Victims of the 1996 Docklands bomb and their families have welcomed a report by MPs that vindicates their long-standing claims of shabby treatment by a string of UK Governments.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee report highlights a series of missed opportunities to secure compensation – and urges the next government to “end two decades of failure” and set matters right.
The families have campaigned tirelessly for recognition of their plight, initially receiving little help or encouragement. But they stuck at the task and managed to put the issue on the agenda at the highest level.
Two people were killed and scores injured by an IRA bomb that struck South Quay in an act sponsored by Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi who, the report says, supplied Semtex, weapons and training to the terrorists.
Billions of pounds of Libyan assets are frozen in the UK and the Docklands Victims Association , alongside other victims’ groups, have been trying to gain just a fraction to help families that still live with the legacy of the attacks.
Their latest bid, through the Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill, was stymied when Parliament was unexpectedly dissolved for a snap election.
Over the years, the American government secured payments from Gaddafi but the UK, particularly Prime Minister Tony Blair, failed to push the dictator on the issue, preferring to take a softly-softly approach to boost trade links.
A spokesman for the committee said: “The human cost has been immeasurable. Over the course of the inquiry, the committee received heartrending evidence from those who have suffered life-changing injuries, and the parents, siblings and children of those who lost their lives.
“The committee pays warm tribute to the quiet dignity and determination of the individuals and organisations who have campaigned tirelessly to secure the compensation.”
DVA president Jonathan Ganesh, who was severely injured in the attack, said: “This detailed investigation by the committee confirms my view that all the victims of Gaddafi/IRA were continually abandoned by the UK Government.
“I hope whoever gets elected to Government in June will rectify this moral injustice as all human life is equal regardless of race, religion and nationality.”
Mrs Hamida Bashir, mother of Inam, who was killed 21 years ago, said: “I will not accept or require any compensation for the loss of my son Inam. But being his mother I know his life and that of all the other children killed are equal and should be treated as such. It makes me cry to think the Government did not care.”
The report asks: “Why has no compensation been secured, when the French, German and US governments all took strong action to secure compensation for their citizens harmed in terrorist actions sponsored by the Gaddafi regime?
“When Libya was seeking a rapprochement with the west in 2007, and Tony Blair famously shook hands with Colonel Gaddafi, the UK missed a golden opportunity to act on behalf of the IRA victims and place on the negotiating table the securing of a compensation package.
“When the US agreed the Libya Claims Settlement Agreement in 2008, it is unclear what representations were made by the UK Government to include UK victims, however its failure to pursue the issue bilaterally must be seen as another missed opportunity.
“When the Gaddafi regime fell in 2011, the Coalition Government failed to apply pressure to its successor, the National Transitional Council of Libya, or to press the UN on the potential use of Libya’s assets held in the UK.”
Committee chair Laurence Robertson said: “First and foremost, we must pay tribute to those who have suffered for so long and campaigned so bravely as a result of these horrific acts.
“As one of our witnesses, told us, ‘we are the forgotten ones, the ones who for reasons utterly beyond my comprehension, successive governments have chosen to overlook’.
“The UK Government cannot allow this litany of missed chances to continue. There needs to be direct dialogue with the Libyan Government, and if the situation there makes this impossible, the Government must begin the process of establishing a fund themselves.
“We very much hope that when the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee reconvenes after the general election they will continue to campaign on this issue. Until the victims have received the compensation they deserve they must be given our support.”
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