Belfast Telegraph

Compensation for victims of Libya-funded IRA attacks is 'difficult': Home Secretary

By Allan Preston

The Home Secretary has admitted that securing compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism will be "extremely difficult".

Sajid Javid was responding to a letter sent on behalf of Ihsan Bashir, who lost his brother in the 1996 London Docklands bombing.

Mr Javid cites complexities with the situation on the ground in Libya.

The late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi supplied arms and Semtex to the IRA during the Troubles.

Libya compensated US victims of terrorism, but UK victims were left out of the deal, and campaigners have been fighting to address this.

In his letter, Mr Javid states: "The attacks carried out by the IRA during the Troubles were appalling and, as noted, by Mr Bashir, they continue to have a significant impact on individuals and communities in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

"It is important that those affected by the Troubles, and indeed all terrorist atrocities, receive the support and care they need."

The Home Secretary said he wanted a "just solution" for all the victims and efforts were continuing to lobby the Libyan Government.

The present situation on the ground in Libya, he said, "makes progress on this issue extremely difficult" even though the UK was supporting efforts to stabilise the political process.

Libyan assets in the UK were frozen as part of sanctions by the UN Security Council in February 2011.

Campaigners have demanded part of the money is used to compensate victims. Mr Javid said they could only be released by a unanimous vote of the UN Security Council, and not returning them to Libya would be "a violation of international law."

Mr Javid said he noted the work of campaigners and some MPs to pass an Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey introduced it as a Private Members' Bill in 2017.

A second reading of the bill that was due on June 15 has now been delayed until October 26.

In June, Lord Empey said he was hopeful the Government would take a more positive approach in support of the victims.

Following a meeting with then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Mr Empey said he detected a change in London's attitude.

The Foreign Office previously said the Government wants to see a just solution for all victims of Gadaffi-sponsored IRA terrorism. The Libyan interim government rejected proposals in June to use the assets to compensate IRA victims, calling it "a dangerous step and a transgression of Libya's sovereignty".

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