Global Focus: CHAT ABOUT THE LOCKERBIE BOMBING
Philadelphia, PA: What exactly are you doing for the victims' families in relation to the government of Libya. Why would you start representing them 5 years after the bombing?
Mark Zaid: I represent approx. 30 families in all aspects of the case. Primarily I am the fact and international law expert for my legal team. We filed the first civil case against Libya in 1993. Before this time most of the families were involved in litigation against Pan Am. I have actually been involved since the bombing itself. Two of my schoolmates at the University of Rochester, as well as someone from my hometown, were passengers on the flight.
Mark Zaid: The two suspects are presently in hiding, or under protection, in Tripoli, Libya. Unlike President Reagan's response to the 1986 terrorist attack in Germany which led to the bombing of Tripoli that April, President Bush decided to turn the matter over to the United Nations. Thus, a diplomatic rather than a military solution is being sought.
Mark Zaid: The use of international economic sanctions is a matter of intense debate, particularly since many nations violate them. Many of the families support the sanctions program against Libya, but advocate the imposition of a full oil embargo. Only this would likely have a major impact upon Libya. The US has had full sanctions against Libya in place since 1986. While the US has been lobbying for an increase in sanctions, allied countries such as France, Germany and Italy, each of which buys its oil from Libya, are opposed.
washington dc: At least as long ago as 1991, Libya offered to release the accused for trial in a neutral venue. are you willing to accept such an offer? If not, why not?
Mark Zaid: For years Libya has offered to hold a trial in a neutral venue. It has suggested such countries as Malta, Switzerland, Canada and Egypt. The Netherlands, which serves as a seat of international justice, is now the likely place. Most of the families, although quite hesitant at first, now support the notion of a criminal trial in The Hague under Scottish rules of evidence and procedure. I have personally advocated this position since 1993.
Harare, Zimbabwe: Will this trial not be biased based on the ten years of anti-Arab terrorist publicity that has characterized the global media?
Mark Zaid: I do not believe so. For one thing, there will be no jury. The trial will be handled by Scottish judges. There will also be international observers to ensure a fair trial. In fact, earlier this year the United Nations sent a team to Scotland to review Scottish rules of evidence and procedure to explore this very question. The U.N. favorably endorsed the trial.
Bethesda, MD: How would you describe the feelings of the families that you represent? Is there a sense of resignation that this may never come to trial?
Mark Zaid: The families hold very mixed feelings. And this is very important to understand. For many years the general public has held the belief that the families are united in all respects. Unfortuntately, this is not true. On some issues there is a great deal of conflict. The best way to describe my clients - after ten years has passed - is cautiously optomistic.
Missoula, MT: Can an airline "foresee" all possible disasters? If not, what is the benchmark beyond which there is a "lack of foreseeability"
Mark Zaid: Although airline security today has improved since the bombing of Pan Am 103 ten years ago, there is much to be done. Terrorists are becoming more sophisticated in their techniques and cost-cutting by airlines increases vulnerability. Sad to say, but the manner in which Flight 103 was bombed ten years ago could happen again. Certainly, one can never "foresee" or protect against all terrorist attacks. El Al, the Israeli state airline, likely has the strongest security. But American consumers are not patient enough to show up at the airport two hours before a flight and never leave their bags from their sight. That is the cost of security.
Washington, D.C.: Would you personally handle the litigation in any such neutral location?
Mark Zaid: Although I would hope to personally be on site for a criminal trial, I only handle the civil case. The criminal trial would be prosecuted by government attorneys from the United Kingdom and United states.
Amherst, New York: Why has it taken so long for these families to get the justice and closure that they deserve? How supportive of this effort is the US Gov't?
Host, Tim Ito: On the last question, how would you evaluate--overall-- the U.S. government efforts over the last 10 years on this issue?
Mark Zaid: There are many reasons why this has taken so long. Obviously the fact that the suspects are still in Libya is a primary one. Also, several of our key allies have not been willing to place principles over economic need. The US govt has been very supportive over the years, but given the passage of ten years the families want and need more. What that might be is subject to debate. US efforts to battle international terrorism is a very crucial part of our foreign policies. There are counterterrorism offices in almost every federal agency, such as CIA, FBI and the Department of State, that handle Pan Am 103 issues and other terrorist cases.
Jericho, NY: Ten years is a very long time. What can the citizens of the United States do to show their dissatisfaction that this situation has not been settled?
Mark Zaid: If agreement can not be reached on a criminal trial in The Hague, the next step is to push for increased international economic sanctions through the United Nations. Most importantly, this includes a full oil embargo. In order for this to occur, the United States must demand from some of our key allies that sacrifices must be made so that justice can be attained. Americans can assist this effort by demonstrating their support and informing their Congressional representatives, the Secretary of State and the White House.
Washington, D.C.: What is the significance of the court decision last week allowing Libya to be sued for the bombing? Does this have any practical effect?
Mark Zaid: The decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was a very significant one, and one which we have fought for over the last 5 years. Most likely the Libyan government will appeal the decision thus delaying the case for another year as we proceed to the Supreme Court. Once the SC decides whether or not to hear the case, and most likely it will not, the case will be sent back to the district court for a trial on the merits. Thus, the civil case may very lead to the introduction of evidence for the first time.
We have a half hour remaining in our discussion with guest, Mark Zaid.
Amherst, New York:
There has been no mention of Iran's involvement.
Mark Zaid: Iran was, in fact, the primary suspect after the bombing. On July 3, 1988, the US Navy destroyed Iran Air Flight 655 killing 290 persons. The Iranian Parliament publicly asserted that revenge would be sought. Five months later, Pan Am 103 was bombed. However, after nearly three years of investigation, the US determined that Libya, and not Iran, was involved. Nevertheless, many people still believe that Iran shares in the complicity and this is an issue still to be determined.
Rockville, Md: What are the chances that libya will ever agree to extradite those responsible to another country for trial?
Mark Zaid: A very difficult question to answer. Actually the terms of the UN resolutions speak of "surrender" because there are no extradition treaties between Libya, the US and the UK. In any event, this is a very sensitive issue for Libya based on internal conflicts. To surrender the two individuals may very well prove damaging to Ghadafi internally, and he is obviously mindful of that concern.
Washington, D.C.: When you say there is a great deal of "conflict" among the families of the victims, what do you mean? Don't they all have a common goal of bringing these guys to justice?
Mark Zaid: There is certainly a common objective among the families to bring those responsible to justice. However the means by which this should be achieved varies from family to family. Some want military strikes to be conducted, others wish for an increase in the sanctions, still others wish to pursue the civil action (which, unlike the criminal action, seeks to prosecute the Libyan government).
THE BOMBING OF PAN AM 103
Mark Zaid: My answer, of course, is it can not. This is a difficult concept that is finally taking root throughout the world. The Pinochet case in London and the war crimes tribunals in The Hague are both examples of this. 20 years ago neither would ever occur. But we have a long way to go, and the Pan Am 103 case is a perfect example. How long must we wait for justice for your brother and the 269 other innocent victims? This is one reason why we have pursued the civil action instead of solely waiting for the criminal prosecution to occur.
Arlington, Va.: Has the lobbying efforts of the families produced adequate results?
Mark Zaid: The Pan Am 103 families have been a very effective lobbying force. Following the bombing the 1990 Aviation Security Improvement Act was passed solely due to the efforts of the families. And in 1996, we were able to pass an amendment to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act that now permits American victims of terrorism to sue certain foreign governments. I was fortunate enough to work on that legislation for three years and it was only due to the power of the families that we were able to achieve its passage.
frederick, MD: If someone is killed in an air crash, why is some relative who is not financially dependent upon him, entitled to millions of dollars? Isn't this whole business of monetary damages mostly a severe abuse of the justice system by unscrupulous lawyers to enrich themselves?
Mark Zaid: In our civil case against Libya, we have brought suit for persons who were not financially dependent on the victim. While I can not speak to other aviation civil actions, as I do not handle such cases, we have emphasized intentional infliction of emotional distress, for example, as a means to not only recover damages for the families but to - and more importantly - inflict punishment on the responsible party. This case is not just an accidental tort case, it is an intentional tort case of the worst kind. Innocent people were specifically targeted to be killed in order to promote a political and idealogical message. The greater the punishment we can inflict, including through monetary awards, the stronger message we send to other terrorist states that we will not tolerate this type of conduct.
What will happen if another ten years go by and still there is no resolution to this problem? Will we still be doing the same thing---pressing ineffective sanctions against Libya and calling for a trial somewhere?
Mark Zaid: I certainly hope we will not have to wait another ten years, but obviously much of this is out of the hands of the families and their civil attorneys. We will continue to press our civil case and most likely reach a resolution in this regard within 3 years. The criminal case is strongly influenced by political and international concerns that change day to day, so it is nearly impossible to predict what might happen tomorrow, next week or next year.
London: Do you agree that the less relations Britain has with the U.S, the safer the British public will be. My point is that when the U.S go about causing trouble, other people get hurt, eg Lockerbe.
Mark Zaid: I do not. Obviously the US and UK share not only a strong historical link, but also we share many of the same beliefs. The recent bombing of Iraq demonstrates the strong connection between our two countries. I would agree that the US and Americans in general are more of a target world-wide, for terrorists so in that sense being in close proximity to us is more dangerous than, for example, flying on an Icelandic airline. Nevertheless, in order to combat international terrorism, allies - such as the US and UK - need to unite together for the common cause.
Washington, D.C.: What was the most important lesson learned from the Lockerbie tragedy?
Mark Zaid: There are many lessons that we have learned, and still continue to learn. It is difficult to identify just one. The bombing has demonstrated not only the frailities of life, but also the strengths of our resolve, particularly to attain justice. And perhaps the attainment of justice is the most important lesson. It must never be discouraged, not for political, idealogical or economic reasons.
Washington DC: I thought I saw someone on TV mention that he had fought to go after Libyan government assets, but that the Dept of State had blocked that avenue. Is the issue likely in your opinion to bounce into the diplomatic arena as a barrier for families to see Libya's government pay.
Mark Zaid: Actually, the effort was to go after Iranian assets in order to execute a judgment obtained by the family of Alyssa Flatow, a 20 year old American student killed in Israel by terrorists. This same issue, however, will arise in the Libyan case as well once we obtain a judgment. Hopefully the matter will be resolved by then, but it might require additional legislation to do so.
Walla Walla, WA: I believe that the two Libyan agents were most likely involved in the Pan Am 103 bombing. If this is proved in court, will the next process be to indict their leader, Qaddafi, whom they worked for? And will the evidence of Iran and/or Syria involvement be followed up?
Mark Zaid: That is a very good question, and the answer will depend on the political resolve of the United States. Certainly this is a primary concern of Ghadafi in arriving at his decision on whether to surrender the two Libyan suspects. The families obviously wish to punish whomever was responsible, even if only having played a minor role.
ridge, new york: I'm interested in finding out about the tenth anniversary ceremony at the monument in Arlington? please send me any info as soon as possible I'd really like to be there.
Host, Tim Ito: Mark, I know you are going to this ceremony marking the tenth anniversary at Arlington today, can you tell us a little bit about this, even though our friend from Ridge, NY may not be able to get there?
Mark Zaid: The 10th anniversary ceremony at Arlington Cemetery, which I am on my way to attend, begins at approx. 1:15 pm. In attendance will be President Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Attorney General Janet Reno, among others. At 2:03 pm, the names of the 270 victims will be read aloud. The ceremony takes place around the memorial Cairn, which is a Scottish memorial of 270 stones taken from the same quary that was used to build the base of the Statute of Liberty. Cermonies are also underway at Syracuse University, which lost 25 of its students in the bombing, and in Lockerbie, Scotland.
Well, that's all the time we have for today. Many thanks to our guest, Mark Zaid, who joined us live from our offices in Arlington, VA.
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