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Todays Date
21 November 2017

UK High Court rejects Iraqi general’s bid for Tony Blair war prosecution

The High Court has blocked an attempt to bring a private prosecution against Tony Blair over the Iraq War.

General Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat has accused Mr Blair of committing a “crime of aggression” by supporting the US-led Iraq invasion in 2003 when he was prime minister.

The UK was part of the coalition led by the US who invaded the country after then US President George W Bush and Mr Blair accused Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having links to terrorists.

The general, a former chief of staff of the Iraqi army, wanted to prosecute Mr Blair and two other key ministers at the time of the war, foreign secretary Jack Straw and attorney general Lord Goldsmith.

Last year, Westminster Magistrates’ Court had turned down Mr Al Rabbat’s bid to bring private prosecution.

The general’s lawyers had asked the High Court for permission to seek a judicial review to get the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling. But Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Justice Ouseley rejected the bid, saying the case had “no prospect” of succeeding.

The UK’s attorney general had earlier intervened in the case, urging the High Court to block the challenge on the grounds that it was “hopeless”.

Reacting to the ruling, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the case had raised “important issues about the scope of the criminal law”.

“It should be for Parliament, and not the courts, to create new criminal offences. This principle was upheld when the House of Lords ruled in 2006 that the ‘crime of aggression’ does not exist in English law.

“In this legal challenge, we argued that this remains the case today and the courts agreed.”

In 2003, the UK joined the US-led coalition to overthrow Saddam Hussein, after then US president George W Bush and Mr Blair accused Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction. Mr Blair’s legacy as prime minister has been tarnished by his decision to support the war.

Last year, the UK’s Iraq War inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, ruled the invasion had not been the “last resort” presented to MPs and the public.

Michael Mansfield QC, appearing for Mr Al Rabbat, argued the report justified the prosecution of Mr Blair.

He said a paragraph in it could be summarised as concluding that Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to the interests of the UK.

It said the intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction had been presented with “unwarranted certainty”.

Mr Mansfield told the court: “Nothing could be more emphatic than this evidence.

“It does not say there was an unlawful war or crime of aggression. It doesn’t need to because the criteria are arguably all there in that paragraph.”

 

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