A leading campaigner for compensation of victims of Libya-IRA terrorism says he expects the government to adopt a new approach in support of victims within the next month.
UUP peer Lord Empey was speaking after the Parliamentary Libyan support Group met Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson MP on Tuesday to pursue the group’s aim of justice and compensation for victims of Gadaffi Semtex supplied to the IRA during the Troubles. The delegation included ten MPs - Conservative, Labour and DUP - and two lawyers.
After the meeting, Lord Empey told the News Letter that this was probably the most positive meeting yet with government on the issue. He has been pushing legislation through Westminster to allow £10bn of assets linked to Gadaffi which are frozen in the UK to be tapped for compensation for families devastated by IRA semtex bombs.
“The Foreign Office is now recognising that we are not going away and there is now an acceptance that the House of Commons debate last month showed that there is total support across the house for the victims,” he said. “There was not one voice raised in opposition in that debate. I think that Boris recognises our efforts will only be multiplied from now on.”
The exact means by which the victims may be supported has not been finalised and a number of ideas are “floating around” he said.
In May last year the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee lashed successive UK governments for failing to support UK victims while French, American and German governments had successfully pressed Libya to pay compensation for their citizens targeted by Libyan sponsored terror attacks.
“We are most optimistic that the penny has now dropped thanks to persistent hard work by the Parliamentary Support Group and victims themselves,” he said.
One point raised during the meeting was that a Libyan woman had recently secured £500k compensation from the UK government in relation to a rendition case, which one MP said highlighted “double standards”.
“They realise it is no longer enough to say to elderly victims that it is a private matter between them and the Libyan government to resolve.”
Lord Empey expects to see “a declaration of government intent and proposals” within the next month and before the summer recess.
Libya’s Government of National Accord in Libya recently issued a statement against using the assets for victims. However Lord Empey insisted that any actions taken by Parliament would be entirely legal under international law and that the UK had a veto over the assets through the UN Security Council.