089-Interpretation and Application of the 1971 Montreal Convention (Libya vs USA)

On March 3rd, 1992, Libya filed before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) an application instituting proceedings against the United States with regards to the Lockerbie air incident of December 21st, 1988. In this case, two Libyan nationals had planted an explosive device aboard Pan Am flight 103, which had detonated above Scottish soil, causing the destruction of the aircraft and the death of all those on board.

These infractions fell within the scope of the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation signed in Montreal on September 23, 1971 (Montreal Convention).

Libya asserted that on one hand, the Montreal Convention was the only international instrument applicable in the present case and moreover, that the acts committed by its nationals constituted a criminal offense punishable by Article 1 of said Convention. In addition, Libya contended that it had succeeded in establishing a sufficient nexus to assert its jurisdiction to hear this dispute under Articles 5 and 7 of the Convention and that, finally, there was no Extradition Treaty between the Libya and the United States so that the requesting State did not violate any provision of international law by refusing to extradite its nationals to be tried abroad.

Libya had accompanied its initial application with a request for the indication of provisional measures to urge the United States not to exert any pressure and to respect the rights of Libya. In its order dated April 14th, 1992, the ICJ declined to pronounce such measures, considering that the circumstances of the case did not justify it.

Order of 14-04-1992.pdf

The United States had raised preliminary objections relating to the jurisdiction of the Court to hear this case and alleging the absence of a dispute between the Parties. In its judgment of February 27th, 1998, the ICJ rejected these arguments, asserting on the basis of Article 14 paragraph 1 of the said convention that it did indeed have jurisdiction to rule on this dispute.

Judgment of 27-02-1998.pdf

Following this judgment, the ICJ allowed Libya to file additional conclusions to the proceedings.

Order of 29-06-1999.pdf

In a letter dated September 9th, 2003, the Governments of Libya and the United States jointly notified the Court that they had “agreed to discontinue with prejudice the proceedings”. Following those notifications, the Court made an Order dated September 10th,2003 directing the removal of the case from the Court’s List.

Order of 10-09-2003.pdf

This summary is provided for informational purposes only, does not involve the responsibility of Dome and should in no way be used as a substitute for a careful reading of the judgment and order of the case.