HM Government support for UK victims of IRA attacks that used Gaddafi-supplied Semtex and weapons Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Colonel Gaddafi and the IRA

1.There is no doubt that the weapons, funding, training, and explosives that Colonel Gaddafi provided to the Provisional IRA over the course of 25 years both extended and exacerbated the Northern Ireland Troubles, and caused enormous human suffering. Whilst other countries have sought compensation from the Libyan Government for its role in fostering terror, the UK Government has not done so, instead leaving the matter for victims themselves to resolve. We pay warm tribute to the quiet dignity and determination of those individuals and organisations who have campaigned tirelessly over the years to rectify this injustice. As they grow older, time is running out for many of the victims, and so we hope this Report will encourage the next Government to adopt a fresh approach which secures the compensation these people deserve. We hope also that our successor Committee will continue to campaign on this issue in the 2017 Parliament, until there is a satisfactory resolution for the victims. (Paragraph 9)

The Government’s relationship with the Gaddafi regime

2.It is not clear how far the Tony Blair Government was aware of the campaign to seek compensation for the victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism, and how far that Government pursued the matter with the Libyan authorities. Whatever the reality of the situation was, we believe the UK Government missed a vital opportunity, during the period in which Libya was seeking a rapprochement with the west, to act on behalf of IRA victims by placing this issue firmly on the negotiating table to secure a compensation package. (Paragraph 21)

3.We should emphasise that the conclusions and recommendations in this Report encompass all UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism by the Provisional IRA, and not just those victims who were named in the McDonald writ. (Paragraph 23)

4.The exclusion of the UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism from the terms of the US-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement 2008 was another missed opportunity to resolve the issue of compensation. Although the then UK Government claimed it had made representations to the US for the victims’ inclusion, we received no evidence of the level they were made, and with what force. That said, even assuming that the UK Government had put its full weight behind the victims’ cause, it cannot be known now, almost 10 years later, whether it would have affected the US Administration’s position. Whatever its reasons were, it is deeply regrettable that, in 2008, the US appears not to have been willing to assist the UK in delivering justice for its victims. However, this does not absolve the former Labour Government for having failed to pursue the issue of compensation itself bilaterally with Libya with the same determination and vigour demonstrated by the Governments of France, Germany and the US. Had it done so, it might well have been equally successful. (Paragraph 33)

5.We have already deprecated the then UK Government’s failure to pursue the issue of compensation when Libya was brought in from the cold in the early 2000s. However, it is not clear that Mr Blair’s influence after leaving office was such that he could have made a material difference to the outcome of the US-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement 2008. Besides, he had ceased to be Prime Minister in June 2007. Negotiations between the US and Libya in 2008 took place on a bilateral basis, and whilst Sir Vincent Fean’s email suggests that Mr Blair played some role in encouraging an agreement, it also suggests that it was not pivotal. We have already noted that the US Administration declined to include the UK victims in the terms of the LCSA. (Paragraph 36)

6.The establishment of the FCO’s Libya Reconciliation Unit represented an acknowledgement by the then UK Government that it could not continue to ignore the campaign for compensation by the UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism. However, its support for the parliamentary delegation which visited Libya in 2009 underlined the fact that only direct government-to-government negotiations would have carried sufficient weight in pressing the victims’ case. With the complete collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, an eight-year window of opportunity, during which successive UK Governments could have sought to resolve this issue, had closed. (Paragraph 42)

The Government’s relationship with Libya after Gaddafi

7.Whilst there was initial optimism that the Coalition Government would take a different approach on the issue of compensation after the fall of Gaddafi, that Government’s rhetoric did not translate into any tangible progress. This was, yet again, a missed opportunity. The fact that lawyers acting on behalf the UK victims were able to have the then Chairman of the National Transitional Council of Libya sign a statement in support of providing compensation early in 2011, suggests to us that, if the Coalition Government itself had taken up this issue at that time, it would have had a good chance of reaching an agreement. (Paragraph 52)

8.Over the next few years, the UK Government may well play a key role in the reconstruction of Libya, both in terms of financial and political support. If so, this would present an ideal opportunity for the Government to leverage a response in kind from the Libyans by finally resolving the issue of compensation for the UK victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism. This can only be achieved through direct government-to-government negotiations. Statements made by the Libyan Deputy Prime Minister acknowledge this is an issue that the Government of National Accord needs to consider. We believe that, with sufficient determination, the UK Government should be able to reach an agreement. But, as one of our witnesses said: “it requires somebody to bang on their door, not with a wet sponge, but [with a] bang”. (Paragraph 57)

Compensation options

9.For the last six years in which the UK victims have sought compensation from Libya, almost £9.5 billion of assets from the Gaddafi regime have sat frozen within the UK’s jurisdiction. This has understandably been a source of great frustration to the victims and their representatives. It is bitterly disappointing that there is no evidence to suggest the then Government raised the issue of compensation at the time of the negotiations on the UN resolutions in 2011—not least because there are precedents for the use of frozen assets to compensate victims. As they currently stand, however, the UN Resolutions and the EU Regulation, which enforces them in the UK, provide no options for the UK Government to use the frozen Libyan assets for the purposes of compensation. The Government’s view is that any attempt to renegotiate the UN Resolutions and the EU Regulation is unlikely to be successful. Moreover, the Foreign Office has unequivocally ruled out the possibility of pursuing the assets frozen within the UK’s jurisdiction. (Paragraph 67)

10.We have previously stated that the UK Government should enter into direct negotiations with the Libyans to seek a compensation deal. In the pursuit of justice and accountability, it would be preferable for the Libyan authorities to voluntarily agree a compensation package than for the UK Government to act unilaterally. In achieving this, we believe the frozen assets could still provide the Government with some leverage, which it can use in those negotiations whilst still abiding by the terms of the UN Resolutions. (Paragraph 68)

11.Time is running out for many of the UK victims, who have already waited too long to see justice delivered. If, by the end of 2017, it is apparent that the situation in Libya remains such that direct government-to-government negotiations on a compensation deal are not possible in the short to medium term, we believe the UK Government should itself establish and finance a reparations fund ahead of the outcome of such negotiations. Such a fund would provide payments both to community projects, and individuals, whether as a one-off payment or as a pension. This would allow the UK Government to make progress on the job of establishing a list of eligible victims across the UK—a task that has the potential to further delay the payment of compensation, if it is not begun as soon as possible. Starting this work now would also have the advantage of enabling the Government to quantify the scale of compensation it should be seeking from the Libyan authorities. (Paragraph 73)

12.This Report has shown how victims have been repeatedly let down by various Governments—Labour, Conservative, and Coalition. As one witness put it: “we are the forgotten ones […] the ones who for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension, successive UK governments have chosen to overlook”. It is time for the UK Government to address this injustice, and to do so without further delay. (Paragraph 74)

28 April 2017