The High Court’s refusal to prosecute Tony Blair over the war he launched in Iraq while prime minister is “an attack on democracy” and grants Britain’s leaders “complete immunity,” campaigners say.
Iraqi general Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat accused the former Labour leader of committing a ‘crime of aggression’ by invading Iraq in 2003 to overthrow former President Saddam Hussein. The general wanted to see the prosecution of Blair and two other key ministers of the time – Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general.
The men currently have immunity from criminal charges over the war after a 2016 ruling said attempting to bring any prosecution would involve revealing details kept under the Official Secrets Act.
Al Rabbat’s lawyers asked London’s High Court for permission to seek judicial review in an attempt to get the Supreme Court, now the highest court in the land, to overturn a ruling by the House of Lords in 2006 that there is no such crime as the ‘crime of aggression’ under the law of England and Wales.
Lord Chief Justice Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd and Mr. Justice Ouseley dismissed the general’s application on Monday, saying there was “no prospect” of the case succeeding. They held that there could be no prosecution as there was no such ‘crime of aggression’ under English law.
Imran Khan, who represented Rabbat, said his client was “extremely disappointed.”
“This is not justice,” he said.
“The invasion and subsequent occupation resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of individuals, as well as the displacement of over four million others including General Al Rabbat, who has had to seek sanctuary and refuge in another country,” he told HuffPost UK.
“Iraq has been left decimated and in a state of chronic instability. Despite all of this, and the clear findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, which laid bare the conduct of those that should be held to account, the High Court has confirmed that there is to be no accountability.”
He added that “those responsible are to remain unpunished,” and that the judgment gave the British government “de facto domestic immunity.”
The 2.6 million-word Chilcot report, which examined the first eight years of the war, said Britain chose to join the invasion of Iraq in 2003 before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted, alongside former US President George W. Bush, whom Blair had already pledged to support.
It added that the UK’s involvement in Iraq was based on a false pretext that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The report found that Blair had misled the British public.
Blair’s arguments for going to war were “based on flawed intelligence and assessments” that “were not challenged [and] should have been,” the report said.
The report also detailed the private deals Blair made with Bush ahead of the invasion. Blair promised Bush “I will be with you, whatever” long before the British public was told that he had set out on a path that inevitably led to British involvement in the conflict eight months later.
Blair protected by establishment
The Stop The War Coalition’s national officer Chris Nineham says the latest judgment is part of a “concerted and coordinated effort by most of the establishment to protect Blair.”
He said there had been a series of attempts to prosecute Blair, which have all been blocked.
“Cynicism about this controversial judgement will be widespread. Most of all because it will be seen as part of a concerted and coordinated effort by most of the establishment to protect Blair and to stop the damning findings of the Chilcot report from being turned into effective action against him.”
“The Chilcot report did in fact show that Blair systematically misled the British people, backed illegal regime change and knowingly prosecuted an unnecessary war. The conduct of the British establishment since the Chilcot Report has exposed a huge contempt for basic justice and democracy.”
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson said the High Court decision is “hugely disappointing” and means justice has been “left undone.” She said last year’s Chilcot report showed Blair had “no respect for cabinet procedure,” parliament or international law.
“Iraq was devastated by the war Blair led Britain into, millions of innocent Iraqis were killed, British soldiers were killed, and terrorism has spread across the Middle East.
“Chilcot revealed the evidence that must now be used to bring Tony Blair to justice. Only when justice is served can we prevent disasters like the Iraq War from happening again.”
The Iraq War caused the death of 179 British servicemen and women, and cost the UK economy an estimated £9.6 billion (US$12.6 billion). It is widely held to have caused the bloody sectarian conflict that brought about the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
According to Iraq Body Count, at least 160,400 Iraqi civilians died during the war.