The families of soldiers killed in the Iraq war will end their fight to have Tony Blair and other officials tried for war crimes after finding the former prime minister and his allies are protected by the English legal system.
The Iraq War Families Campaign Group (IWFC) has been leading the fight to have the “illegal invasion” of Iraq brought to trial, with the decision makers in the dock.
After a full and thorough legal examination of the Iraq Inquiry Report, known as the Chilcot report, the IWFC has announced the campaign will come to an end after they have exhausted every possible avenue to see justice done for those killed during the invasion.
The UK took part in the Iraq War, with Tony Blair making the decision to send British troops because he claimed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had a secret stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
Around half a million people were killed during the invasion and occupation between 2003 and 2011, it has been estimated. Of those, 179 were British troops.
The Iraq Inquiry report later found the war was launched on the basis of “flawed” intelligence at a time when Saddam Hussein presented “no imminent threat.”
The Chilcot report was published in July 2016 and it was hoped a civil case could be brought against Blair.
Now the families have announced they will drop the fight because of flaws in the English legal system that do not allow for legal prosecution. Two of the main legal reasons were outlined in their own report.
Firstly, a study of case law showed English courts cannot adjudicate upon the use of prerogative powers concerning foreign policy and the deployment of military forces. Secondly, analysis of the findings carried out by IWFC showed the Inquiry found the legality of a war cannot be adjudicated on by English courts.
“Of course, we are deeply disappointed that, as the law stands, those responsible for the wrongdoing that led to an unlawful war and the deaths of our loved ones will not face a tribunal,” the report from the group states.
“But we now know we have done all that we can in their memories. Our legal team’s conclusion is that all legal avenues are closed off to the British people and that responsibility for any sanctions lies with parliament and parliament alone.
“The current state of English law is that, even if state officials were recklessly indifferent as to whether they were acting in violation of their constitutional duties, and regardless of their consequences, such breaches are not actionable in a court of law, and can only be punished by Parliament.”
The Chilcot report was damning. It established that the “dirty dossier” of evidence on WMDs in Iraq was known to be lacking in hard intelligence. Now, the legal assessment by IWFC has found the report contains “sufficient evidence” that constitutional conventions were breached during the decision to invade Iraq.
The campaign believes a court could reasonably find there was “reckless indifference to the legality of their actions by deliberately and consciously closing their minds to that risk.”
One such broken rule, it said, was Blair’s choice to keep the cabinet, and parliament, insufficiently informed.
The group has insisted the Iraq war was illegal for a number of reasons after Sir John Chilcot found the decision to invade was based on “a certainty which was not proven.” However, he did not make a judgement on whether it was legal.
The group has fought for Blair to stand trial over a note he set to US President George Bush in 2002, months before the invasion. Blair vowed to stand alongside the US – without consulting his cabinet.
The group found throughout the campaign in Iraq the ex-prime minister “spearheaded the representation of the threat of WMD in a more certain light than the actual intelligence could justify.”
Then-foreign secretary Jack Straw was also criticized in the report over claims legal advisers warned him the war may not be legal.
Sir John Scarlett, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, and Sir Richard Dearlove, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, also came under fire for allowing intelligence to be used when they were aware of its limitations.
The IWFC concluded there are numerous reasons to bring those involved in the Iraq war before a judge, however, they acknowledged this cannot be done in England.
The report said: “Parliament is the exclusive body with power to sanction them or provide redress. Given the public speculation on the possibility of litigation that followed the publication of the Inquiry report, we consider it entirely reasonable of the proposed Claimants to consider definitive legal advice to be necessary.
“It is our clear and considered advice, however, that the Inquiry report does not ground any cause of action that can be brought in the English courts.”
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