Iraq war was illegal, says Nick Clegg. So now bring Blair to justice
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said in the House of Commons what is common knowledge in every living room across the land – that the Iraq war was illegal. He should now use his authority to ensure that those responsible for this gross and catastrophic breach of international law, Tony Blair above all, are brought to justice. Only then can we be assured that such an act of lawless aggression will never be repeated.
23 July 2010
Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg provoked controversy by describing the Iraq war as illegal while standing in at the despatch box in parliament for the first time for Prime Minister David Cameron.
It has led to renewed calls for former prime minister Tony Blair to stand trial for war crimes and concern that British troops involved in the 2003 invasion could also face prosecution.
The government’s initial response was to play down Clegg’s call for former foreign secretary Jack Straw to “account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq," by claiming he was speaking in a personal capacity even though he was deputising for the prime minister.
"The coalition government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict. But that does not mean that individual members of the government should not express their individual views,” Cameron’s spokesman said.
But international lawyers, including Professor Philippe Sands, from University College London, said there was legal significance to the deputy prime minister’s remarks on Wednesday because he was speaking for the government in the House of Commons.
"A public statement by a government minister in parliament as to the legal situation would be a statement that an international court would be interested in, in forming a view as to whether or not the war was lawful," Sands told the Guardian newspaper.
Clegg, who is leader of the Liberal Democrats, was in effect voicing his party’s long-established opposition to the war, while Cameron along with the majority of Conservatives voted with Blair’s government in support of the war in 2003.
Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in Iraq, said he would be prepared to launch a legal case against Blair based on Clegg's statement in the House of Commons.
"I would relish that. It would be immensely satisfying and I will seriously consider it if I can raise enough funds," Keys told the Daily Mail.
Lord Boyce, the Chief of the Defence Staff at the time of the 2003 invasion, also suggested that if anyone is going to to prosecuted it should be Blair and not front-line soldiers.
"The Attorney General assured me that the war was legal. I've got the piece of paper. If there is going to be any legal action that assurance means it should start with Mr Blair in the dock before the soldiers," Boyce said.
Evidence given to the Iraq Inquiry shows Attorney General Lord Goldsmith changed his mind on the legality of the war just before the invasion after previously advising the government that UN Resolution 1441 "does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the security council."See also:
No chance Iraq Inquiry will lead to war crimes trial