Bill to pay IRA victims from Libyan assets passes Lords

Ulster Unionist chairman Lord Empey
Ulster Unionist chairman Lord Empey

Victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism are a step closer to being compensated after a bill seeking the release of frozen assets was approved by the Lords.

Lord Empey said the north African state had assets worth £9.5 billion in London which have been frozen by the United Nations.

He believes they could be used for the benefit of those injured and bereaved as a result of former Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi suppling tons of weapons and Semtex explosives to the IRA during the Troubles.

Following the third and final reading of the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill in the Lords yesterday, Lord Empey said: “Some of the worst IRA atrocities were committed with Libyan supplied weapons and the purpose of the bill is to right the great wrong done to the victims. I belong to a support group of MPs at Westminster who are committed to securing compensation for victims of Libyan sponsored terrorism. Andrew Rosindell MP is currently introducing a parallel bill to mine in the House of Commons, this will be guaranteed a second reading, which the Government will have to formally respond to.”

As well as the £9.5 billion of Libyan assets frozen in London there are other large deposits elsewhere around the globe linked to the Gaddafi regime.

“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,” he said.

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

“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 over their weapons programme.”

Lord Empey said he was delighted at the bill’s progress, and added: “I was in communication with David Cameron when he was Prime Minister and received assurances that his government would pursue the interests of victims.

“This has not happened hence the need for new legislation.”

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: “We commend Lord Empey for his diligent efforts on this issue. The Government (the present and the past) can no longer turn a blind eye to the injustice that it has presided over. The Government has failed to stand by its’ own citizens in the past instead choosing economic interests and political expediency over the principles of justice and accountability for those brutalised by Libyan/Gaddafi sponsored PIRA terrorism - that injustice must finally be redressed”.

Also welcoming the bill’s progress, Willie Frazer of FAIR (Families Acting For Innocent Relatives) said: “We have always said that things can be done if people are prepared to push. Lord Empey and a team of people are working very hard on this so credit where credit is due.”