Uncovered: declaration shows plan for apology and cash over terrorism attacks

By Fiona O’Cleirigh | 2 August 2011

Libyan opposition signs IRA compensation agreementLibya’s opposition signed an agreement to pay compensation for Irish terror victims if it succeeds in overthrowing the ruling regime of Muammar Gaddafi.

Exaro has obtained a copy of the declaration in which the National Transitional Council (NTC) – currently fighting Gaddafi’s regime in Libya – made the agreement last spring. The declaration has never been made public before.

The NTC vice-chairman, Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, initially denied newspaper reports that the Libyan government opposition group had offered either an apology or compensation over the Provisional IRA’s terror campaign, which used Libyan-supplied arms, in the UK.

An NTC spokesman, Essam Gheriani, has suggested that the apology and compensation offer was only made because of heavy diplomatic pressure. He is reported as saying: “It depends on how you define pressure. I request something from you when you want something from me. It could be defined as pressure.”

The NTC was grateful for the support of the UK government for its key role in leading the United Nations to back Nato airstrikes aimed at preventing Gaddafi’s regime massacring civilians in Libya.

The declaration, which acknowledges the support of David Cameron, UK prime minister, offers a “voluntary and sincere apology on behalf of the Free People of Libya for the previous conduct of the Gaddafi regime in supplying Semtex explosives and other support to the IRA for the purposes of committing such acts of violence.”

It refers to a lawsuit against Libya brought in America by victims of terrorism sponsored or helped by the Libyan regime, and expresses a “sincere desire to reach a morally just and appropriate settlement of the existing UK claimants in McDonald et al v Gaddafi… in line with other US victim claimants in the same action who have already received compensation.” Libya paid $1.5 billion to a US compensation fund for relatives of victims of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing.

The agreement continues: “In recognition of the wider class of similar UK IRA/Gaddafi victims that are not claimants in the above USA action, our sincere desire is to enter discussions to consider an appropriately resourced humanitarian fund to be set up to recognise the pain and suffering of such victims and the wider society in the UK, and in particular Northern Ireland.”

Negotiations would continue after Gaddafi is overthrown as Libya’s leader. The agreement, signed on April 5 by the NTC chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, in Benghazi, the city where the group is based, says: “The NTC hereby recognises that there exists a public need to deal with, and resolve, certain historical legacy issues involving the Gaddafi regime, concerning its support for terrorism and previous acts of violence that has adversely affected past relations between [the] UK and Libya.”

The NTC “stands ready to deal with all outstanding legacy issues, including the previous regime’s support for terrorism and commission of human-rights atrocities both at home and abroad.”

The “statement of reconciliation to the victims of Gaddafi-sponsored IRA terrorism” was brokered by a human-rights solicitor, Jason McCue, who represented relatives of victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing. The Real IRA, a splinter group from the Provisional IRA, carried out that attack, which killed 31 people and injured more than 500 others.

The agreement follows previous negotiations in 2009 between Gaddafi and a UK parliamentary delegation, backed by the Foreign Office. The delegation included Jeffrey Donaldson, Democratic Unionist MP, who told Exaro: “The shape of the [compensation] package was being discussed, but precise figures had not been agreed.”

The Foreign Office deals with the issue through its ‘Libya-Northern Ireland reconciliation unit’, which was previously called the ‘compensation unit’, but the department denied involvement in the negotiation of the April declaration, saying: “The campaign is a private one and, while the reconciliation unit supports the campaign, it is not there to negotiate with the Libyans.”

Beyond a possible compensation deal, negotiations also began on other reparations, which include the idea of Libya making a huge investment to develop Northern Ireland’s oil industry.

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