07:36, July 05 943 0 theguardian.com

2017-07-05 07:36:02
Tony Blair should be prosecuted over Iraq war, high court hears

The Chilcot inquiry’s conclusion that the invasion of Iraq was unnecessary and undermined the United Nations requires the prosecution of Tony Blair, the high court has heard.

In his opening argument calling for a war crimes trial in Britain, Michael Mansfield QC said that the offence of waging an aggressive war has effectively been assimilated into English law.

The attempt to bring Blair – with the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith – to court has been launched by the former Iraqi general Abdulwaheed al-Rabbat.

Rabbat, said Mansfield, was motivated by last year’s publication of the report of the Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war.

Mansfield summarised the report’s findings as: “Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to the UK, intelligence reporting about [Iraqi] weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that the war was unnecessary and that the UK undermined the authority of the UN security council.”

“Nothing could be more emphatic than these findings,” he said. “It was an unlawful war.”

Mansfield argued that when British prosecutors had opened their cases at the Nuremburg war crimes trials at the end of the second world war, they had acted as though the crime of aggression had already been assimilated into English law.

An initial application to launch the prosecution was dismissed at Westminster magistrates court on the grounds that Blair enjoys immunity and that the crime of aggression does not exist in English law.

The high court appeal is being heard by the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and Mr Justice Ouseley.

The current attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC, has intervened in the case to argue that the crime does not exist in the statute book. “The crime of aggression is not known to English law,” James Eadie QC, for the attorney general, told the court.

A number of Iraqi supporters of Rabbat sat at the back of the court. Speaking before the hearing started, Sabah al-Mukhtar of the Arab Lawyers Network, said: “This is just looking at whether the first court was right in refusing to entertain the case.

“The magistrates’ court dismissed it on the grounds that Tony Blair had immunity and that the crime of aggression was not part of English law. Many think they were not correct on that.”

The hearing continues.