Tony Blair and the Iraq War

So, we are now faced with the news that Tony Blair acted illegally in involving Britain in the Iraqi war, at least according to Foreign Office legal advisers.

In memos to Downing Street, Michael Wood, then the chief legal adviser for the Foreign Office, warned that going to war without approval from the UN Security Council resolution would constitute a ‘crime of aggression’ under international law.

Such warnings were ignored by both Blair and the then foreign secretary Jack Straw.

This is significant.

The Nuremberg Trials, set up to prosecute Nazi war criminals and which I am studying quite closely at the moment, ruled that “to initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

Going by this definition – which was specifically written with Nazi Germany in mind – one might be tempted to draw certain parallels with Snrs Blair and Straw. Such parallels may be unfair – Blair and Straw don’t really cut it as closet Nazis – but it the significance of fighting an illegal war should not be overlooked, if international justice is to mean anything.

Let’s not forget that, unlike the US, the UK is a signatory to the Rome Statute, which set up the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Interestingly, though, the Rome Statute was not so forthcoming in deciding what it should do about crimes of aggression. It holds that the crime of aggression is one of the “most serious crimes of concern to the international community”, and says that the crime should fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

However, negotiations to draw up the treaty stalled over how to define a crime of aggression and, until such time as a definition is given, then prosecutions are unlikely to take place.

There may be an opportunity for a definition for crimes of aggression to be introduced into the Statute during the ICC Review Conference, due to take place in May and June this year, in Kampala.

But don’t bank on it. Not all countries are totally sold on crimes of aggression being included. And, lets not forget, many of the ICC signatories still want to woo America into joining. They’re not going to be able to do that by getting the court to start investigating crimes that America itself may also be guilty of.


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