Family of loyalist paramilitary shot dead by IRA to sue Libya for compensation

The family of a loyalist paramilitary shot dead by the IRA is to sue Libya.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 8:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 8:51 pm
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair meeting Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi at his desert base outside Sirte, south of Tripoli in 2007. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

The family of a loyalist paramilitary shot dead by the IRA is to sue Libya.

The basis of the case centres on a weapon linked to the killing of William Kingsberry Snr in south Belfast in 1991.

Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi armed the IRA with weapons such as guns and the powerful Semtex plastic explosive used in multiple Troubles bombings such as those targeting Harrods in 1983, the Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen in 1987, Warrington in 1993 and London’s Docklands in 1996.

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An AKM assault rifle used in the murder of Mr Kingsberry and his stepson Samuel Mehaffey was among the haul supplied by Libya.

Other victims of the IRA are also seeking compensation from Libya, but, given the unlikelihood of that happening in the short term, they have urged the Government to instead use the billions of pounds of assets linked to the toppled Gaddafi regime which were frozen in the UK in 2011 under UN sanctions.

The Government has ruled out using the £12 billion of frozen Libyan assets, or the tax take generated by them, to compensate victims.

It has also refused to fund a scheme using other public finances while it continues to press the authorities in the north African country to pay out.

The Foreign Office has claimed the responsibility for paying victims of Libyan arms rests with the Libyan state - though lawyers for victims counter that the US, France and Germany all pressed Libya to pay compensation to their citizens in cases of terror attacks it sponsored.

The UK Government has also says that, under international law, it is unable to access the frozen assets - a claimed rejected by lawyers for the victims’ families.

Victims prevoiously suggested the Government could use the £5 million of tax derived from the assets every year.

That money is diverted into the Consolidated Fund along with all other tax income and used to fund public services across the UK.

Victims have insisted it should be ring-fenced and used for compensation.

They also contend that the Government could use its UN Security Council veto to block any future move to unfreeze the assets until the compensation issue is resolved.

Campaigners have highlighted that the US, France and Germany secured millions of pounds in compensation for Libyan terror victims from Gaddafi’s regime as it emerged from years of international isolation in the 2000s.

Victims have been particularly critical of the last Labour government for failing to secure a similar agreement in the years prior to Gaddafi being ousted.

Now the sons of Mr Kingsberry have initiated civil proceedings against Libya.

Leave was granted by the High Court in Belfast on July 1 to serve proceedings on the State of Libya.

Mr Kingsberry’s son Mike was eight at the time of the murders. He told UTV that the then Libyan regime supplied the weapon that killed his father and Mr Mehaffey.

He said the case is massive for all those bereaved in acts of terror that involved Libyan supplied weapons, including guns and semtex.

Gary Duffy, of KRW Law, said: “The grant of leave by the court to prosecute these actions provides a route to justice and compensation not just for the other 11 applications currently in front of the court but also to all victims of Libyan supplied weaponry and to victims of arms supplied by apartheid South Africa.

“These proceedings arise out of the ongoing failure by the British government to provide proper redress to victims of Libyan supplied weaponry and a need to address the ongoing justice deficit.

“All political engagement to date has failed these victims. we now seek judicial intervention to help bring resolution.”

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