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Blair unlikely to face war crime charges

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, London on 6 July, 2016.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, London on 6 July, 2016. Reuters/Stefan Rousseau/Pool
Text by: Tamara Thiessen
7 min

International political and legal experts say former British Prime Minister Tony Blair lied over the Iraq War - and should be held accountable. But the likelihood of him ending up before a war crime tribunal has been declared a "legal impossibility".

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The 7 year Chilcot inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the war found Blair exaggerated the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and sent ill-prepared troops into battle. He also failed to press the United States adequately on their plans for the aftermath of the invasion.

Now some of the families of victims, as well as human rights groups and politicians, are calling for Blair to be brought to justice. The most vocal critics want to see him in the docks at the International criminal court (ICC) in The Hague for misleading the Parliament.

One woman who lost her brother went as far as describing Blair as "the world's worst terrorist". The father of the victim said his son and fellow soldiers lost his life for nothing. "When I look at Iraq and the 200 plus deaths that took place, I can only conclude that unfortunately and sadly, my son died in vein."

ICC to give Chilcot report long hard gaze

Now the ICC says it will review the Chilcot report in full, and has refuted claims made by the British daily The Telegraph, that the court had already ruled out prosecuting Blair.

Still, none of the legal and political experts who have spoken out on the issue so far, have given any cause to believe that such charges will follow.

Marie-Hélène Labbé from Durham University is the author of the timely and just out book, Iraq's Dark Shadow - Tony Blair's Moment of Truth.

She says Blair should not be let entirely off the hook for the lies, but believes he's already paid a price for his decisions.

"I think he should pay a price and be held accountable for what he did, but now I really wonder how, because I think since 2007 he paid quiet a heavy price for that - first being replaced by Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, then being knocked back in 2009 as president of the European Commission because Germans absolutely didn't want him."

MP seeks loophole to pursue Blair for "crime of aggression"

As the bringing Blair to justice petition swells, one vocal critic is Scottish politician Alex Salmond. He has accused Blair of a "crime of aggression" and hopes to get round the legal snags and get Blair to trial.

Prominent human rights barrister and UN war crimes judge, Geoffrey Robertson, believes that's unlikely.

The British Australian QC says the idea of Blair being found guilty of war crimes is "a fantasy", primarily because of the legal obstacles to such a trial.

It's not a question of there being no grounds for Blair to face charges, he wrote in The Guardian. In fact he goes as far as saying that Blair's decisions "were worse than a crime ... it was a mistake"; quoting the 18th century French politician Talleyrand.

Robertson concludes that perhaps governments need to rethink constitutional issues surrounding a leader's immunity, so that future such cases might come before the courts.

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