- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Eighteen years ago, I was a typical high school student who knew little of grief and had given little thought to the concept of justice. That all changed on Dec. 21, 1988, when a bomb blew up Pan Am Flight 103 and my brother, a college student returning home from England, was killed. The bombing of that aircraft devastated my family and hundreds of other families like us and forced us to confront a system of justice that treats some murderous acts differently than others.

Had my brother’s murder been a conventional crime, those responsible would have been tried, convicted and sentenced, and justice would have been served. But my brother’s murder was an act of terrorism perpetrated by a foreign government. Our road to justice, therefore, has been long, complicated and unfulfilled.

The Scottish high court eventually convicted one Libyan intelligence agent for his role in the bombing. While we appreciate the verdict of the Scottish court, this bombing was clearly not the act of an individual. The U.S. government’s investigation into the bombing is still considered open. For years we have pressed the Justice Department to pursue this case, but they have shown no interest in moving forward.

We may never hear all the facts about who was responsible for the bombing. There are individuals responsible who may never see the inside of a courtroom, never have to stare into the eyes of the families whose lives they shattered and never be punished for their role in these murders. As such, civil court and civil settlements have been our only recourse — the only way to hold the Libyan regime accountable for its barbaric act.

After years of difficult negotiations, the Libyan government eventually agreed to a settlement that would pay $10 million to each victim’s family. This was a weak substitute for the criminal justice we so desperately wanted, but it is the only justice we have received so far. As such, this settlement takes on a value far greater than its monetary worth.

Eventually, Libya paid 80 percent of the commitment it had made to the families, with the final 20 percent to be paid when the U.S. government removed Libya from the list of state sponsors of terror. That time has now come, but the final settlement to the families — to date — has not.

It was our hope that any renewed relationship with Libya would have come after a regime change there. We understand the diplomatic realities facing our country today, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept that our government is re-establishing diplomatic ties with the same regime responsible for the deaths of our loved ones.

What makes it even more difficult is knowing that the Libyans have thus far failed to fully honor their obligation to our families. Meanwhile, our own State Department has preferred to make excuses rather than stand up for American victims of terrorism. At a recent State Department briefing, David Welch, assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, said, “the requirements we put in front of the government of Libya to address this issue have been met.” We beg to differ. Libya most certainly has not met the obligation made to our families, so this issue is hardly settled.

The families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 recently met with the State Department and voiced our concerns. We appreciate that State Department officials gave us their time, but what we need is their action. We continue to hope the State Department will reverse course and pressure the Libyans to do the right thing. But if not, we appreciate the strong support of many members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, who are standing beside us ready to right this wrong.Already, more than 100 members of the House have signed a letter to the president demanding that this settlement be paid before the United States pursues further ties with Libya. Resolutions are being introduced in the House and Senate to further enforce Congress’ views on this issue.

These members of Congress recognize that this issue is much bigger than the experience of the families of the Pan Am 103 tragedy. If the State Department remains unconcerned about Libya fulfilling its obligations, then at least it should be concerned with the precedent being set. Much has been written about the important example Libya’s new status sets for nations like Iran and North Korea. But what example does it set for rogue states if the United States allows a regime to honor only 80 percent of its promises? How can Libya regain the trust of the community of nations before first doing everything it must to redeem itself for a brutal act of mass murder?

The families of Pan Am Flight 103 have faced one difficult climb after another in our quest for justice. We have faced obstacles from the Libyans and from our own government. What we ask now is that the full and fair settlement that the Libyans promised us be paid. This remaining settlement carries a value far beyond its actual sum — it represents a promise to the families, an acknowledgement of the victims and some form of punishment to the perpetrators.

Kara Weipz is the president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.

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