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Future Government must secure compensation for Gaddafi sponsored terrorism victims

2 May 2017

Victims of IRA attacks that used Gaddafi supplied Semtex and weapons have been let down by successive UK Governments in their campaign for compensation, a report by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee finds.

Key findings

The report, HM Government support for UK victims of IRA attacks that used Gaddafi-supplied Semtex and weapons, highlights a series of missed opportunities to secure compensation and urges the next government to take firm action to end two decades of failure.

There is no doubt that the weapons, funding, training and explosives provided by the Gaddafi regime to the provisional IRA both extended and exacerbated the Troubles.

In particular, the Semtex that was supplied made possible a deadly bombing campaign from the late 1980s, that included atrocities at Enniskillen, Warrington and the London Docklands amongst many others.

Human cost

The human cost has been immeasurable. Over the course of the inquiry, the Committee received heartrending evidence from those who have suffered life-changing injuries, and the parents, siblings and children of those who lost their lives.

The Committee pays warm tribute to the quiet dignity and determination of the individuals and organisations who have campaigned tirelessly to secure the compensation.

Missed opportunities

But why has no compensation been secured, when the French, German and US governments all took strong action to secure compensation for their citizens harmed in terrorist actions sponsored by the Gaddafi regime?

When Libya was seeking a rapprochement with the west in 2007, and Tony Blair famously shook hands with Colonel Gaddafi, the UK missed a golden opportunity to act on behalf of the IRA victims and place on the negotiating table the securing of a compensation package.

When the US agreed the Libya Claims Settlement Agreement in 2008, it is unclear what representations were made by the UK Government to include UK victims, however its failure to pursue the issue bilaterally must be seen as another missed opportunity.

When the Gaddafi regime fell in 2011, the Coalition Government failed to apply pressure to its successor, the National Transitional Council of Libya, or to press the UN on the potential use of Libya's assets held in the UK.

As they grow older, time is running out for many of the victims.

What the future Government needs to do

The next Government must not add to this series of missed opportunities. It should now enter into direct negotiations with the Libyan authorities to seek a compensation deal. It would be preferable for the Libyan authorities to voluntarily agree a compensation package than for the UK to act unilaterally.

If, by the end of 2017, it is apparent that the situation in Libya makes successful negotiations unlikely in the short or medium term, the UK Government itself should establish and finance a reparations fund ahead of the outcome of such negotiations. This would provide payments both to community projects, and individuals, whether as a one-off payment or as a pension. It would also allow time for progress to be made on establishing a list of eligible victims across the UK, preventing additional delay.

Chair's comments

Committee Chair Laurence Robertson commented:

"First and foremost, we must pay tribute to those who have suffered for so long and campaigned so bravely as a result of these horrific acts. As one of our witnesses, told us: "we are the forgotten ones… the ones who for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension, successive governments have chosen to overlook".

The UK Government cannot allow this litany of missed chances to continue. There needs to be direct dialogue with the Libyan Government, and if the situation there makes this impossible, the Government must begin the process of establishing a fund themselves.

We very much hope that when the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee reconvenes after the general election they will continue to campaign on this issue. Until the victims have received the compensation they deserve they must be given our support."

Further information

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