MPs threaten government on Libya-IRA victims report
The Shawcross report examines the possibility of using £12bn of Libyan assets, frozen in the UK, to compensate victims for IRA bombs which used Libyan-supplied Semtex.
The report was submitted to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in May but the government recently angered victims by saying it may not publish it.
After holding an inquiry in 2017, MPs on the NI Affairs Committee at Westminster said successive UK governments had failed the victims and must compensate them itself, before seeking reimbursement from Libya. It noted that French, German and US victims of Libyan terror have all been compensated.
However, the committee was angered when the government took the unusual step of dismissing its recommendations.
Now the chair of the NIAC, Simon Hoare MP, has written a bruising open letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pressing him to take decisive action.
In the letter, Mr Hoare noted that the FCO has stated that ministers will consider the report once “the Covid-19 crisis” has passed. But Mr Hoare said that Libyan politics did not stop for Covid-19 and that Libya apparently plans to ask the UN to unfreeze its assets in the UK.
“Initiatives to normalise Libya are welcome,” Mr Hoare said. “However, until the issue of compensation to victims of Libyan-facilitated IRA terrorism is resolved, I am sure that you would agree that it would be reckless folly to allow any modification of the terms under which Qadhafi-era assets are frozen in the UK.
“I observe that there may be an opportunity to resolve the matter by allocating a proportion of the profits that the Libyan Investment Authority is keen to reinvest to UK victims of Qadhafi-sponsored IRA terrorism.
“The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and I want to see progress to resolve this issue. I therefore urge you to prioritise the publication of the Government’s response to the Shawcross Report. This matter is urgent.
“If the Government is unable or unwilling to publish the Shawcross Report, I note that the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has the power ‘to send for persons, papers and records’, which we are prepared to exercise, if necessary, in this case.”
DUP MP Ian Paisley, a member of the NIAC, commended the letter “and the intention to call the witness if the FCO denies us access”.
He added: “This is a matter of extreme public interest and the report must be published.”
Kenny Donaldson, Director of Services at terror victims group the South East Fermanagh Foundation, agreed.
“It is an unsustainable position for the Government to occupy where it refuses to publish the findings of The Shawcross report, accountability must prevail,” he said. “We are clear that the matter of compensating Qadhafi-sponsored Provisional IRA terror victims must be resolved at this juncture. The UK Government has control, and must exercise responsibility, finally ensuring its own citizens are treated with respect and fairness - something which they have heretofore been denied”.