MPs call for law change to use Gaddafi’s Libyan assets for IRA Canary Wharf bomb victims
PUBLISHED: 19:29 23 February 2016 | UPDATED: 23:30 23 February 2016
The Government has been pressed by MPs today to use some of the £9.6 billion in frozen Libyan assets to pay compensation to east London’s victims of the 1996 IRA Canary Wharf bombing.
The call came in a debate led by Docklands MP Jim Fitzpatrick challenging the Treasury to dip into the funds to help victims of the massive blast from half-a-tonne of semtex smuggled to the IRA by Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi 20 years ago.
Two men where killed and 39 other people were seriously injured when the Semtex packed into a lorry was detonated outside the Midland Bank’s South Quay HQ.
Those injured included tenants on Millwall’s Barkantine housing estate nearby, like Zaoui Berezag, now 74, a cleaner at the bank left permanently paralised with head injuries and bone damage.
“There are international precedents for frozen assets of dictators to be used for compensation to victims,” Mr Fitzpatrick told MPs.
“The victims have been waiting too long. We could use interest from the assets or get the new Libyan government to cough up.
“Docklands victims don’t care which route—all they want is the justice that’s been denied them for 20 years.”
He added: “The horror won’t be forgotten—the victims just want to end the misery.”
The Poplar & Limehouse MP put Treasury Exchequer Secretary Damien Hinds on the spot demanding: “It’s right that those whose lives were affected by this senseless bombing in Canary Wharf seek redress and compensation.”
But the minister insisted the £9.5bn assets frozen by the UN and EU in 2011 was against those involved in Human Rights abuses, not the Libyan government as a whole.
The legal framework on sanctions is focussed on preserving funds “for the benefit of the Libyan people when sanctions are lifted” and doesn’t allow the UK government to use them, the minister explained.
There are “other assets” held in UK that are not frozen, he pointed put, which can be used for payments through negotiations once stability returns to Libya.
But Mr Hinds warned: “The current unstable situation in Libya makes it difficult to pursue claims.
“A great wrong was inflicted on those Docklands victims in 1996 and clearly a large responsibility lay with the dictator Gaddafi.”
Mr Fitzpatrick secured today’s Parliamentary adjournment debate as part of a 20-year battle for compensation led by former Midland Bank security guard Jonathan Ganesh, injured in the blast, whose Docklands Victims’ Association held a 20th anniversary remembrance two weeks ago at the spot where the bomb exploded.
Now MPs are calling for legislation to use Libyan assets—after the US got a deal for American victims before Gadaffi was toppled from power in 2011. They want the same for all British victims.
Mr Fitzpatrick told the East London Advertiser tonight: “The government could legislate to use those assets. That’s how US paid their victims—so why not us?”
The Northern Ireland Select Committee of MPs is shortly to report on its investigations into changing the law to allow Libyan assets to be used to compensate all IRA victims.