Foreign Office secretly plans to host meeting over compensation for terrorism victims
By Fiona O’Cleirigh | 10 October 2011
A diplomat from the Libyan embassy in London representing the National Transitional Council (NTC), which has ousted the ruling regime of Muammar Gaddafi, is to attend the meeting scheduled for next Wednesday at the Foreign Office.
The NTC has had formal representation in the UK since early August after an invitation from the foreign secretary, William Hague, who ordered diplomats representing the Gaddafi regime out of Britain in July. Three senior officials from Hague’s department are due to go to the meeting.
A source at the Foreign Office confirmed the meeting to Exaro, which comes as NTC forces continue their attempts to flush out Gaddafi and his supporters in his birthplace of Sirte in Libya.
The NTC has signed an agreement that commits to paying compensation over the Provisional IRA’s terror campaign – which used Libyan-supplied arms – in the UK if it succeeds in overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi. In August, Exaro revealed the declaration signed by the NTC’s chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, last April in Benghazi, the city where the group is based.
Groups representing IRA terrorism victims are aiming for a total compensation package of between $1.5 billion to $2 billion, which would follow the $1.5 billion settlement made by Gaddafi’s regime in 2008 to relatives of American victims of the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing.
Jeffrey Donaldson, the Democratic Unionist MP who has been at the forefront of the campaign to win compensation from Libya, who will be at the meeting, said that there was no definite figure on the table. “We just do not know at this stage what the capacity of the new regime will be,” he said.
Some IRA terrorism victims are also due to attend the meeting to be hosted by the Foreign Office, along with three MPs and up to three Lords with a particular interest in the compensation issue. It will mark the first time that a Libyan government representative has agreed to meet UK victims of the Irish ‘troubles’.
Jonathan Ganesh, a former security guard who was seriously injured in the Canary Wharf bombing by the IRA in 1996, is due at the meeting. He runs the Dockland Victims’ Association, whose members stand to benefit from the proposed deal. “We want to see justice prevail,” he said.
Exaro has established that the three senior Foreign Office officials due to attend are from the department’s ‘Libya-Northern Ireland reconciliation unit’ and the ‘Libya unit bilateral and internal team’.
The Foreign Office wants the meeting kept out of the public eye, and has warned those attending not to “bring media”.
Lord Howell, a foreign minister, told the House of Lords last week: “The greatest chance of success is for the victims and their families to engage the Libyan government directly, with the support of Her Majesty’s government.”
Jason McCue, the human-rights solicitor who brokered the NTC agreement, is due to attend the meeting at the Foreign Office. He acts for relatives of victims of the Omagh bombing in 1998 by the Real IRA, a splinter group from the Provisional IRA.
Another victim of the IRA who has been invited is William Frazer, director of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives. He lost five close relatives at the hands of the IRA.
Others who are due to attend are Lord Laird, an Ulster Unionist peer, who will head a party of up to three Northern Irish peers. Nigel Dodds, Democratic Unionist MP, and Laurence Robertson, the Conservative MP and chairman of the House of Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee, are also on the guest list.
The talks will centre on the compensation package, how much is to go to victims and what will go to community projects in areas most damaged by the Irish ‘troubles’. Also on the agenda will be a trip to Tripoli by UK delegates – including IRA victims’ representatives – in the near future. The meeting aims to agree the members of the delegation to the Libyan capital.