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When will Blair answer for his crimes in court?

chris coverdale and rikki | 04.10.2006 14:24 | SOCPA | Indymedia | Repression | London

Chris Coverdale, an expert in war law, explains how the Prime Minister and Parliament violated the laws against war and asks why law enforcement authorities are failing to prosecute offenders.

When Britain’s Prime Minister took the nation to war against Iraq it was on the false premise that it would be legal. Although many of the public instinctively knew that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was wrong and illegal, and more than 1 million people marched through London to protest against the war, no-one could point to the laws and treaties that were about to be broken. Because so few of us know or understand the international and domestic laws that prohibit war, we failed to recognise the dishonest nature of Tony Blair’s assertions.

The consequences of this woeful gap in our education have been horrific. Accepting the fictitious claim that Saddam Hussein was about to use weapons of mass destruction and believing the false assurance that the UN Security Council had authorised the invasion, 412 MPs voted in favour of an illegal war. Using cruise missiles, rockets, cluster bombs and depleted uranium artillery shells, coalition armed forces launched ‘shock and awe’ attacks on a small and almost defenceless nation weakened by ten years of punitive sanctions, killing at least 50,000 innocent men, women and children. This mass murder of Iraqis, killed for the sole reason that they were living in Iraq, breached every one of the main international treaties and laws against war and constituted the most serious crimes known to mankind, crimes against peace and the crime of genocide. It should never have happened.

It should not be possible in a democracy for a Head of State to deceive the people over such a fundamental issue as war. The British Government once gave solemn and binding undertakings to the world that we would never wage a war of aggression , never use armed force to threaten or attack another country , never kill or harm human beings , never destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group , always settle international disputes peacefully, respect human rights, uphold and enforce the rule of law and act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood and co-operation , but now this Government has ignored each of these solemn and binding promises and embarked on the world’s worst crime, a war of aggression .

War was expressly outlawed in 1928 when the world’s major nations agreed ‘The General Treaty for the Renunciation of War’. This treaty, which became known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, was the result of a decade of negotiations to prevent war and was motivated by the horror and tragedy of World War I. When Lord Cushenden signed the treaty he made a firm and binding commitment on behalf of the people of Britain to renounce war as an instrument of national policy and to settle all disputes peacefully. Why then do British Governments regularly breach this law, whilst states such as Sweden and Switzerland always uphold it? Why don’t our law enforcement authorities enforce the law on Britain’s political, civil and military leaders, arresting and charging them with crimes when they break the law?

The first time that political leaders were held to account in court for breaching the Kellogg Briand Pact occurred in 1946 at the end of World War II when the Nuremburg War Crimes tribunal tried Germany’s leaders and convicted them of waging wars of aggression. The Tribunal’s judgement confirmed the illegal nature of war and the criminal responsibility of leaders who initiate armed conflict.

“The solemn renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy necessarily involves the proposition that such war is illegal in international law; and that those who plan and wage such a war with its inevitable and terrible consequences are committing a crime in so doing… War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal

Why then did Tony Blair, the Cabinet, Parliament, the Government and the Queen all violate the laws of armed conflict and take Britain into a manifestly illegal war with Iraq? It is quite clear in the Attorney General's legal advice, provided to Tony Blair two weeks before the war started, that both men knew full well that the war was illegal and that they could be prosecuted for 'murder' and the crime of 'aggression'. It is also clear from Jack Straw's speech, when he closed the Parliamentary debate authorising the war with Iraq, that he and his audience of MPs knew that they would be responsible for killing totally innocent Iraqis. Surely they knew that killing innocent men, women and children is an act of murder? Yet they went ahead with it.

“We are about to vote on the most crucial issue that has been before the House in the 24 years that I have been privileged to represent my constituency of Blackburn. But as elected Members of Parliament, we all know that we will be judged not only on our intentions, but on the results, the consequences of our decisions. Yes of course there will be consequences if the House approves the Government's motion. Our forces will almost certainly be involved in military action. Some may be killed; so too, will innocent Iraqi civilians... I urge the House to vote with the Government tonight..”
Jack Straw [Hansard Vol 401 No.65 Page 902 March 18th 2003]

This is the clearest possible statement inciting mass murder to be made by a Minister of State. Now that the crimes have been committed and tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children have been murdered and maimed, why hasn't anybody compelled the 412 MPs who voted for the war to answer for the consequences in court? They knew they would be judged on their intentions and the consequences of their decisions, so why haven't they been arrested, tried and convicted of genocide? Now that they know that it was illegal, that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist, and that Saddam Hussein had no connections with Al Qaeda, why are they continuing the killing, and maintaining the illegal occupation of Iraq? Every week hundreds of totally innocent men, women and children are being killed and maimed under the command of the American and British Governments. This has to stop.

We must uncover the reasons why our government continues to violate the laws of war and commit the world’s worst crimes, and we must halt it now.Two fundamental reasons seem to be the lack of understanding of war law, and the catastrophic failure of law enforcement. Although it is hard to believe, it is now clear that the Attorney General and Britain’s law officers not only failed in their duty to advise Ministers, MPs, the Queen, the Government, the media and the public on the laws governing armed conflict, but they deceived everyone over the legality of the war with Iraq. Weeks before the war started, the Prime Minister asked the Attorney General for advice on the legality of military action against Iraq, and we now know that he received a detailed reply to his request on the 7th or 8th of March 2003.

The Attorney General’s ‘secret’ legal advice of March 7th 2003 is one of the most damning government documents ever to come to light. Not only did the Law Officers fail to provide legal advice on the illegality of warfare and military action, but they concentrated instead on providing an erroneous and flawed rationale for waging war. It is clear from reading the document that both Tony Blair and the Attorney General knew at least two weeks before the fighting commenced that the war was illegal and that if it went ahead and anyone was killed, they could both be prosecuted for the crimes of ‘aggression’ and ‘murder’.

Now that 50,000 innocent people have been murdered, why haven’t those responsible been arrested and charged with genocide, crimes against peace and humanity or war crimes? Do our political leaders consider themselves to be above the law? As any criminal proceedings must have the consent of the Attorney General, and as he is one of the main perpetrators of these horrific crimes, could it be that our law enforcement authorities, fearing for their jobs, honours and decorations have agreed not to prosecute him or the Prime Minister?

The evidence of a conspiracy is mounting. The crimes committed by Ministers, MPs and Government officers have been reported to the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts on numerous occasions since February 2003 but these bodies always find an excuse not to investigate the crimes or charge the offenders. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Chief Constables and the Director of Public Prosecutions know perfectly well that killing innocent people is an act of murder. They all know that none of Tony Blair’s victims had attacked Britain, had committed any crimes, hidden any weapons of mass destruction, taken part in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre or done anything to warrant a death sentence. The Police, the CPS and the Courts used thousands of man hours investigating and prosecuting the Soham murders of two small girls, so why won’t they put even one tenth of that effort into investigating and prosecuting the mass murder and genocide of 15,000 Iraqi children? Is this yet another example of corruption in government? Whatever is stopping our law enforcement authorities from enforcing the laws of war?

Now that Britain’s political, civil and military leaders have committed the self-same crimes for which Germany’s leaders were convicted and hanged at Nuremburg in 1946, they must also be compelled to account for these offences in a court of law. It is right, timely, and urgent to tackle this issue now. It must never be said that the British people were complicit in genocide or afraid to confront their leaders with their crimes. Parliament should end Britain’s involvement in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, compel the Prime Minister to account for his crimes in court, hold an inquiry into the causes of the war, and make arrangements to ensure that Britain can never again wage an illegal war. Arrange an appointment with your MP and make these demands. For the sake of humanity we must all take a stand now for truth, justice and equality under the law.

chris coverdale and rikki
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