Tony Blair Escapes War Crimes

Outrage as war crimes prosecutors say Tony Blair will not be investigated over Chilcot’s Iraq war report – but British soldiers could be

Tony Blair: war crimes prosecutors say he won’t face inquiry Credit: Brian Lawless/PRESS ASSOCIATION

By Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court will examine the Chilcot report for evidence of abuse and torture by British soldiers but have already ruled out putting Tony Blair on trial for war crimes, The Telegraph can disclose.

The decision has outraged families of troops killed in Iraq who blame Mr Blair for engineering the war.

Sir John Chilcot’s report will finally be published on Wednesday and is expected to strongly criticise Mr Blair’s role in the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But in an official statement to the Telegraph, the International Criminal Court (ICC) said its prosecutors would comb through the 2.3 million word report for evidence of war crimes committed by British troops but that decision to go to war remained outside its remit.

It means individual soldiers could be prosecuted for war crimes but not Mr Blair.

The ICC, based in the Hague, has begun a ‘preliminary examination’ of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.

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In the statement, the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICC said: “We will take note of the Chilcot report when released in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination work concerning Iraq/UK.

“A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process aimed at determining whether reasonable basis exist to open an investigation.

“As already indicated by the Office in 2006, the ‘decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the Court’s jurisdiction’.”

The ICC prosecutor’s office said the ICC was looking at introducing a “crime of aggression” which would cover illegal invasions but that “has not yet crystalised and in any event, will not apply retroactively”.

Grieving relatives condemned the ICC’s stance. Roger Bacon, whose son Matt Bacon, a major in the Intelligence Corps, was killed in a roadside bomb in 2005, said: “It is outrageous. It is double standards. These soldiers have gone out to do their best for us and here they are being hounded and yet the guy who took them there is not being looked at. That is completely wrong and disgusting.”

Mr Bacon, a retired police officer, added: “It is bad enough the ICC are examining these allegations of abuse in the first place but to use the Chilcot report to further their investigation does not seem right at all particularly if they are not going to look at Blair.”

Reg Keys, whose son Tom was one of six Royal Military Police slaughtered at Majar al-Kabir in 2003, said: “The ICC should be using the Chilcot report as a basis for a legal action against Tony Blair not as ammunition against British soldiers for alleged abuse.”

Mr Keys, who famously stood against Mr Blair in the 2005 election, added: “It makes me very angry. They don’t call him Teflon Tony for nothing.”

The Chilcot report is expected to conclude that Mr Blair’s government misled the public over the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before launching what many people still believe was an illegal war.

The Crown Prosecution Service has twice considered a case against Mr Blair but on both occasions decided to take no action.

But Mr Blair may also face legal action from families, who may try to sue him for ‘misfeasance in public office” or else negligence on the grounds he exceeded his powers and that led to mass casualties.

If successful such a legal action could lead to a huge award of damages against Mr Blair.

Matthew Jury, managing partner of McCue & Partners, lawyers for the bereaved families of British soldiers killed in Iraq, said: “It’s a little premature to be talking about prosecutions. The families’ current concern is that the Inquiry has properly discharged its duties. We shall find out on Wednesday.

“Only after a full and unhurried examination of the reports contents and conclusions, will the families decide what further steps should be taken. However, if it is determined that government officials have acted unlawfully, the families will consider taking whatever action is appropriate and necessary.”

Relatives are also angered they will be given just three to digest the vast Chilcot report before it is made public while ministers, it is understood, will receive the report 24 hours in advance.

“This is just another example of politics trumping compassion. The families deserve better,” said Mr Jury.

The publication of the report, seven years after the Iraq Inquiry began, will also lead to renewed attempts by MPs, led by former SNP leader Alex Salmond, to resurrect attempts to impeach Mr Blair.

In an email to MPs sent last month, Mr Salmond wrote: “If, as I believe, that Chilcot finds that there was a prior commitment from Blair to [George] Bush at Crawford Ranch [President Bush’s Texas home] in 2002 that would provide the reason for pursuing the matter further.”

Sir David Amess, a Tory backbencher who received an email from Mr Salmond asking for his help, said: “We’re going to go for it. When the Chilcot report is published, if it’s proved that Tony Blair misled everyone, I personally am determined to see justice prevail and to see him impeached.”

Mr Blair has repeatedly said that he wanted to use Chilcot to address his critics. In an interview in the United States last October, he apologised for wrong intelligence on weapons and for “some of the mistakes in planning” in the run up to the 2003 invasion. However he defended the military action and the removal of Saddam Hussein.

A spokeswoman for Mr Blair said the former prime minister had “made his position clear” and that his office “would not be giving a running commentary” prior to publication. “It is hard for us to say anything when we have not seen the report,” said the spokeswoman.

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