Tony Blair prosecution over Iraq war is blocked in High Court

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Tony Blair cannot be prosecuted for his role in the Iraq war, the High Court has ruled.

Judges today blocked an attempt by former Iraqi general Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat to privately prosecute the former UK Prime Minister over allegations he committed “the crime of aggression” by invading Iraq in 2003.

The ex-chief of staff of the Iraqi army wanted to prosecute Mr Blair along with the then-foreign secretary Jack Straw and former attorney general Lord Goldsmith.

But the High Court today ruled there was “no prospect” of the case succeeding.

In 2006, the House of Lords ruled there is no such crime as the crime of aggression under the law of England and Wales.

Lawyers acting for General Al Rabbat attempted to overturn the Lords’ decision. They asked London’s High Court for permission to seek judicial review in an attempt to get the Supreme Court, now the highest court in the land, to overturn it.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Justice Ouseley dismissed the general’s application.

Last year Westminster Magistrates Court turned down General Al Rabbat’s bid to bring a private prosecution and refused to issue summonses.

The general, who lives in Muscat, Oman, does not possess a passport and cannot travel to the UK.

Britain was part of the coalition led by the US which invaded Iraq after American president George W Bush and Mr Blair accused Saddam Hussein of possessing weapons of mass destruction and links to terrorists.

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

Mr Mansfield said the main findings were contained in a paragraph early in the 12-volume report and could be summarised as concluding that Saddam did not pose an urgent threat to the interests of the UK, and the intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction had been presented with “unwarranted certainty”.

It also concluded that peaceful alternatives to war had not been exhausted and that the war in Iraq was not necessary.

Mr Mansfield argued that the international crime of a war of aggression had been accepted by then UK attorney general Sir Hartley Shawcross QC in the 1940s, at the time of the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war crimes.

The QC contended that, as the international community had held those responsible for the Second World War to account by prosecuting those thought responsible for aggression at Nuremberg, it was the duty of the UK courts to follow that example in relation to the Iraq War.

The House of Lords decided in the 2006 case of “R v Jones”, which also concerned the Iraq War, that although there was a crime of aggression under customary international law, there was no such crime under English law.

Mr Mansfield argued that the Jones case was wrongly decided and permission should be given to allow General Al Rabbat to re-argue the issue before the Supreme Court.

But the High Court ruled: “In our opinion there is no prospect of the Supreme Court holding that the decision in Jones was wrong or the reasoning no longer applicable.”


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