Questions of Interpretation and Application of the 1971 Montreal Convention arising from the Aerial Incident at Lockerbie (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya v. United Kingdom)
OVERVIEW OF THE CASE
On 3 March 1992 the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya filed in the Registry of the Court two separate Applications instituting proceedings against the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom, in respect of a dispute over the interpretation and application of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation signed in Montreal on 23 September 1971, a dispute arising from acts resulting in the aerial incident that occurred over Lockerbie, Scotland, on 21 December 1988. In its Applications, Libya referred to the charging and indictment of two Libyan nationals by a Grand Jury of the United States of America and by the Lord Advocate of Scotland, respectively, with having caused a bomb to be placed aboard Pan Am flight 103. The bomb subsequently exploded, causing the aeroplane to crash, all persons aboard being killed. Libya pointed out that the acts alleged constituted an offence within the meaning of Article 1 of the Montreal Convention, which it claimed to be the only appropriate Convention in force between the Parties, and asserted that it had fully complied with its own obligations under that instrument, Article 5 of which required a State to establish its own jurisdiction over alleged offenders present in its territory in the event of their non-extradition ; and that there was no extradition treaty between Libya and the respective other Parties, so that Libya was obliged under Article 7 of the Convention to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution. Libya contended that the United States of America and the United Kingdom were in breach of the Montreal Convention through rejection of its efforts to resolve the matter within the framework of international law, including the Convention itself, in that they were placing pressure upon Libya to surrender the two Libyan nationals for trial. On 3 March 1992, Libya made two separate requests to the Court to indicate forthwith certain provisional measures, namely : (a) to enjoin the United States and the United Kingdom respectively from taking any action against Libya calculated to coerce or compel it to surrender the accused individuals to any jurisdiction outside Libya ; and (b) to ensure that no steps were taken that would prejudice in any way the rights of Libya with respect to the legal proceedings that were the subject of Libya’s Applications.
On 14 April 1992, the Court read two Orders on those requests for the indication of provisional measures, in which it found that the circumstances of the cases were not such as to require the exercise of its powers to indicate such measures. Within the time-limit fixed for the filing of its Counter-Memorial, each of the respondent States filed preliminary objections : the United States of America filed certain preliminary objections requesting the Court to adjudge and declare that it lacked jurisdiction and could not entertain the case ; the United Kingdom filed certain preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of the Court and to the admissibility of the Libyan claims. In accordance with the provisions of Article 79 of the Rules of Court, the proceedings on the merits were suspended in those two cases. By Orders dated 22 September 1995, the Court then fixed 22 December 1995 as the time-limit within which the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya might present, in each case, a written statement of its observations and submissions on the preliminary objections raised, which it did within the prescribed time-limit.
On 27 February 1998, the Court delivered two Judgments on the preliminary objections raised by the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The Court first began by dismissing the Respondents’ respective objections to jurisdiction on the basis of the alleged absence of a dispute between the Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the Montreal Convention. It declared that it had jurisdiction on the basis of Article 14, paragraph 1, of that Convention to hear the disputes between Libya and the respondent States concerning the interpretation or application of the provisions of the Convention. The Court then went on to dismiss the objection to admissibility based on Security Council resolutions 748 (1992) and 883 (1993). Lastly, it found that the objection raised by each of the respondent States on the ground that those resolutions would have rendered the claims of Libya without object did not, in the circumstances of the case, have an exclusively preliminary character.
In June 1999, the Court authorized Libya to submit a Reply, and the United Kingdom and the United States to file Rejoinders. Those pleadings were filed by the Parties within the time-limits laid down by the Court and its President.
By two letters of 9 September 2003, the Governments of Libya and the United Kingdom on the one hand, and of Libya and the United States on the other, jointly notified the Court that they had “agreed to discontinue with prejudice the proceedings”. Following those notifications, the President of the Court, on 10 September 2003, made an Order in each case placing on record the discontinuance of the proceedings with prejudice, by agreement of the Parties, and directing the removal of the case from the Court’s List.
This overview is provided for information only and in no way involves the responsibility of the Court.