Victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism have demanded answers from the British Government over claims it struck a secret deal with Libya not to pursue compensation.
Belfast firm KRW Law has written to the Government on behalf of a number of victims of bombings in which Libyan Semtex was used.
They include Colin Armstrong, who was injured and lost his father in the 1987 Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing. The letter follows outrage at a Government decision not to publish a report into how victims could be compensated using billions of dollars worth of frozen Libyan assets in the UK.
Last week a new development emerged during the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee (NIAC) in which victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson said he had learned of a secret deal not to pursue compensation.
During a radio debate on an Arabic station, Mr Donaldson said a senior Libyan banking official once close to the Gaddafi regime, Saeed Rashwan, had told him the matter was now closed.
This was due to “a quid pro quo” deal in which the UK backed off pursuing compensation to atone for allowing US forces to use British airspace to launch airstrikes on Benghazi in 1986.
Writing to James Cleverly MP, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa at the Foreign Office, KRW Law has asked for clarification on the extent of the supply of Semtex to the IRA from Libya, and how much British security forces knew about it at the time. KRW Law is also seeking compensation for relatives and survivors out of the Libyan assets by way of a UN sanction. The firm notes despite the sanction, both the USA and Germany have managed to secure compensation for victims and survivors of Libyan-sponsored terror attacks. Mr Cleverly previously stated the Government was unable to break the UN sanction and it was for the Libyan authorities to address the matter of compensation. KRW Law has questioned this response as “there is no functioning political administration in Libya”.
The firm said: “The British Government benefits from interest accrued on frozen Libyan assets but will not release this to relatives and survivors. Instead, it insists that they access the Troubles pension scheme, which itself is not functioning due to lack of funds.”
Barry O’Donnell of KRW said: “By its stance, the British Government is generating suspicion and anger amongst relatives of victims and survivors of Libyan-supplied Semtex to the PIRA.
“There is the possibility of a longstanding deal between the British Government and the Libyan regime. Our letter today — which we have also sent to the NIAC — is a further attempt to get at the truth and to expose an untenable political position.” KRW is calling on the NIAC to obtain a copy of the broadcast to establish a true account of Mr Rashwan’s claim.
A Government spokesperson said it has ‘profound sympathy” for UK victims of Qadhafi-sponsored IRA terrorism, and all victims of The Troubles.
It said providing compensation “specifically for the actions of the Qadhafi regime, separate from the support available to victims of the Troubles, is the responsibility of the Libyan State” and it will “continue to press the Libyan authorities”.