LONDON, United Kingdom, May 3rd – A report published by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee calls for decisive action on compensation payments for the UK victims of Libyan sponsored terrorism. Partly funded and armed by Tripoli, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) waged a violent campaign against civilian and military targets in Northern Ireland and on the British mainland for three decades. The IRA enjoyed extensive support from Colonel Gaddafi’s despotic regime. This included millions of dollars in financing, shipments of tonnes of Semtex plastic explosives, small arms and missiles and access to terrorist training camps in Libya.
Libyan munitions magnified the IRA’s capabilities. Semtex was used in infamous terrorist attacks including the Enniskillen bomb in 1987, the Baltic Exchange bomb in London in 1992, the Docklands bomb (that ended the IRA ceasefire in 1996), and the Warrington bomb in 1993 that killed two young children. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report notes that “Over the course of 25 years from the early 1970s, the Gaddafi regime in Libya supplied arms, funding, training and, in particular, Semtex to the Provisional IRA. This had the effect of extending and exacerbating ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, causing untold human suffering.”
Harrowing evidence was given to the committee’s inquiry detailing the human suffering of victims and their families. This included submissions from Colin Parry whose 12-year-old son Tim, was killed in the IRA attack on Warrington in 1993. Mrs Hamida Bashir described the pain of the loss of her son Inam, who died along with John Jeffries in the Docklands bomb. Evidence was also given by representatives of the Docklands Victims Association, Northern Ireland victims group, Families Acting for Innocent Relatives and survivors of the 1983 IRA bombing of Harrods in London.
The committee inquired into successive failures of the UK government to secure reparations from Gaddafi or his successors. Their report notes that: “… we believe the UK Government missed a vital opportunity, during the period in which Libya was seeking a rapprochement with the west, to act on behalf of IRA victims by placing this issue firmly on the negotiating table to secure a compensation package.” Referencing the McDonald writ, a civil action filed in Washington DC, the report notes with regret the “exclusion of the UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism from the terms of the US-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement [of] 2008.”
With the forthcoming UK general election on June 8th and formation of a new government within weeks, the committee called for the next administration to “adopt a fresh approach which secures the compensation these people deserve.” The committee paid tribute to “the quiet dignity and determination of those individuals and organisations who have campaigned tirelessly over the years to rectify this injustice.” This dignity is all-the-more admirable given a justifiable sense of frustration, not least as “for the last six years in which the UK victims have sought compensation from Libya, almost £9.5 billion of assets from the Gaddafi regime have sat frozen within the UK’s jurisdiction.” Utilisation of a percentage of these assets for reparations has been unequivocally ruled out by UK government officials.
Underscoring the urgency of the compensation issue and the imperative for action early in the next parliament, the committee concluded “as they grow older, time is running out for many of the victims.” The inadequacy of previous UK government responses to the compensation issue and a refusal (or inability) to distribute monies from frozen assets, fuels pessimism. The work of the committee is however highly commendable. The bravery, stoicism and dignity of the victims and their families is remarkable. It is essential that justice is finally served and compensation paid without further delay.