MPs pledge to fight on for 'forgotten victims' of IRA Canary Wharf bombing
- Credit: David Giles/PA
Victims of the Libyan-backed IRA bombing of Canary Wharf 26 years ago and other victims of The Troubles were "forgotten" by the government in a "rush to get trade deals" with Colonel Gaddafi’s regime when he was in power, MPs have been told.
The IRA bombing of Canary Wharf killed two men and injured 100 other people, including families on the Barkantine Estate which took the full force of the blast.
Jonathan Ganesh, who was badly injured in the bombing of the Midland Bank’s Canary Wharf HQ at South Quay where he was a security guard, has given evidence in a dossier to a committee of MPs.
He set up the Docklands Victims Association 15 years ago to campaign for compensation from Libya as part of an ongoing campaign for all victims of IRA terrorism in mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
“Victims and their families were forgotten,” Jonathan told the East London Advertiser. “The government appeared more preoccupied with securing lucrative trade deals with Gaddafi's regime."
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Jonathan's dossier includes campaigner Gemma Berezag, whose husband Zaoui was left permanently disabled. She killed herself in 2016 after struggling to pay for her husband’s continuing care.
It led to demands in Parliament in 2019 to commission a report into whether payments could be made from the £12 billion in frozen Libyan assets held in London.
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The government has refused to release the report it commissioned from former charity regulator William Shawcross on whether interest from Libya’s frozen assets could be used for pay-outs on "national security" grounds.
Mr Shawcross previously told MPs that he was “strongly advised” not to meet any victims, but instead to meet Sinn Fein, a political party which has historical links to the IRA.
On April 15, MPs on the Northern Ireland affairs committee demanded to know who gave that advice and why there has been no criminal prosecution of those procuring weapons from Libya. The only people who would object to paying out were “those who carried out the actions”, they said.
Government ministers had previously put the onus on victims to secure money from Libya directly through the courts; Middle East minister James Cleverly has said that the "responsibility for compensation for the actions of the Gaddafi regime lies with the Libyan state”.
Libya has paid French, German and US victims of its terrorism after successful negotiations with their governments.
Jonathan said: “The government expects victims who have already been traumatised to liaise with the Libyan government.
“This was disingenuous, absurd and so preposterous."
He continued: "We’ve actually met Libyan ambassadors and were traumatised when we left the room.
"There’s no doubt that this appalling inequality has impacted the lives of countless innocent people.”
Jonathan told the MPs he had dreamed of becoming a professional boxer or lawyer before he was caught in the Canary Wharf bombing.
Injuries to his hands and post-trauma disorder ended hopes of a professional boxing licence, while also making him unable to complete his law degree.
After hearing testimony of how atrocities are still wreaking havoc in the victim's lives today, the MPs vowed to continue fighting for “justice”.
The government earlier this year ruled out either seizing Libyan assets held by financial institutions in London or paying compensation that it could later recoup once Libya has stable administration.
Yet this is despite it emerging in the Commons when Theresa May was prime minister that interest from the assets has been used by the government.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair struck a deal with Gaddafi in 2004 to dismantle his chemical weapons programme and pay victims from the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing.
But the deal didn’t include Canary Wharf or other atrocities such as Harrods in 1983, Remembrance Day in Enniskillen in 1987 or Warrington in 1993, all caused by Libyan-supplied Semtex.
At least 3,500 people were killed during three decades of The Troubles, which finally ended with the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.