The UK government has been accused of trying to scupper a Bill aimed at compensating victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism.
The Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill aims to free up £9.5bn worth of assets linked to former dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, which have been frozen in London by the United Nations.
While the bill – sponsored by the UUP’s Lord Empey – has already successfully passed through the House of Lords, the government’s reluctance to make it law was seemingly demonstrated on Friday.
The Ulster Unionist peer told the News Letter: “A government whip has objected to the bill in the House of Commons. It would appear they are trying to run it out of town. It is very unfair and frustrating for victims.”
Lord Empey believes the Libyan assets could be used for the benefit of those injured and bereaved as a result of Col Gaddafi supplying weapons and Semtex explosives to the IRA during the Troubles.
He added: “Some of the worst IRA atrocities were committed with Libyan-supplied weapons and the purpose of the bill is to right the wrong done to the victims.”
One such victim is Jonathan Ganesh, who suffered serious injuries when the IRA detonated a half-tonne bomb in the heart of London’s Docklands.
Mr Ganesh, who was left badly scarred and deaf in one ear as a result of the blast in 1996, described himself as “one of the lucky ones”.
Now president of the Docklands Victims Association, he been campaigning for compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism.
Mr Ganesh is strongly critical of how victims have been treated by the government, and branded the latest development “utterly shameful”.
He added: “The US government has successfully secured compensation for American victims, but UK and Irish citizens have been left behind.
“That £9.5bn would help so many people, and I can’t understand for the life of me why our government can’t fight for us.
“How can they say they care about all victims of terrorism? It is almost like they don’t want us to succeed.
“This is not just about money, it is about equality. We are not getting any support from our own government, so we have had to do it ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Susanne Dodd, whose father was one of three Met police officers killed by an IRA car bomb that exploded outside Harrods department store in central London in 1983, said: “This will not deter us, it will only make us more determined. We are not going away. We are going to keep fighting.”
A government spokesperson told the News Letter: “We are determined to see a just solution for UK victims of Qadhafi-sponsored terrorism and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to encourage the Libyans to engage with UK victims and their legal representatives seeking redress.
“The new Libyan government faces significant security, political and economic challenges. We will continue to support victims in their attempts to seek redress from the Libyan authorities once stability returns.”