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Bill to pay IRA victims from Libyan assets passes Lords

By Steven Alexander

Published 23/11/2016

Delighted: Lord Empey
Delighted: Lord Empey

An Ulster Unionist peer has said he is delighted that his Bill for compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism successfully passed through the House of Lords.

Lord Empey said his Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill - which aims to free up the £9.5bn of Libyan assets frozen in London linked to former dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime - had passed its third reading.

"While we accept that these assets have been frozen by the United Nations and the European Union, we are deeply disappointed that the UK Government have at no stage made any representation to either institution, so that these assets can be freed up to use as just compensation for victims," said Sir Reg.

Scores of IRA bombs in the 1980s and 1990s used Semtex supplied by Gaddafi. US victims of the Lockerbie bomb were paid compensation by Libya, but UK citizens suing the country have so far received nothing.

The Government has already indicated its reluctance to make Sir Reg's Bill law. Sir Reg said Treasury lawyers have indicated that freeing up the assets is not possible, despite the absence of any legal precedent stating that this is the case. In June, Conservative peer Viscount Younger of Leckie said accessing the frozen Libyan assets would be a breach of human rights laws.

"I first wrote to the then Prime Minister Tony Blair about this issue in 2002, and have never received a substantive response," Sir Reg said.

In October, Sir Reg said he was left horrified after hearing evidence from former foreign secretary Jack Straw, which he said suggested the victims of Libya-sponsored IRA terrorism "were expendable".

Sir Reg said yesterday: "From Jack Straw's recent appearance in front of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, it is obvious that victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism were left high and dry as the Blair Government negotiated with Libya. It is the support group's intention to do everything in our power to use the parliamentary process to finally resolve this glaring injustice for the victims of Libyan terrorism."

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