Documents to download

The Asset Freezing (Compensation) Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Empey (Ulster Unionist). The Bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 26 June 2017 and is scheduled to have its second reading on 27 October 2017.

Between the early 1970s and the 1990s, Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya provided support to the Provisional IRA in the form of arms, ammunition, financing, military training and explosives, such as semtex. For a number of years, the victims of IRA attacks carried out using such materials have been seeking compensation from the Libyan authorities. Campaigners have sought to fund such compensation using the former Gaddafi regime’s assets frozen in the UK following the 2011 uprising. Currently, it is estimated that almost £9.5 billion of assets from the Gaddafi regime are frozen within the UK’s jurisdiction.

The Bill seeks to use these frozen assets held in the UK to compensate the victims of IRA attacks carried out using materials supplied by the former Gaddafi regime. Specifically, the Bill seeks to impose restrictions on assets owned by persons involved in giving support and assistance to terrorist organisations in the UK, in order to secure compensation for UK citizens who are victims of those organisations. Lord Empey introduced a similar bill in the 2016–17 session, which did not receive royal assent as it ran out of parliamentary time in the Commons.

The Government has raised a number of objections to using the frozen assets to compensate victims. It has argued that the UN Security Council Resolution and EU regulations freezing these assets do not allow their ownership to be transferred to a third party. In addition, the assets can only be accessed under certain conditions, such as providing for the basic needs of the person sanctioned or for obligations arising under contract prior to the imposition of sanctions.

On 24 July 2015, the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the role of the UK Government in seeking compensation for the victims of IRA attacks that involved semtex and other weapons provided by the former Gaddafi regime. The Committee published its report on 2 May 2017 and is currently awaiting a response from the Government. This report argued that successive UK Governments had failed to “pursue compensation from Libya on behalf of the many victims of Gaddafi-sponsored terrorism” and suggested that they had missed a number of opportunities to pursue the matter.  It suggested that “time is running out for many of the victims” and urged the UK Government to begin direct negotiations with the Libyan authorities to agree a compensation package for the victims.                         


Documents to download

Related posts

  • UK position on foreign affairs

    In 2021 the government published an integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. It published a refreshed review in March 2023 to take account of developments in foreign affairs over the preceding two years. The government has since published a number of policy papers and strategies to complement the refreshed review. In addition, Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton was appointed as foreign secretary in November 2023.

    UK position on foreign affairs
  • Supporting Myanmar’s health system

    A military coup in Myanmar in February 2021 has led to widespread conflict and has had a severe impact on its health care system. Many health care workers have been involved in civil disobedience and protests against the coup, including boycotts. Organisations such as the WHO and Insecurity Insight have also reported on attacks on health care in the country. Since February 2021, the UK government has provided over £120mn in humanitarian and development assistance in Myanmar.

    Supporting Myanmar’s health system
  • Questions to the foreign secretary: 13 February 2024

    Members of the House of Lords will ask Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton a series of oral questions on 13 February 2024. These include what discussions the government has had with partners on a strategy to reduce debt in the developing world; what the UK is doing to protect children in Gaza; what progress the government has made in implementing the AUKUS security partnership; and UK-US discussions on recognising a Palestinian state.

    Questions to the foreign secretary: 13 February 2024