The United States has brokered a deal at the United Nations to thaw out more than $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets. The funds are to be given to the rebel Transitional National Council to help avoid a potential humanitarian crisis. This is a fraction of total frozen Libyan assets worldwide; the United States alone holds $30 billion. With Moammar Gadhafi's regime functionally ending and a new government starting to take power, it is time to use part of this money to bring justice to Col. Gadhafi's American victims.
The Gadhafi regime was a longtime state sponsor of terrorism. The most notorious Tripoli-backed terror attack was the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. That assault killed 270 people, of whom 190 were American citizens. The Libyan government, however, was complicit in numerous other terror attacks resulting in American casualties, such as the 1985 attacks at airports in Rome and Vienna, the 1986 La Belle discotheque bombing in West Berlin, the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73, and the Sept. 19, 1989, bombing of the French UTA flight 772, in which seven Americans were killed.
One of the victims of the UTA attack was Margaret Schutzius, who was traveling back home to the United States from the Republic of Congo after fulfilling her Peace Corps commitment. The plane was destroyed in flight over the Sahara Desert when a bomb exploded in the cargo hold. All 156 passengers and 15 crew members died. In 1999, six Libyan operatives were put on trial in absentia for the bombing in the Paris Assize Court and found guilty. Over the years, more than 200 Americans have been killed or wounded by Gadhafi operatives.
Libya normalized relations with the United States in 2006. In 2008, Libya agreed to pay $1.5 billion to settle claims by Americans against the Gadhafi regime for terrorist activity. These cases are being assessed by the Justice Department's Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC), but the amount in the kitty is insufficient given the vast scope of Col. Gadhafi's terrorist activities, some of which are only now being uncovered. Hundreds of millions of additional dollars are needed to settle existing claims, and more cases may be filed if new information emerges from Libyan records about Tripoli's complicity in other acts of terror.
Even a small portion of the $30 billion in frozen Libyan assets held by the United States could provide funds to make up the projected shortfall needed to settle claims against the Gadhafi dictatorship. The cash also could provide the United States with leverage in negotiating with whatever government succeeds Col. Gadhafi's to provide access to regime intelligence and other documents that will paint a more complete picture of Tripoli's terrorist activities.
Regime change doesn't end U.S. focus on this North African nation. The United States has an interest in the fate of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, who was released from a British prison in 2009 on supposed humanitarian grounds after a faked cancer diagnosis claimed he had just weeks to live. Al-Megrahi was last seen on July 26 at a pro-Gadhafi rally. The murderer should not die in freedom.
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