September 03, 2009

Correspondence on transfer of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi (02/09/2009)

Along with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), we have released on 1 September our correspondence with the Scottish Executive on the transfer of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi from Scotland to Libya.

Letter from the FCO to George Burgess of 3 July 2009 [PDF 70KB]

Letter from Ivan Lewis to Kenny MacAskill, MSP, of 3 August 2009 [PDF 70KB]

The correspondence shows that, throughout, we have made clear that the transfer of Al-Megrahi was a decision for Scottish Ministers. The 3 July letter makes clear that “the decision in relation to such a request is a matter for Scottish Ministers”.

The correspondence also makes clear that no attempt was made to steer the Scottish Executive in any direction. The 3 August letter makes clear that FCO officials were “not making representations on whether Mr Megrahi ought to be transferred to Libya”. In both his statements of 19 June and 24 June, the Scottish Justice Secretary confirmed that the final decision was his alone.

These letters were written in response to requests by the Scottish Executive for advice by the Foreign Office on whether there were any international legal reasons why Megrahi might not be transferred under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, should Scottish Ministers decide to do so. This request and the responses were entirely normal practice in view of the FCO's responsibility for the UK's foreign policy. The Foreign Office provided an authoritative view that there was no international legal bar to transfer should the Scottish Executive decide to approve a request.

The redactions in the letters relate solely to US views expressed through confidential diplomatic exchanges and have been made in consultation with the US Government. The name of a Foreign Office official has also been removed.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband commented on the release of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi during an interview on the BBC Today Programme on Wednesday 2 September. He said:

'Bill Rammell was asked by the Libyans whether or not we wanted Megrahi to die in jail. He said that we weren’t actively seeking his death in jail and he explained very clearly that under our constitution this was a matter of Scottish law and a matter for the Scottish government.

What I think comes through very, very strongly from all of the papers that were published yesterday is that Megrahi’s release was not in the gift of the British Government; that at every stage we said ‘this is a matter for the Scottish government and for the Scottish Justice Minister.’

Listen to the interview on the BBC Today Programme website

MoJ correspondence

Scottish Executive correspondence

Notes for Editors

Statement issued by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on 20 August

Foreign Secretary's statement on the release of Abdelbasset Al-Megrahi on 21 August


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