Empey: Fight for release of Libyan assets goes on despite setback

Former prime minister Tony Blair meeting Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2007
Former prime minister Tony Blair meeting Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi in Libya in 2007

The fight to get justice for those bereaved or injured as a result of Libyan sponsored terrorism will carry on despite the latest setback, Lord Empey has said.

Reduced parliamentary time – as a result of a snap general election being called – forced the Ulster Unionist peer to abandon his amendment to the Criminal Finances Bill, but he has vowed to “start the process again” when a new Parliament is established.

“We will keep fighting for the victims,” Lord Empey said.

“During this Parliament, I along with Tom Elliott, Danny Kinahan and other supportive MPs and peers, have sought to use our influence to secure compensation for victims of IRA terrorism, which the Gaddafi regime aided and abetted for decades by supplying finance, weapons and explosives.

“Unfortunately the calling of a snap general election has reduced parliamentary time to an extent where I was unable to bring forward an amendment which sought to use some of the £9.5 billion frozen Libyan assets in the UK to compensate the victims.”

Large quantities of Semtex explosives and other munitions were shipped to the IRA from Libya during the Troubles. Former prime minister Tony Blair has repeatedly denied suggestions he helped the Libyan leader avoid paying compensation to UK-based victims.

Towards the end of Gaddafi’s rule, Libya admitted causing the 1988 Pan AM aircraft bomb that claimed a total of 270 lives – subsequently paying millions in compensation to the families of the victims.

“The plight of the [UK] victims has never been formally recognised by the Libyan government and the UK government did not seek to achieve compensation from Libya, unlike their American, French and German counterparts,” Lord Empey said.

“During the debate it was placed on the record by the Home Office Minister Baroness Williams that my decision to not move the amendment ‘in no way undermines his support for the victims groups he has supported over many years’.

“In the new Parliament, I will attempt to bring forward a new Bbill to start the process again. There will be no giving up in the fight to achieve justice for those who have suffered,” Lord Empey added.