21 Jan 2011

Iraq: ‘evidence for criminal case against Blair’ says expert

A leading QC tells Channel 4 News that there is enough evidence for the International Criminal Court to mount a case against Tony Blair. The former PM has faced the Iraq Inquiry for the second time.

Tony Blair revealed he disregarded some of the legal advice given to him by his top adviser in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Lord Goldsmith, had consistently warned that the United Nations resolution 1441 did not provide legal grounds for an invasion, but the then Prime Minister continued to promise UK backing for military action.

Michael Mansfield QC told Chanel 4 News that if the advice had been made public, the UK may not have gone to war in Iraq: “It’s significant politically for the population of the UK to know that it had a Prime Minister prepared to do this and we had a parliamentary democracy that did not flush it out.”

It demonstrates a flagrant disregard of the rule of law. Michael Mansfield QC

He added: “It demonstrates a flagrant disregard of the rule of law which is what the United Kingdom is supposed to adhere to over the centuries.

“It is really saying to the world ‘never mind the second resolution we can do what we want to do’.

“I think that disregard for the rule of law is the worst possible example when you’re trying to persuade people to give up nuclear weapons and adhere to the UN and you yourself don’t go down that avenue.

Tony Blair has been giving evidence at the Iraq Inquiry (Reuters)

War crimes

Anti-war campaigners protesting outside the Iraq Inquiry called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes.

As it stands the former Prime Minister could not be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq itself because “aggression” has not been formulated as a war crime by the International Criminal Court.

But Michael Mansfield QC believes a case could be mounted against Tony Blair on other grounds: “The examples would be the type of weapons deployed – particularly if they’re indiscriminate, if they’re not focussed and they incur large numbers, as this did, of civilian casualties.

Prima facie there’s enough evidence of a case to be mounted against him. Michael Mansfield QC

“The use of weaponry that might lead to that would be depleted uranium or cluster bombs.”

Michael Mansfield QC added: “Prima facie there’s enough evidence of a case to be mounted against him. At the moment the International Criminal Court has not gone down that route and it’s a politically a very difficult decision.”

“There should be a criminal prosecution in the International Criminal Court – that’s what ought to happen because this was a criminal event and thousands of people have died.”


Last year when Tony Blair gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot announced there were two documents that had been declassified.

According to Michael Mansfield QC one of them is extremely important: “It predates 9/11 and what Tony Blair was saying today was that everything changed post 9/11. Wrong.

“It is quite clear in the declassified document that the United Kingdom was aligning itself with the United States of America, in a policy document dated March 2001 in relation to regime change, which doesn’t allow military incursion, and direct action in relation to Weapons of Mass Destruction.

“The fact is that the US and the UK had already laid the ground work between the two Governments that Saddam had to go before 9/11.”

The effectiveness of the Iraq Inquiry

There has been some criticism that the Iraq Inquiry has not been tough enough on those called to give evidence.

Michael Mansfield QC told Channel 4 News: “I think there is a problem that the questioning is diffuse, it’s not focussed and allows speeches to be made during the question and during the answer.

They have enough material..that they can come to some striking and considered conclusions. Michael Mansfield QC

He added: “That doesn’t mean they won’t come up with some important answers. I’m just saying as a lawyer the actual questioning wasn’t that productive.

“However they have a lot of material, they have enough material it seems to me that they can come to some striking and considered conclusions.

“I believe they have the opportunity to change the way we are governed so that we don’t produce a situation where a Prime Minister can get away with what Tony Blair has done.”