PETER OBORNE: How I long to see Blair in the dock being called to account for Iraq
By Peter Oborne For The Daily Mail
18 April 2017
After almost a decade of making money by milking the contacts he had made as prime minister, Tony Blair recently made a surprise comeback to domestic politics.
He has created an institute to promote his own brand of ‘centre-ground’ politics, and has again become a familiar figure on the British scene.
I dare say that Mr Blair is hoping we will all forget that he led this country to war against Iraq — a calamity that is still unfolding today with the horrors of ISIS.
However, that is a mistaken hope, because the former prime minister still has hugely serious questions to answer about his personal role.
Mr Blair faces being taken to court in a private prosecution charging him with telling lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in order to take Britain into an illegal war.
The litigants argue that Mr Blair is guilty of the crime of ‘aggression’ — or the illegal invasion of another country. This is the most serious crime anyone can commit under international law.
It was defined as such in the Nuremberg Military Tribunal into Nazi war crimes in 1946 when the chief prosecutor, Justice Robert H. Jackson, declared that the initiation of a war of aggression ‘is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole’.
The case is being brought by the former chief of staff of Saddam Hussein’s army, General Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat. He is seeking a judicial review of a district judge’s decision last November that Blair had ‘immunity’ from criminal prosecution.
However, General ar-Ribat, who lives in exile, is by no means a vexatious litigant.
Many respected observers are convinced that he is absolutely right, and Mr Blair has serious charges to answer.
Some years ago, one of our most eminent soldiers, General Sir Michael Rose, called for the impeachment of Blair.
More recently, Hans Blix, chief weapons inspector for the UN before the Iraq invasion, told me Blair lied in order to take Britain into an illegal war.
The inspection team’s advice at the time was that it was likely Saddam Hussein had terminated his WMD programme some years before.
Last year’s Chilcot report, while hesitating to reach a judgment, raised serious questions about Blair’s conduct concerning the path to war.
Mr Blair, naturally, insists he acted in good faith based on the intelligence available to him at the time.
Bear in mind it’s a fundamental principle of international law that states are prohibited from using force except in self-defence or unless its use is formally authorised by the Security Council under chapter VII of the UN Charter.
Sir John Chilcot demonstrated beyond doubt that the invasion of Iraq was not (as Blair notoriously claimed at the time) a war of self-defence against Iraqi aggression. Sir John also demonstrated that the war was not authorised by the UN Security Council.
The evidence that Tony Blair is a war criminal is therefore powerful and compelling. That being the case, the former prime minister ought to be brought to book.
That is why I am certain that General ar-Ribat is fully entitled to take legal action, and that he and Mr Blair must have their day in court.
And that is why yesterday’s story in the Mail that the most senior law officer in the British Government has intervened to request that the case should not go ahead is so profoundly concerning.
Jeremy Wright QC, the Attorney General — who was appointed by David Cameron — says the case is ‘hopeless’ because the crime of aggression does not exist in English law. His position has been backed by the law lords.
Yet this seems to be curiously at odds with a document written by the man who was Attorney General on the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In a famous memorandum on the legality of the invasion, Lord Goldsmith wrote: ‘Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law.’
To the casual observer, this new intervention to shield Mr Blair from legal scrutiny in court must seem extremely rum. It seems to hint at disturbing double standards at the heart of the British political system.
If the man in the street breaks a law, he should expect to be taken to court and, if found guilty, punished. So is there one rule for ex-premiers and their ministers, and another for the rest of us?
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-4419948/I-long-Blair-dock-called-account.html#ixzz4ec7McIVg