In Brief

Will Tony Blair face trial for the Iraq War?

Lawyers for former Iraqi general argue case for prosecution in the High Court

Tony Blair should be prosecuted for the "unnecessary" and "unlawful" Iraq war, the High Court in London was told yesterday.

Lawyers for General Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat, Iraq's chief of staff under Saddam Hussein, said the former prime minister had committed "the crime of aggression" by invading in 2003.

Rabbat is seeking permission to launch a private prosecution against Blair, together with former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith, attorney general at the time, reports The Independent. The move was blocked last year by Westminster magistrates court, which ruled Blair would have immunity from any criminal charges. 

That attempt followed the publication of the Chilcot inquiry, which said Blair had taken the UK to war on the false claim that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the West. 

"After the Chilcot report was released some families of British service personnel who lost their lives in Iraq said they wanted Blair prosecuted in the courts," The Guardian says.

Rabbat's lawyer, Michael Mansfield, told the High Court that "Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to the UK, intelligence reporting about [Iraqi] weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that the war was unnecessary and that the UK undermined the authority of the UN security council", reports The Guardian

Mansfield added: "Nothing could be more emphatic than these findings. It was an unlawful war."

Attorney General Jeremy Wright says the general's case is "hopeless" and unarguable because the crime of aggression is not recognised in English law and urged the Lord Chief Justice to block the challenge.

Who is General Rabbat?

Rabbat was governor of Nineveh province when the US-led invasion began in 2003.

He "lives in Oman, does not possess a passport and could not be at the hearing", says The Sun. "But the courtroom was filled with citizens from Middle Eastern countries who are supporting his bid for a private prosecution against the architects of the war."

Will Blair's immunity be overturned?

Lawyers for the Attorney General argue that the crime of aggression, while existing in international law, has never been included in English law by parliament. They cited a 2006 House of Lords ruling, R v Jones, which unanimously found that the international crime of aggression is not an offence under domestic legislation in the UK

However, says The Guardian, "the government's stance appears to be undermined by Lord Goldsmith", who, in a memo from 2003 on the legality of the war, "appeared to concede the key point of those now seeking his prosecution".

Goldsmith wrote: "Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law."

The two judges ruling on the case said they would give their decision at a later date.

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