A London-based IRA victim has hailed the “first real progress” in a decade-long campaign to secure compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism.
Jonathan Ganesh, a survivor of the 1996 IRA docklands bombing and the president of the Docklands Victims Association, has been campaigning for years for victims to be compensated using assets which once belonged to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
In the 1980s Col Gaddafi supplied massive shipments of weapons, including Semtex, to the IRA.
The material from Libya was used by the IRA in a deadly campaign of bombings across the UK.
An estimated £12 billion worth of Libyan assets linked to Col Gaddafi are frozen in the UK.
Mr Ganesh and others have campaigned for some time for victims to be compensated using the frozen assets but there has been little movement from the government.
The campaign has intensified since it was revealed the government has collected millions in tax from the frozen assets.
The Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison has now confirmed in writing that a “scoping exercise” into possible compensation payments is to take place.
Mr Murrison, in a letter to the chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee at Westminster Simon Hoare, said the appointment of a ‘special representative’ of the foreign secretary on UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism “reflects the government’s commitment to victims”.
He also revealed the special representative, William Shawcross, is to carry out a scoping exercise over the course of the next six months to “focus on investigating the feasibility of calculating the precise number of people affected and the amount of compensation due to them from the Libyan government”.
Mr Murrison added: “We believe that this is an important preliminary step to making wider progress.
“In this initial scoping exercise, the special representative has also been asked to consider precedents for compensation payments by third parites (ie parties that have assisted terrorist acts, but not directed or undertaken them) and the nature of compensation arrangements already reached with Libya.”
Responding, Mr Ganesh told the News Letter: “To be sincere I think this is a tremendous step in the right direction.
“In the last 10 years I have met prime ministers, ambassadors, Foreign Office officials, and finally after all this effort from MPs, from victims, from the media – from the News Letter in Belfast who have covered this story for over a decade – finally we have some progress.
“We have a constructive way forward now. It is certainly a step in the rightdirection.”
Mr Ganesh continued: “There is this terrible injustice where the Gaddafi regime has compensated American victims of terrorism, French victims and German victims. But the UK citizens and Irish citizens have been left behind.
“This is the first real sign of progress. They want to identify the victims affected and want to scope out the compensation payments.”