Berlin 'La Belle' Disco Bombings Victims Request Damages from Frozen Gadhafi Assets
German victims of the 1986 West Berlin disco bombing want funds frozen from Libyan accounts to be used to pay additional damages. The demands put the German government, which wants to transfer the money to the United Nations for use in Libyan humanitarian aid, in a tough position.
The last time the West bombed Libya was in 1986, when then-United States President Ronald Reagan ordered military strikes against Tripoli and Benghazi in retaliation for the Libyan-backed bombing of a West Berlin disco in April of that year, which killed two US soldiers and injured scores more soldiers and other people present at the nightclub.
Now, a German victims' group of the bombing of the La Belle disco is pressuring Berlin not to transfer billions of euros in frozen Libyan assets to the United Nations or to a possible transitional government in Libya.
Instead, the group says the funds should be used to pay out additional damages. Lawyers for German victims spelled out their case in a letter to Economy Minster Rainer Brüderle and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle that has been obtained by SPIEGEL.
The bombing of the La Belle disco, a popular hangout of US soldiers in West Berlin's Schöneberg district, killed three and injured more than 225, including some 200 Germans.
It wasn't until after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the East German Stasi secret police files that individuals could be linked to the bombing. Eventually, in 2001, four people -- two Germans, a Palestinian and a Libyan diplomat who was working in East Berlin at the time -- were found guilty of carrying out the bombing.
Planned Humanitarian Aid
The lawyers argue that the victims are entitled to roughly 600 million ($870 million) of the billions frozen in Germany, despite already having received some $35 million compensation in a so-called humanitarian gesture from the Libyan government in 2004 as part of Gadhafi's campaign to normalize relations with the West. The money came from a foundation of Gadhafi's son and likely heir Saif al-Islam.
The lawyers' demand puts the German government in a prickly position, not to mention the complicated legal questions that have arisen over whom the foreign funds can be transferred to.
But Germany is also facing pressure from outside and within to act in some way to aid the humanitarian crisis in Libya, after it shocked many in the international community by abstaining in the vote on the UN Security Council resolution allowing its NATO allies to establish and later enforce a no-fly zone over the north African country.
The German Economics Ministry has already drawn up plans to transfer the frozen funds to a United Nations escrow account in which the money then could be used to finance humanitarian aid to Libyans.
Germany cannot transfer the frozen funds directly to the Libyan people by law, the Economics Ministry stated in a government document seen by SPIEGEL. As a result, it wants the European Union to decide on a way to transfer all of Gadhafi's frozen assets in Europe to the United Nations.