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UK refuses to publish Libya-funded terrorism report over national security fears

British government under growing pressure to publish report into compensation for victims of Qaddafi-backed Irish terrorism

Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi, who died in 2011, backed the IRA with money and arms. Reuters
Libya’s leader Muammar Qaddafi, who died in 2011, backed the IRA with money and arms. Reuters

The UK government faces growing pressure to publish a report into compensation for victims of Libyan-backed Irish terrorism after refusing on the grounds it would damage Britain’s international relations.

Bereaved relatives and injured victims are demanding compensation from Libya after terrorist attacks used explosives supplied by the regime of Muammar Qaddafi during the three-decade armed struggle for Irish independence.

The opposition Labour party added its weight to calls for the publication of the government-commissioned report by former charity regulator William Shawcross, which was completed nearly a year ago.

Louise Haigh, Labour’s Northern Ireland spokeswoman, said further delays were “intolerable” for victims who have been pursuing compensation for attacks from before the 1998 peace deal.

Victims had expected the government to publish the report but officials refused to hand it over to lawyers representing a man injured in a 1988 bombing in Belfast.

Belfast law firm KRW Law said the request was refused on the grounds of national security and that it would “prejudice international relations”.

“What is so sensitive about this particular report?” said Jonathan Ganesh, head of a group of people injured or bereaved in the Irish Republican Army’s 1996 bombing of the Docklands financial district in London. “When we get closer to answers, they use this issue of national security for the first time.”

Col Qaddafi, who died a decade ago, supplied weapons and explosives to the Irish terrorist groups. They are believed to have been used in attacks including at a Remembrance Day service at Enniskillen, Northern Ireland in 1987, which killed 12 and an attack in Warrington, north-west England in 1992, which killed two children. At least 3,500 were killed in the attacks, part of a campaign known as The Troubles.

In March, Mr Shawcross delivered his report examining how best to secure compensation from Libya for victims of Irish terrorism but the government has not committed to publishing his findings. A Foreign Office representative said ministers are "carefully considering the complex issues" raised.

In her letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Ms Haigh said the victims must be told about the results of the Shawcross review as a matter of urgency.

“It is time the report was urgently released and victims were given answers and the redress they have fought so long for,” she wrote. “Further delays are simply intolerable."

Mr Ganesh said the UK government had raised the expectations of victims then denied them access to the report.

"The present UK Conservative government have put the victims through immense pain by the lack of genuine care," he said.

Col Qaddafi in 2004 agreed to dismantle his chemical weapons programme and pay compensation to victims from the plane that was blown up over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988.

But the deal struck with former prime minister Tony Blair did not address the issue of broader compensation claims for victims of Libyan-supplied explosives.

The UK’s longstanding position has been not to pursue government-to-government negotiations with Libya on behalf of victims.

The families of victims of Libyan-provided Semtex have been told they should launch individual claims rather than rely on the administration of Boris Johnson to negotiate with any future Libyan government.

Relatives say the suggestion is impractical and compared the government’s stance to the US, which passed laws in 2008 that allowed the Qaddafi regime to pay $1 billion in compensation for American victims.

Published: January 11, 2021 02:23 PM

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