Libya and the United States on Thursday settled all outstanding lawsuits by American victims of terrorism, clearing the way for the full restoration of diplomatic relations.
There were 26 pending lawsuits filed by American citizens against Libya over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and other attacks, said a senior Libyan government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details of the deal had not been publicly announced.
The official said there were also three outstanding lawsuits filed by Libyan citizens over U.S. airstrikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in 1986 that Libyans say killed 41 people, including leader Moammar Kadafi’s adopted daughter.
State Department spokesman Robert Wood confirmed the deal.
“The agreement is designed to provide rapid recovery of fair compensation for American nationals with terrorism- related claims against Libya,” he said in a statement.
“It will also address Libyan claims arising from previous U.S. military actions. The agreement is being pursued on a purely humanitarian basis and does not constitute an admission of fault by either party.”
The agreement will be followed by a U.S. upgrading of relations with Libya, including the confirmation of a U.S. ambassador. It also will allow direct U.S. aid. The agreement also gives immunity to the Libyan government from any further terrorism-related lawsuits, the Libyan government official said.
The U.S. had no diplomatic relations with Libya from 1980 until late 2003, when Kadafi pledged to abandon programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, stop exporting terrorism and compensate the families of people killed in the Pan Am bombing and other attacks.
After that, the nation, once a global pariah, was given a reprieve from United Nations, U.S. and European sanctions and removed from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The last hurdle concerned compensation for Americans harmed in Libyan-sponsored attacks, including the Pan Am bombing and the 1986 bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin, which killed two U.S. soldiers. That attack prompted then-President Reagan to order the 1986 airstrikes on Libya.
Libya has paid the 268 families involved in the Pan Am settlement $8 million each, but it was withholding an additional $2 million it owed each of them because of a dispute over U.S. obligations in return.
The main lawsuit against the U.S. was filed by 45 Libyan families of people killed in the 1986 airstrikes. Two other pending cases are related to other incidents.
Many of the relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing have opposed any deal on compensation, saying Libya should be held fully accountable in all the attacks pinned on it.
“They allow this horrible terrorist who murdered my daughter and all these other people to triumph. This is a triumph for terrorism,” said Susan Cohen, the mother of Lockerbie bombing victim Theodora Cohen.