Bill to compensate 1996 IRA Canary Wharf bombing victims begins in Lords
- Credit: DVA
A Bill finally starts its passage through Parliament today to compensate victims of the IRA bombing in Canary Wharf 20 years ago. It would use some of the £9.5 billion frozen assets of Colonel Gaddafi, the former Libyan dictator who supplied semtex to the IRA’s terrorist campaign including the Docklands bomb that killed two men and injured 51 other people.
But the Bill has come too late for what campaigners say is the latest victim of the 1996 atrocity, following last week’s sudden death of 58-year-old Gemma Berezag from Millwall, on the Isle of Dogs, who dedicated her life to caring for her disabled husband who was maimed for life in the bombing.
Gemma, who was buried last Tuesday, had been in poor health, struggling with the fulltime care for her husband Zaoui.
She wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this year pointing out that Zaoui was disabled because the IRA “came to London to hurt him and so many others” in the Canary Wharf attack on February 9, 1996.
“The IRA caused so many people to be disabled,” she wrote. “My Zaoui is blind, paralysed, brain damaged and has no leg.
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“I do my best to care for him, but things are difficult and he can’t remember me and his family.
“I will do my best as I love him and can’t imagine life without him.”
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She appealed to David Cameron to “help Zaoui and all those who need help” after the government had failed to get compensation from the Libyan authorities like the US government had done.
Jonathan Ganesh, a Midland Bank security guard who was injured in the bombing and later founded the Dockland Victims Association, had known Gemma for the past 25 years.
“She was failed by the government,” he told the East London Advertiser. Gemma’s courage to speak out and fight for victims against this appalling injustice, despite her own suffering, showed she had more courage and compassion than successive governments who sadly did not respond to her desperate pleas for help.”
Jonathan, who has been lobbying Parliament with campaigners from Northen Ireland for compensation, added: “Gemma was let down by the government and her untimely demise demonstrates that.”
Lord Empey introduces a Bill in the Lords today to compensate victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism from assets of the regime that have been frozen in the UK.
He said: “We have not given up on trying to get some level of support for the victims, wherever they live in the UK.
“I hope this bill can right the wrong done by Tony Blair’s failure to secure compensation for victims when other countries succeeded.”
The Government had told Parliament’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that international law prevents it using frozen Libyan assets.
But the Asset Freezing Compensation Bill is aimed at busting the barrier to help victims of Gaddafi-supplied explosives.
The Berezags’ lives changed forever when the IRA bomb wrecked the Midland Bank headquarters on Canary Wharf’s South Quay.
Gemma had stayed at home from her cleaning job in the bank to nurse her youngest child, Rajaa.
Zaoui and their son Farid and oldest daughter Layla did the shift in her place—and were caught up in the blast which also shook Millwall’s Barkantine Estate where the family lived.
Mr Berezag was sitting in his car outside a small newsagent’s run by Inan Bashir and John Jeffries, the two men who were killed. He was left maimed by the blast.
Gemma said in an interview in 2008: “We lost everything that day—my job, my car, and lost my husband as far as I’m concerned. I lost my health—the lot.”