High Court rejects bid to prosecute Tony Blair over Iraq War

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The British High Court has blocked an attempt to privately prosecute Tony Blair in relation to the Iraq War.

A case was brought against former Prime Minister Blair by former Iraqi General Abdul Wahed Shannan al-Rabbat alleging he committed “the crime of aggression” in the 2003 invasion of Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and ex-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith were also named in Rabbat’s application to the court. 

When the Westminster Magistrates’ Court turned down Rabbat’s bid to prosecute the three last year, he sought a judicial review by the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, in an attempt to overturn a 2006 House of Lords ruling on the matter that concluded there is no such thing as a “crime of aggression” under the laws of England and Wales.

Monday’s decision dismissed Rabbat’s application for judicial review as the court reached the decision there was “no prospect” it would succeed.  

In July 2016, Sir John Chilcot published the findings of his inquiry into the Iraq war, concluding that a case could be made against Blair, Straw, and Goldsmith on the crime of aggression because Saddam Hussein had not posed a threat to the UK, the invasion was not necessary and had taken place without UN authorization. 

Rabbat argued that the three could not be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of a one-year statute of limitation on crimes of aggression. 

The UK court accepted that prosecution at the ICC is not possible at the present time, but maintained that prosecution is also not possible in England and Wales where the crime does not exist in law. 

It is up to parliament to “make such conduct criminal under domestic law,” reads Monday’s judgement. “Parliament deliberately chose not to do so. The courts cannot usurp that function.”

A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said the case had raised “important issues about the scope of the criminal law,” the BBC reported.

"It should be for Parliament, and not the courts, to create new criminal offences,” the spokesperson said. “This principle was upheld when the House of Lords ruled in 2006 that the 'crime of aggression' does not exist in English law.”

Following the release of the Chilcot report, Blair denied that Britain’s participation in the war was a mistake, but expressed his “sorrow, regret and apology” for mistakes made during the planning and conduct of the war. 
 
George W. Bush’s US-led coalition to invade Iraq in 2003 included the UK and accused the former dictator of possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and having terrorism links.

Rabbat was chief of staff of the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein. 

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