The attorney general is reportedly hoping to block a private prosecution against Tony Blair over the Iraq war
The British governments top lawyer Jeremy Wright QC is prepared to go to court to demand that former Prime Minister is not prosecuted.
Legal documents seen by the Guardian show that Wright formally asked to join future hearings, and for the bid to prosecute Blair and his top aides to be rejected.
The Guardian reports:
The planned intervention by the attorney general comes after a judge ruled the former Labour prime minister had immunity from the attempt to bring a criminal charge against him and that pursuing a prosecution could “involve details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act”.
The private prosecution relates to the 2003 Iraq war and seeks the trial in a British court of then prime minister Tony Blair, the foreign secretary Jack Straw, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general at the time.
It seeks their conviction for the crime of “aggression” and is based on the damning findings of last year’s Chilcot report into the British decision to join the invasion of Iraq, under the false pretext that the Saddam Hussein regime had weapons of mass destruction.
Legal documents seen by the Guardian show the attorney general, Jeremy Wright QC, who is the Tory MP for Kenilworth and Southam, has formally asked to join future hearings and for the attempt to prosecute Blair and his top aides to be rejected.
In November 2016, a court ruled the prosecution could not go ahead. But lawyers behind the private prosecution are seeking a fresh hearing to challenge that refusal and access to legal aid funding. The attorney general’s intervention is supported by the three Labour former senior ministers.
The attorney general claims the case is hopeless, in part because the crime of aggression does not exist in English law, even though it does exist in international law. But that argument appears to be undermined in a document written by Goldsmith himself.
In his 2003 memo on the legality of the Iraq war, Goldsmith, then attorney general, appeared to concede the key point of those now seeking his prosecution. “Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law,” he wrote.
After the Chilcot report publication, some families of British service personnel who died in the war called for Blair to face criminal charges.
The latest attempt at a private prosecution comes in the name of Gen Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat, former chief of staff of the Iraqi army and now living in exile, according to legal papers.
An application was made to Westminster magistrates court late last year for a summons to be issued against Blair but it was refused. The district judge, Michael Snow,said: “Implied immunity as former head of state and government ministers, therefore offence not made out … Allegations involve potential details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act for which attorney general and director of public prosecutions consent are required.”
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