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Libya: Compensation

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 19 November 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in view of the proposed settlement concerning crimes committed against United States citizens with Libyan support, they will assist British nationals seeking compensation from Libya in the courts of the United States in respect of crimes committed by terrorists trained or armed by Libya.[HL5305]

The conclusion of a government-to-government agreement between the US and Libya on 14 August will provide for compensation for many of the victims of Libya's past sponsorship of terrorism including the British families of the victims of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988. While this is welcome news for these families, it is regrettable that the deal will not benefit all UK nationals with cases in US courts against Libya.

During the course of negotiations between the US and Libya, the Government made representations to the US Administration that existing UK claimants with claims before US courts against Libya for its past sponsorship of IRA terrorist acts (the McDonald case) should be included in the recipients of any compensation package. But, in the event, this proved not to be possible.

A key reason for this was that international and US law do not permit the US Administration to espouse the claims of foreign nationals. Also relevant to the US decision was their assessment of how likely it would be that claims would fall within the jurisdiction of US courts, and how likely it would be that they would succeed. We understand from the US that US courts would not have jurisdiction to hear actions by British nationals against Libya.