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United Kingdom: Civil Servants Prohibited from Cooperating with U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Investigation

(Sept. 16, 2010) The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee is conducting an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, in light of information regarding the British petroleum company BP and Libya. As part of their investigation,the Committee requested access to officials involved in negotiations over his prison transfer, as well as those involved in the decision to release him on compassionate grounds. The United Kingdom policy on access by foreign government officials to civil servants (UK government workers) involved in the decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds has been explained by the UK's Foreign Office. A spokesperson from that Office has been reported as stating, “[w]e have had to decline this request given concerns over extra-territoriality and also on the basis of the Civil Service Code, which prevents serving officials from discussing the policies of previous governments. Officials are accountable through ministers to the British parliament.” (Alex Barker, Hague Blocks Access to Megrahi Officials, Financial Times (London) (Sept. 12, 2010),

The Civil Service Code provides standards of behavior that are required of civil servants who work for the government of the day. It forms part of the contract of employment between civil servants and their appropriate employer. (Civil Service Code, Civil Service Commission website,
(last visited Sept. 14, 2010).)

The Scottish government has responded to a similar request in a like manner; however, it has not completely ruled out meetings between officials and members of the Senate investigation team. First Minister Alex Salmond stated:

As I have said previously, the Scottish Government has nothing to hide and nothing to fear from any properly constituted inquiry, but the Scottish Government is rightly accountable to the Scottish Parliament and not to the US Senate. Nevertheless, as a matter of courtesy, I would be willing to make appropriate officials available to meet staff from your offices should they decide to visit Scotland. The purpose of any such meeting would be to provide whatever further background information may be helpful to your understanding of these matters. Officials would not be giving evidence in any formal context. (Scottish Government, Reply to U.S. Senator Menendez and Others (Sept. 10, 2010),

(See also In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress: Lockerbie Bomber – The Legal Issues Behind Recalling a Prisoner Released on Compassionate Grounds (Sept. 8, 2010), //