IRA victims may sue Tony Blair over Libya
Published 26/01/2014 | 00:05
Tony Blair is facing the threat of legal action over his alleged intervention in a multi-million pound compensation claim by British victims of IRA terrorism.
Lawyers for around 200 victims say the former prime minister and other government officials appeared to have “connived” with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to block their claim against the Libyan regime that supplied Semtex for the attacks.
They accuse Mr Blair of assisting a rogue regime to kill off their class action in a “scandalous and perverse” move and are considering taking both the former prime minister and the Government to court in the UK.
The lawyers are also demanding to know whether Sir Vincent Fean, a former ambassador to Libya, “misled” MPs and peers over government involvement in the case.
UK newspapers have seen an email that appears to show that Mr Blair intervened on behalf of Colonel Gaddafi in a long-running legal row over compensation for victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism.
The email suggests that Mr Blair helped to broker an agreement between the former Libyan leader and President George W Bush in which Libya paid stg£1bn in compensation to American victims of terrorism but effectively ended the compensation hopes of the British victims of IRA attacks, who had been pursuing Gaddafi through the US courts.
Jason McCue of McCue & Partners, which is representing around 200 British victims of IRA attacks carried out with Semtex supplied by Libya, said the disclosure could form the basis for legal action in Britain. “It's bad enough being a victim of Semtex bombs supplied by Libya for the Provisional IRA campaign. [But] it's sheer horror then to be informed that the British government and Tony Blair may have connived with Gaddafi to ensure the few brave British victims that justly sued and stood up to the dictator received no compensation from the Libyans,” he said.
“The families' lawyers are investigating causes of action against those that might have interfered in private litigation to the detriment of UK victims and for the benefit of a rogue dictator such as Gaddafi.”
Colin Parry, whose son Tim, 12, died when a Semtex bomb exploded in Warrington town centre, said: “The whole thing is grubby to say the least.
“It seems to me a complete dereliction of duty on the part of the British government in looking after the rights of British citizens. The Americans managed to get compensation for their citizens.”
The claims by Mr McCue and his clients arise from an email written by Sir Vincent Fean to Mr Blair's aides on June 8 2008, two days before a meeting between the former prime minister and Colonel Gaddafi in Libya.
The note described how Mr Blair had approached President Bush on Gaddafi's behalf following an American court ruling that the proceeds of Libyan business deals could be seized to compensate victims of a Libyan terrorist attack.
Sir Vincent wrote: “On USA/Libya, TB should explain what he said to President Bush... to keep his promise to Col Q [Gaddafi] to intervene after the President allowed US courts to attach Libyan assets.” He added: “He [Blair] could express satisfaction at the progress made in talks between the US and Libya to reach a Govt to Govt solution to all the legal/compensation issues outstanding from the 1980s. It would be good to get these issues resolved, and move on. The right framework is being created. HMG is not involved in the talks, although some British citizens might be affected by them (Lockerbie, plus some UK Northern Irish litigants going to US courts seeking compensation from Libya for IRA terrorist acts funded/fuelled by Libya).”
Mr Bush subsequently approved legislation which allowed Libya to make a one-off payment of $1.5bn to US victims of Libyan state-sponsored terrorism, which would in turn give the regime immunity from all terrorism-related law suits. It meant that the claims of British victims of the IRA who had been suing Gaddafi's regime in the US courts were invalidated.
Mr Blair has said he had “nothing whatever to do with any compensation legislation signed by President Bush” while Hugh Robertson, a Foreign Office minister, wrote to Mr McCue that the Government had “lobbied the US to include UK claimants on the list of recipients” of the award.
McCue & Partners said the email from Sir Vincent appeared to “belie the denials of wrongdoing” by Mr Blair and the Government.
Matthew Jury, a partner at the firm, said: “To date, despite requests, no adequate explanation of what occurred has been offered to the victims. In its absence, the victims expect HMG to take immediate steps to remedy the harm for which it and Blair appear responsible.
“Following his alleged interference with the victims' private litigation on behalf of Gaddafi, which denied them just compensation, we are considering whether Blair should be prosecuted for damages.”
Last night, a spokesman for Mr Blair insisted there was no evidence to suggest the former prime minister had intervened in the compensation case. “This persistent attempt, backed by no evidence whatever, to suggest that Tony Blair ‘interfered' with the terms of compensation is wrong,” she said.
“He has never had anything to do with it and he has never discussed any such terms with President Bush. The email you reference merely expresses Government policy of the time which was to re-engage with the Libyans after they gave up their WMD programme and chose to cooperate rather than sponsor terrorism.”
The UK Foreign Office said: “The government believes compensation claims are best pursued directly with the Libyan government through private campaigns. The claim that government officials took any deliberate action that denied other UK victims compensation in the 2008 settlement is wrong.”