Lawyers seeking compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA bombings say the government is engaging in deliberate delays and “a false narrative” in the hope that the controversy will “go away”.
MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee have demanded the government comes clean on whether it has been “scooping up big tax receipts” from £12bn of frozen Colonel Gaddafi assets in the UK.
The MPs said a small part of the alleged sum could help desperate victims of Semtex Libya supplied to the IRA.
Now lawyers acting for the victims have welcomed the report and affirmed MPs’ call for the new government-appointed special envoy on the matter to be empowered to negotiate directly with Libya to secure compensation.
Matthew Jury, managing partner with McCue and Partners, said that if the envoy tries to assess the many victims, he risks “retraumatisation” and gives the government ”another excuse to delay”.
Instead, he said, the envoy should use criteria already laid out in the successful claim by US victims in 2008. Despite being advised on this repeatedly, Mr Jury said, the Foreign Office appears not to have contacted the US government about for more information.
Meanwhile, the government “sticks to the false narrative that it’s prohibited from directly negotiating with Libya on the victims’ behalf – despite the US having done exactly that resulting in the successful and proper compensation of its citizens.
“The only conclusion, for reasons yet to become clear, is that HMG wants this issue to go away or, at least be delayed until the last of the victims die in the hope that the controversy dies with them. Wasting more time while the wheels on the wagon of compensation are reinvented perfectly fits that agenda.
“Instead, as the Committee rightly recommends, the Special Envoy must be empowered to enter into government-to-government negotiations with Libya on the victims behalf so that, as a priority and in the first instance, he can secure a commitment to pay compensation.
“Only then, once that’s out the way, and some level of compensation is assured, should we be even thinking about subjecting the victims’ to some form of eligibility criteria and, in doing so, risk raising their expectations and re-traumatising them unnecessarily.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman responded: “As the Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative on UK victims of Qadhafi-sponsored IRA terrorism, Mr Shawcross’s role will be to help inform the government’s approach to this issue. The precise terms of reference are being finalised, but among the issues Mr Shawcross will advise on is the amount of compensation that should be sought.”