Government ‘is telling victims to go it alone’ as fund rejected

The government has rejected calls for a UK-funded reparations scheme for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA attacks.

Compensation claims are a private matter and the Foreign Office is helping people who are affected pursue claims with the northern African country’s authorities, the official response added.

The government’s rejection of a UK fund emerged via the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which today publishes the government’s formal response to its own report concerning victims of Libya-IRA violence, which it had published in May.

Reacting to the unveiling of the government’s stance, MPs said it will be “deeply disappointing” to victims.

Kate Hoey, a senior Labour member of the committee, said: “The government response is as unsurprising as it is unacceptable.

“They are telling people to seek justice on their own, to bear the cost and overcome the language barrier of obtaining compensation directly from the Libyan government.

“There is a duty to represent the victims, just as the US and German governments fought for compensation for their citizens.”

The now-defunct Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi armed the IRA with massive amounts of weaponry, extending the Troubles, the committee said in its report published earlier this year, which recommended the reparations fund be established.

It held lengthy hearings with victims of IRA bombings which used Libyan Semtex plastic explosives, including the Enniskillen 1987 atrocity.

The bereaved and injured are pressing for UK government support in their campaign for compensation paid out of the large number of frozen assets seized from the toppled Gaddafi administration.

Gaddafi died in an uprising in 2011 as his regime fell.

While the USA, France and Germany had negotiated multi-million-pound settlements with Gaddafi for its citizens impacted by Libyan-sponsored terrorism, the previous Labour government in the UK has been heavily criticised for not striking a similar deal.

The current government said it considers compensation claims to be private matters and that the Foreign Office facilitates victims to engage with the Libyan authorities to pursue compensation.

The official response said it was not in the UK’s national interest to use political or financial support to Libya as leverage to secure recompense for victims.

A government statement said: “The government notes the committee’s recommendation that the UK should establish a fund to provide financial compensation and support specifically to the victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism, while simultaneously taking forward negotiations with the Libyan authorities.

“HMG has considered in detail the feasibility of establishing such a fund and at this stage has concluded that it is not a viable option.

“The government also notes the potential challenges of making additional UK resources available specifically to the victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism, which would need to be considered carefully against Government support to victims of terrorism more generally, including in Northern Ireland.”

It said it continued to raise the issue of compensation for victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism with the Libyan government at top levels.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson most recently raised this with Prime Minister Fayez al Serraj in May 2017 and again in August 2017.

The official response said compensation from Libya was possible in cases like the Lockerbie aircraft bombing because of evidence the attacks were planned and executed directly by the Libyans.

It added: “By contrast, Libya was a third party in IRA terrorism: the Gaddafi regime provided support to the IRA but did not direct or carry out the attacks itself... [this] makes it more challenging to pursue compensation.”