The Libyan government has been accused of trying to prevent a vote in the UK Parliament on a bill that could secure compensation for the victims of IRA terrorism, after more than 35 years.
The Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill will receive its Second Reading in the House of Commons today. And if passed, it would allow frozen assets of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi – estimated to be valued at around £12bn – to be used to compensate victims of IRA terrorism.
In the 1980s, Gaddafi’s regime supplied thousands of weapons and a tonne of the plastic explosive Semtex to the IRA. There are an estimated 3,500 UK victims from IRA attacks using Libyan-supplied Semtex.
The bill has already cleared the House of Lords and is being sponsored in the Commons by Andrew Rosindell and Khalid Mahmood.
Earlier this month, the Arab League – a regional organisation of Arab states – passed a resolution against the bill and any attempt to use frozen assets to pay compensation to victims of terrorism and their families.
The resolution was sent to UK MPs by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at the request of the Libyan government. But some MPs have reacted furiously to the Arab League’s interference.
“It’s pretty shocking that, after Britain helped the Libyan people to free themselves from Gaddafi’s regime, the Libyan government is now trying to suppress free speech in the British Parliament,” said Robert Halfon MP.
The bill faces an uphill battle to progress through the Commons and pass into law, but solicitors McCue & Partners, representing the victims, have written to all MPs to urge them to allow the bill to progress without objection, and not to bow to pressure from the Arab League.
Solicitor Jason McCue said the victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA terrorism “will not rest in their pursuit of justice”.
“We hope MPs will not be cowed by the Arab League’s attempt to intimidate them,” he added.