Libyan compensation … why not follow the American lead?

It’s a really sad state of affairs when your own Government turns its back on some of the most vulnerable in society … made vulnerable through no fault of their own.

That’s our position over the Shawcross Report and the dogged refusal of this Government to use frozen assets of the Libyan dictator Gaddafi to compensate innocent victims of PIRA terrorism.

Gaddafi supplied tons of explosives and arms to the terrorists, effectively prolonging the terrorist campaign and creating many more innocent victims.

This is a shameful story. The Government has rejected calls to use any of the frozen £12 billion in assets, maintaining compensation was a matter for the Libyan state. There’s not a word about the millions that have been accrued in interest.

Libya is a wrecked state attempting to reconstruct and restore political stability. Government pressure that has been applied to date has been feeble and wholly inadequate.

Don’t forget, there is a precedent for Libya paying compensation. It paid $1 million to the families of each of the US victims of the Lockerbie bombing following a focused and determined drive by the American administration.

The obvious question screams off the page: why, if the Americans can do it, can our Government not secure a similar outcome?

This shocking story will rumble on. The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster seems determined to maintain the pressure on the government. In that, the committee will have the full support of Ulster Human Rights Watch.

Illuminating the Darkness … European Day for Innocent Victims of Terrorism

We usually mark it with a coming together at Parliament buildings but like so many events over the past 12 months, Covid-19 intervened to make that impossible.

But we don’t necessarily need a physical meeting to remember.

Those who have been hurt physically and mentally and those murdered over the years are always remembered in our hearts.

This year saw buildings illuminated in red to mark the day. St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast City Hall, the headquarters of Derry City and Strabane District Council, and the offices of Causeway Coast and Glens Council in Coleraine all participated and the red-lit buildings against the darkness of the night indeed provoked memories of our innocent victims.

Another year might have passed but they will never be forgotten.


The long wait …

We’re getting used to waiting…

First, the money has to be found

Then, we had to wait to find out who was to pay

Then, it will be settled by March 2020

And we are still waiting.

And now, more importantly, innocent victims have been told they have to wait … again

The Justice Minister, Naomi Long, now says the opening of the Victims’ Payment Scheme is to be delayed by a number of weeks. This is to allow for guidance around medical assessments to be provided to applicants.

We have no idea what ‘a number of weeks’ actually means. The Minister wanted victims to be able to make applications in March, but will this further delay now see the opening of the scheme put back to April or later?

Ulster Human Rights Watch want the scheme to be right, beyond reproach, where the emphasis is on easing the financial burden for innocent victims of terrorism.

What we don’t understand is why this work now underway couldn’t have been done months ago. What has been happening since last May, when the scheme was meant to launch, until December – eight months to get an application form agreed; the IT system established and the appointment of a Victims’ Payment Board.

There is a sluggishness about all of this that is regrettable and annoying.

We’ll keep a close eye on ‘progress’ over coming weeks to see if ‘a number of weeks’ creeps into another month or two. Of course, that still leaves unresolved the disagreement over whether Stormont or the Government should pay for the scheme.

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