Azara Blog: Iraq an illegal war

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Date published: 2005/02/23

The Guardian says:

The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, warned less than two weeks before the invasion of Iraq that military action could be ruled illegal.

The government was so concerned that it might be prosecuted it set up a team of lawyers to prepare for legal action in an international court.

And a parliamentary answer issued days before the war in the name of Lord Goldsmith - but presented by ministers as his official opinion before the crucial Commons vote - was drawn up in Downing Street, not in the attorney general's chambers.

The full picture of how the government manipulated the legal justification for war, and political pressure placed on its most senior law officer, is revealed in the Guardian today.

It appears that Lord Goldsmith never wrote an unequivocal formal legal opinion that the invasion was lawful, as demanded by Lord Boyce, chief of defence staff at the time.

The Guardian can also disclose that in her letter of resignation in protest against the war, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser at the Foreign Office, described the planned invasion of Iraq as a "crime of aggression".

She said she could not agree to military action in circumstances she described as "so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law".

Her uncompromising comments, and disclosures about Lord Goldsmith's relations with ministers in the run-up to war, appear in a book by Philippe Sands, a QC in Cherie Booth's Matrix chambers and professor of international law at University College London.

Is anyone surprised? It was obvious at the time that Blair was making everything up on the fly, and that the war was illegal. Hopefully the International Criminal Court will take an interest.

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