Pan Am Flight 103/ Lockerbie Air Disaster Archives

Publications Collection

The Price of Terror book cover

The Price of Terror: Lessons of Lockerbie for a World on the Brink
by Allan Gerson and Jerry Adler, 2000
ISBN-10: 0756767369

Book Review

Book review by Helen Engelhardt-Hawkins, wife of Pan Am victim Anthony Lacey Hawkins, and creator of Mothers and Sons, 2008 (F/V 4508) and Coming Home to Us: A Trilogy of Love, Loss, & Healing, 2011 (F/V 6204). Both are available in the Pan Am Flight 103 Audiovisual Collection

"With no prospect of a military response and not much likelihood that a criminal investigation would reach the Libyan leaders who ordered the attack, the families of the Pan Am flight 103 victims were left to forge a remedy of their own: a civil cause of action in U.S. courts intended to make governments sponsoring or encouraging terrorism pay for their crimes."

"The Price of Terror" is a chronicle of that civil course of action. I thought I knew all the relevant facts of our history. But I did not…[there were] many new facts I learned in this fascinating account of our political and legal accomplishments…The first six chapters cover ground that other books have already done: the criminal investigation in Scotland…[to the] indict[ment of] two Libyan men acting as agents for the Libyan government in the conspiracy to destroy Pan Am Flight 103. For anyone who, for whatever reasons, is not intimately familiar with these fundamental facts, this is an excellent summation. It also introduces us to some of the leading characters who emerged in the earliest days.

Allan Gerson is himself a character written about in the third person. He emerges as a complex and intriguing person among the others who took on the daunting task of challenging a bedrock principle of international law - Thou Canst Not Take a Sovereign Nation to Court - the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Gerson and Adler set themselves a task almost as daunting: to make the intricacies of international law comprehensible and dramatically urgent to the legally challenged reader. I think they've succeeded…

"The Price of Terror" takes us through the verdicts of the criminal trial at Kamp Zeist and leaves us waiting to see how the civil case against Libya will be resolved once Megrahi's appeal of his guilty verdict is over. (I found one tiny error in the highlights of the criminal trial; it wasn't Megrahi's lawyer William Taylor who "had Giaka for breakfast." It was Fhimah's lawyer, Richard Keen, who did.)

Though all our other major legal and political battles are included, "The Price of Terror" is essentially the story of how one determined man and his determined lawyers made legal history by challenging a principle believed to be sacrosanct: that nations like kings before them, are above the law. Thanks to Bruce Smith and Gerson, Zaid and Rosenthal, certain nations, at any rate, can no longer get away with murder. Individual citizens who have been egregiously harmed, can seek legal redress. So far, it is only American citizens and only under carefully drawn stipulations who can do so-but the principle is a radical one that will continue to reverberate.

This review was shortened by the Archivist for presentation here. If you would like to read the full review, please email pa103archives@syr.edu with your request.



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