Monday, 31 July 2017
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.
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.
by Craig Murray
There were a number of errors (by me) in this original posting and therefore I have decided to remove it now I have seen the judgement itself. That these errors were in large part caused by erroneous mainstream media reports is a fact, but not an excuse for my being so outraged I rushed in without checking.
In fact, the judgement does accept there is a longstanding crime of waging aggressive war as part of international law, and does not (contrary to the Guardian’s report) argue at all that the international law only came into existence recently.
It argues however that international law is only captured in UK Law when this is done specifically through an Act of Parliament. Indeed the judgement goes so far as to state:
“the clear principle that it is for Parliament to make such conduct criminal under domestic law. Parliament deliberately chose not to do so.”
This surely is problematic. The judgement states that the UK, deliberately, does not follow international law in its domestic law. So the UK is an institutionalised rogue state. Its internal arrangements allow its rulers, its armed forces and other actors to commit international crimes and flout international law with no fear of domestic repercussion as a matter of conscious choice.
It would not be beyond the wit of man to draft domestic legislation making it a crime for those acting in service of the British state to breach international law; it would not be necessary to have separate legislation enacting each piece of international law individually. Separate legislation is however possible and often done – when in the FCO I was often concerned with the enactment of treaty or other international obligations into domestic law, which is generally by secondary legislation.
When Sir Michael Wood, the FCO’s chief legal adviser, told Jack Straw it would be illegal to invade Iraq, Straw replied that there was no court that could try the case. The full significance of that did not really strike me until today. It is no accident; the UK is deliberately set up to be psychopathic entity, its elite breaking international law at will, with no fear of retribution.
The US has its election irregularities and sticks its nose into the Venezuelan election as it sees South America as its backyard. Destabilizing the Maduro regime is a primary interest, says Gerald Horne, professor of history at the University of Houston.
About ten people were killed in a weekend of rioting in Venezuela as opposition activists flooded the streets protestingagainst the election of a new assembly.
People were voting Sunday on a constituent assembly which will be tasked with rewriting the constitution. However, the opposition boycotted the vote, defied a ban on public protests and denounced the election as a power grab by President Maduro.
RT: President Maduro says this election, and the new Constituent Assembly, are vital to restoring stability. Do you think that's likely to happen judging by what we've seen so far?
Gerald Horne: It is possible. But you have to keep in mind that there is a third player besides the Maduro regime and the opposition, I am speaking of Washington. It is no secret that Washington is very upset with the Maduro regime. Just today, US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley denounced this vote. Washington has promised that it will slap sanctions on Venezuela as a result of the vote. Washington is very upset with Venezuela’s relationship with Cuba, in the first place, but also upset with its relationship with Moscow and Beijing. You should also know that this election and the crisis in Venezuela should be seen in a wider context.
It is no secret that over the last decade Washington had been upset with a turn to the left in South America. But now you see that last year the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office. Her predecessor Lula Da Silva who was expected to run for the presidency of Brazil next year was just convicted. And in Argentina, the Peronist leader, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is now under investigation after serving a term in Buenos Aires. Fortunately, Evo Morales in Bolivia is still in power. But Washington sees South America as its backyard. And it sees as a primary interest destabilizing the Caracas-based regime of Mr. Maduro.
RT: The opposition defied a ban on protests ahead of this election. Are they simply making matters worse and is there any chance of them backing down and accepting the result?
GH: It is difficult to see them back down in the short term because as they see it, they have the wind in their sails. They are receiving significant external support not least from Washington but also from allies in Brazil where there has been a sharp turn to the right of late. I would not foresee stopping its protests any time soon.
RT: The US ambassador to the UN has said this election would push Venezuela towards dictatorship. Is that a fair accusation?
GH: That is quite rich coming from a US representative. As it is well-known elections in the US were studded with irregularities; voters oppression, particularly in the black community, it's par for the course. And it takes a bit of gall and chutzpah for Nikki Haley to stick her nose into Venezuelan elections and charge that they’re sham when she should be attending to the shambolic elections that regularly take place in the US.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.