a level of cooperation in the trial and the evidentiary proceedings and all that goes with that that would be required, as well as a flat change in Libya's policy of supporting international terrorism.

QUESTION: One more - there was some talk - when Moussa was in town last week, there was some public discussion in a news conference and private discussions between you all and the Egyptians about his trip to Libya the previous week.

MR. RUBIN: You mean Mubarak's trip?

QUESTION: Yes, Mubarak's trip. I'm wondering whether this proposal grew out of your consultations with Mubarak, if he had any input on it, if he had formally presented it to Qadhafi?

MR. RUBIN: No. This has been something we've been considering and exploring for many, many, many months now. It grew out of Secretary Albright and other members of the Administration's desire, following meetings with the families, to see whether we could be creative in bringing these suspects to justice. This is a creative alternative to a court in the US or the UK that serves the exact same purposes and will call Qadhafi's bluff if, indeed, he doesn't turn them over.

QUESTION: If in fact Qadhafi is sincere, could this not, in fact, be a sign of weakening, a sign that sanctions and his outlaw status - especially since he's been wheelchair-bound now for almost two months; he's looking weak in the eyes of his own people, perhaps, because of his injuries. Could this not, in fact, be a compromise on their part?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I indicated in response to previous questions, we believe the sanctions regime has weakened Libya. They are desperate to get the sanctions regime lifted. Their only international diplomatic exercise, as far as I can tell, is to go around and seek assistance from other governments in getting the sanctions lifted. So obviously, the sanctions have weakened Libya. As far as what their motivation might be and would they, in fact, turn them over, I don't care to speculate. It is our view that Libya must turn the suspects over for justice before US or British courts.

This idea that we're exploring is simply a creative way to achieve that objective, if it can pass legal muster and all the questions that it involves can be answered successfully.

QUESTION: What does this government say about Muammar Qadhafi's physical state and how he got in that state? Do you have anything to say?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on it. As I said yesterday, with respect to another similar type person, I don't have any interest in wishing him well.

QUESTION: Jamie, can we go back to the phone call and give us more specifics, perhaps? How many family members? Was anyone else on the phone representing the British Government, perhaps?


QUESTION: Obviously, I assume, you've been in touch with them that you would have such a phone call, but maybe not. Has Secretary Albright spoken to families before this time? I know other officials have.

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Albright, I believe about a year ago, spoke to the families. When she was UN Ambassador, she spoke to them many times when this issue came up before the United Nations.

She has spoken twice to Foreign Secretary Cook in the last two days. With respect to your question of how many, I believe there were over ten family representatives of some kind or another on the call. It was only with American officials - with Mr. Berger and Secretary Albright.

QUESTION: How long was the phone call?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know - 45 minutes or so.

QUESTION: Are other calls planned, Jamie, with other family members?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so. I think that there will probably be continued discussion and consultation with the family members in the coming weeks; especially if the exploratory phase of this idea improves.

But again, we have not made a decision, and I hope all of you who are covering this issue accurately reflect the fact that we are exploring something. We have not made a decision; we're exploring a creative way to deal with the fact that justice delayed is justice denied, and that a change of geography does not mean a change in the quality of justice. That is what we're doing.

QUESTION: The reaction - what did Secretary Albright think about the reaction from the families?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, this is a very emotional issue. Family members who've lost loved ones in a heinous crime like this, it tends to be a very difficult conversation. She is quite understanding of their pain, and she and Mr. Berger try to explain the benefits, if this were to work out, of getting these people before an actual Scottish court - something that hasn't happened for ten years.

Now, this has gone on for ten years, and this delay of justice is something that we're trying to deal with. As I said, it will be up to the family members themselves to speak about this; and I don't care to reflect their reactions, other than to say that there was a wide spectrum of opinion.

QUESTION: Just to be explicit, you have no guarantee, then, that if you choose to go ahead with this that the Libyans will turn over these two people? And secondly, how are you speaking to the Libyan Government on this? Is there an intermediary country; is it the interest section; who's - how's that working?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think we're going to have a communications problem here. The United Nations Secretary General has, on occasion, been in touch with them; various countries have been in touch with them; the OAU - the Organization of African Unity - has been in touch with them.

The question will be, once we make this arrangement - and this is not a negotiation. What we are talking about is a take-it-or-leave-it package that puts a Scottish court in a third country and presents that to the United Nations as an alternative way of meeting the objectives of the UN Security Council resolutions. I'm sure we'll find out very quickly whether the Libyans are going to put their money where their mouth is or whether they were bluffing.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure I understand the status of this proposal. The Libyans have been going back, at least five years, to when they hired - (inaudible) - to try to work out a deal for them in Washington. There have been all kinds of proposals floated that were alternatives to just turning them over. So now we come to the 21st of July of 1998 and should we understand that there's been some acceleration of the discussions, or that it's moving to a more active phase?

MR. RUBIN: Okay, let me try to put this in a little context, because that's a very good question. The Libyans, every time there's a sanctions review in New York, come up with some new idea for why the current requirements of the UN Security Council resolution are unacceptable. Every time there's a sanctions review, we try to remind the other countries of the world that the Libyans are seeking to mask their refusal to turn over with one cockamamie legal idea after another.

There have been ideas for an international court; trying them before the International Court of Justice; any number of ways to internationalize the issue. We have always refused to do that, and we continue to refuse to do that. We are not going to let the Libyans try to get the victims of justice to see the trial outside of the justice system of either Scotland or the UK.

About several months ago, we began to explore quietly, with a bit of discussion with other governments, and extensive discussions more recently, about whether there was a creative way to get a Scottish court in a third country. That's all this is is an attempt by us to meet the very requirements of the Security Council with a creative idea. This is not a function of Libya's ideas or any other ideas other than our own thought as to how you could either call Libya's bluff about willingness to turn them over not in the United States or in the UK or get the actual trial with the same quality of justice we've long been seeking.

That is the intent. It's been going on for some months. But again, there has been no decision, because all the important legal questions have not been answered.

QUESTION: Is the distinction between the Scottish court system and the American court system the issue of capital punishment? Is that why you --

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that; I would have to try to get you a legal answer. I doubt it's that simple.


(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)

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