Belfast Telegraph

Victims lodge fresh attempt to sue Libya for supplying IRA with Semtex during Troubles

The claims are being lodged at Belfast High Court
The claims are being lodged at Belfast High Court

Victims of IRA terrorism are to make a fresh attempt to sue Libya for supplying terrorists in Northern Ireland with the plastic explosive Semtex during the Troubles. 

Claims were lodged with Belfast High Court on Thursday on behalf of two men who are seeking compensation for the 1993 Shankill Road bombing and a blast on the Falls Road in 1988, the Guardian reports.

Victims of other IRA attacks are expected to lodge claims next week, including those injured in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing in 1987 and the so-called "Good Samaritan Bomb" in Londonderry in 1988.

The Provisional IRA regularly received secret shipments of weapons from Libyan during Muammar Gaddafi's time as dictator.

The most devastating weapon given to the IRA by Gaddafi was Semtex, which was extensively used in IRA bombings.

Efforts to secure compensation for victims of IRA terrorism have failed despite the fact Libyan assets have been frozen in the UK.

The latest attempt to sue Libya for compensation comes from Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters, who specialises in Troubles-related litigation.

This is the first time claims have been pursued through courts in Northern Ireland. Lawyers for the victims will face legal obstacles such as time restrictions on bringing cases, state immunity limitations and questions about whether the issues can be decided by the judiciary.

However, Chris Stanley, from Belfast firm KRW Law, points to exemptions under the State Immunity Act 1878 whereby foreign states are not immune to proceedings if they involve "death or personal injury or damage to or loss of property caused by an act or omission in the UK".

Solicitor Kevin Winters' two lead cases involve Seamus Sullivan, who was injured in the 1988 bombing that targeted British army foot patrols on the Falls Road, and George Brown, who was injured in the 1993 Shakill Road bombing that targeted the UDA and killed 10 people, including a bomber.

The solicitor is hoping to provide access to billions of dollars of funds in the UK seized by the British government after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011. At present the claims are against Libya, but it is possible the claims may extend to the British Foreign Office for allegedly failing to obtain compensation for victims.

In 2017, the Northern Ireland affairs committee found that between the 1970s and 1990s Libya provided the Provisional IRA with tonnes of arms and ammunition, millions of dollars in finances, military training and explosives.

Mr Winters told the Guardian: "We have issued the first of a number of high court actions … The cases are directed against the state of Libya, alleging it supplied the explosives used to kill or injure in a series of incidents spanning a period 1987 to 1994.

"We will ask the high court in Belfast to seek leave to serve the proceedings outside the jurisdiction after [submitting further] discovery applications against the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

“It’s disappointing that despite the NI affairs committee confirming in May 2017 the supply of Semtex from Libya, the PSNI have steadfastly refused to confirm its use in specific incidents.

“In the absence of any good reason one can only assume its to prevent hundreds of legal actions for similarly affected bereaved and injured. The focus of this group action it to access the billions of restrained funds seized by the British government after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.

“It remains totally unacceptable that victims in Ireland and Britain were deprived of compensation yet most cases involving other countries including the USA, France and Germany were sorted out.”

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