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An explosive issue: IRA Libyan Semtex compensation would open the door to other claims

Neil Clark
Neil Clark

is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66

An explosive issue: IRA Libyan Semtex compensation would open the door to other claims
The DUP is calling for the British government to hand over taxes on frozen Libyan assets, linked to Muammar Gaddafi, to victims of IRA attacks. But wouldn’t this leave the UK open to claims from victims of its own bombings?

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has revealed that the UK government has taken £17m in taxes over the past three years from the £12bn worth of UK-based Libyan assets, which were frozen during the 2011 NATO ‘regime change’ operation to topple the country’s long-time ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which holds the balance of power in the UK Parliament, wants the tax proceeds to go to the victims of Irish Republican Army attacks, based on reports that claim that Gaddafi’s government supplied Semtex explosives and other weaponry to the IRA. Sounds pretty reasonable, no?

In fact, the idea raises a number of concerns. First of all, by what right does Britain still hold assets linked to Gaddafi and his ‘inner circle’?

If, as was claimed at the time, these assets came from siphoned off state-funds and effectively ‘stolen’ from the Libyan people, then surely they should be distributed directly to the Libyan people. Why is the UK government still earning interest from them?

Also on rt.com UK shouldn’t be ripping off the people of Libya by spending Gaddafi’s billions – Prof. Richard Wolff

The freezing of ‘assets’ of countries targeted for ‘regime change’ has become a disturbing trend in the era of endless neocon wars. In January, it was reported that the Bank of England, following pressure from US officials, had frozen £1.2bn of gold reserves belonging to Venezuela. The line was that the government of Nicolas Maduro was no longer ‘legitimate.’ “The U.S. officials are trying to steer Venezuela’s overseas assets to Guaido to help bolster his chances of effectively taking control of the government,” Bloomberg helpfully explained.

So, basically the assets of any foreign government in UK banks could be frozen if it’s on the ’regime-change’ list and ‘US officials’ exert some pressure. Again, what is the legality of this?

Relatives of the leaders of governments the US is hostile to have also seen their bank accounts frozen.

In April, it was reported that Anisseh Chawkat, a niece of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who had been studying for a BA degree in the UK, had had her bank account frozen. The account had “just under £25,000” in it. According to the Daily Mail, the National Crime Agency seized the money because the student had no legitimate source of funds in the UK. But for someone studying in London and having to deal with the exorbitant living costs there as well as pay university/college fees, £25k is not a huge amount. Perhaps the money she had was indirectly ‘stolen’ from the Syrian people: I make no defence here of corrupt political elites wherever they operate. But it’s interesting that the UK authorities only get concerned about this issue, when it involves a government on the target list. How many relatives of ‘dictators’ and corrupt political leaders reside or have resided in London, with absolutely no threat to their private bank accounts?  The danger of ‘Unexplained wealth orders,‘ ostensibly a new tool for the authorities to crack down on so-called ‘dirty money’, is that they will be used for geopolitical reasons.

Also on rt.com Libyan govt says Gaddafi's billions were ‘not misused’ despite UN report

Which brings us back to Gaddafi, Semtex and Northern Ireland. It’s not a question of defending or supporting the late Libyan leader’s supplying of explosives and other weaponry to Republican paramilitaries many years ago. Over 3,500 people lost their lives in ‘the Troubles’, from both loyalist and republican communities in Ireland and on the British mainland too and we need to mourn all of them.  

But if we maintain that victims of IRA bombs have a moral claim to money linked to the late Libyan leader, then surely the principle must also apply to victims of other bombing campaigns which killed and injured innocent people. Especially if we are not just talking about supplying explosives, but actually dropping them from great heights on civilian populations.

To be morally consistent, you cannot support taxation on Gaddafi’s frozen assets going to compensate IRA victims if you do not also support the UK government (along with other NATO countries who took part), providing compensation to the citizens of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia whose country was heavily bombed, in clear contravention of international law, in the spring of 1999. The Yugoslavian government put the bill at $100bn; European officials between $30 and $50bn, still a tidy sum.

You also cannot support the DUP’s call if you do not also support compensation being given to the people of Iraq, for the prominent role Britain played in the illegal invasion of 2003, which led to the deaths of over 1m people. War damages sustained by Iraq and its people have been estimated to be a colossal $394.4bn.

Then there’s Libya itself, a country which had the highest Human Development Index in the whole of Africa under Gaddafi, bombed back to the Dark Ages by NATO. Estimated cost of the war damage? Around $130bn.

We must also not forget the death and destruction caused in countries like Syria by violent ’rebels,’ backed by countries like Britain, in pursuance of a regime-change agenda. By helping to stoke the conflict in Syria, and supporting anti-government armed militias, the UK authorities were doing what Gaddafi was accused of doing in Northern Ireland.

Also on rt.com Libya in chaos seven years after NATO's 'liberation', but who cares?

To add to the hypocrisy, the British government has appointed hardcore, pro-Iraq War, neocon William Shawcross to be the ‘special representative’ to assess the amount of compensation required from Libya for IRA victims.

A ‘special representative’ to assess the amount of compensation owed to the people of Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia and Syria for all the ‘collateral damage’ from neocon regime-change operations, has, needless to say, not been appointed.

It seems as if the UK, the US, and their allies can illegally invade and bomb other countries, and supply arms to those bombing, as in Yemen at present, with total impunity. But when a leader of an ‘official enemy’ country does something objectionable many decades ago, it’s a different story.  And when it comes to freezing bank accounts and sequestering gold reserves, who I wonder, will seize the war profiteers’ money and claim the interest from it? 

Just imagine the outcry if that ever happened.

Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66 and @MightyMagyar

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.