FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 21, 2011
SCHUMER LEGISLATION TO ASSIST LIBYAN TERROR VICTIMS OBTAIN COMPENSATION FROM FROZEN QADDAFI ASSETS PASSES CONGRESS; PRESSES STATE DEPT TO MOVE FORWARD ASSISTING VICTIMS
Legislation Requires U.S. State Department to Assist American Victims of Terrorism Abroad in Claiming Compensation from Frozen Assets of Muammar Qaddafi and Others
Schumer and Isakson Called on State Department in September to Assist Victims’ Families in Receiving Just Compensation
Schumer: Qaddafi Terror Victims are One Step Closer to Getting the Compensation They Deserve
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced today that legislation requiring the State Department to assist victims of Libyan terrorism and their families in obtaining just compensation from frozen assets passed Congress as part of the year end Omnibus Bill this past week. The language that made it into the final bill was an effort by Schumer and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to help provide access to frozen assets of the Qaddafi regime as compensation for terrorist acts at the Lod and Rome Airports, and well as for relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing. Schumer and Isakson called on the U.S. State Department in September to assist victim’s families in receiving just compensation. The bill that passed last week directs the State Department to do so and is expected to be signed by the president. In a follow-up letter today, Schumer urged the State Department to move forward with assisting the victims and to keep Congress abreast of the actions the State Department intends to take to fulfill the intent of Congress.
Although the victims and their families were supposed to receive just compensation from Qaddafi as part of a prior deal with the regime in return for normalization of relations with the United States, terror victims with claims against the regime had been told that they will only receive a fraction of what they were originally promised. In order to provide greater compensation and meet the commitments that were made to the victims and their families, Schumer urged the State Department to tap into a small portion of the $32 billion of Qaddafi’s assets frozen by the United States in February. In September, Schumer and Isakson sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging the State Department to freeze a portion of these funds in order to fulfill America’s promise to the victims.
“This is a major victory for justice and a major step toward ensuring that the victims of Qaddafi’s reign of terror are justly compensated for his violent and criminal acts,” said Schumer. “Now, the State Department needs to move forward with a plan to do just that.”
Qaddafi was a well-known sponsor of terrorism during his 42-year rule of Libya. He directly supported terrorist attacks that killed Americans around the world. These attacks include the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 189 Americans, the Lod Airport bombing of 1972, which left 8 Americans dead, and the Rome airport attack of 1985, which left 4 Americans dead.
The rights of American citizens to maintain legal claims against Libya were eliminated when the United States normalized relations with Libya and in return, Qaddafi committed to providing $1.5 billion in restitution for U.S. victims of terror. While more than 200 American victims of Libyan terrorism have claims before the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC), three years after this process began, it is clear that the fund will not be sufficient to make full awards, because the dollar amount negotiated with Qaddafi was not enough to fully compensate them. In addition, while the immediate relatives of the Lockerbie bombing received compensation as a result of the attacks, these funds would enable other family members – such as parents and siblings – to seek restitution.
The Department of Treasury, who is responsible for distributing the awards informed the families earlier this year that they will only be able to compensate them with a fraction of the amount that they are owed, and will only be able to pay the full amount “if it becomes possible”. Schumer criticized that position noting that this was not the intention of Congress when this process began.
The language passed in the Omnibus bill specifically directs “the Secretary of State to continue to assist American victims of terrorism abroad regarding frozen assets for compensation and other issues, including from the bombings of United States facilities in Kenya and Tanzania and terrorist acts sponsored by former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.”
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Secretary Clinton can be found below.
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State
2201 C Street
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
The U. S. government recently announced that it had lifted sanctions on the approximately $30 billion of assets of the Libyan Central Bank and the Libyan Foreign Bank for use by Libya’s National Transitional Council. However, close to $3 billion of Qaddafi family money and the personal assets of his henchmen and allies will remain frozen by the U.S. government.
As you know, the report accompanying H.R.2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012, directs the State Department to work with the National Transitional Council to find ways to ensure that fair compensation is awarded to American victims of Libyan-sponsored terror in the event of a shortfall in the fund used to compensate these victims through the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.
As the State Department plans to engage the National Transitional Council on the issue of compensation for American victims of Libyan terror in accordance with H.R.2055, and as the State Department begins to address the issues surrounding the personal assets of the former dictator, his family, and his allies, we would like to be kept informed on how the State Department plans to ensure that the American victims of Qaddafi sponsored terrorism receive their just compensation as determined by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission.