WASHINGTON — Former Atty. Gen. Ramsey Clark asked the government Wednesday to compensate the victims of last year's U.S. bombing raid on Libya.
Clark said 65 claims on behalf of those killed or injured in the raid were being filed with the White House and the Department of Defense under the Federal Tort Claims Act and the Foreign Claims Act.
The government will have six months to respond. If it does not respond favorably, the claims will be taken to federal court, said Clark, attorney general under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
"I hope the United States government will act to concede its responsibility for the injuries and to do justice," Clark said at a news conference.
All Are Civilians
"The dead and injured for whom claims are being filed were all civilians. Most, as far as we know, were asleep in their beds when the bombs struck," he said. The claims, filed on behalf of Libyans, Greeks, Egyptians, Yugoslavs and Lebanese, range up to $5 million per wrongful death, he said.
Among the victims for whom claims are being filed, Clark said, are a 3-month-old infant killed in her mother's arms, a 9-year-old schoolgirl and a 75-year-old man and his 63-year-old wife.
In a 12-minute raid on April 15, 1986, American warplanes dropped an estimated 100 tons of bombs on five targets near Tripoli and Benghazi. The U.S. government said the targets were used to support Libya's terror network, but some bombs landed in residential areas.
Nine days before the raid, a bomb ripped through a West Berlin disco frequented by American servicemen. Two soldiers and a Turkish woman died and President Reagan cited what he called clear evidence that Libya had been responsible for that attack.
However, Clark said the disco attack could not justify the bombing.
"Whatever (Libyan leader Moammar) Kadafi or his government may have done, there was no legal right to bomb Libya," he said. "If there were a robbery today in Washington, D.C., we wouldn't send the police out to a part of town where we thought they might have come from and just shoot it up.
"You don't kill 3-month-old children because you labeled someone a terrorist, rightly or wrongly."
No Libyan Government Tie
Clark said the claims have no connection with the Libyan government. Some are based on information he gathered from injured people in European hospitals, to which they had been evacuated, and from relatives he spoke to during a trip to Libya last June. The rest were gathered by private Libyan attorneys, Clark said.
He said he has received no compensation but expects to receive reimbursement for expenses and a contingency fee of 10% if any claims are successful.
In the past, Clark has been criticized for dealing with foreign governments in conflict with the United States. In 1980, he participated in a "Crimes of America" conference in Iran while American hostages were being held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In 1972, during the Vietnam War, he went to Hanoi to investigate the effects of U.S. bombing there.