Attempt to ban protest outside Tony Blair’s appearance at Iraq inquiry
The government is attempting to prevent a legitimate peaceful protest outside the QEII conference centre on 29 January when Tony Blair gives evidence to the Iraq inquiry.
Representatives from the Stop the War Coalition and CND were told today they would not be able to protest on the grass outside the centre, despite having had negotiations for days and the police initially claiming they would try and facilitate the protest.
This is a denial of democratic rights and the Stop the War Coalition will now call for the widest possible mobilisation, not just to express the majority view in this country that Tony Blair should be held to account for war crimes, but in defence of the right to protest.
Lindsey German, national convenor of Stop the War, said, "This decision is outrageous. Why should the public be denied the right to peaceful protest, particularly when the latest evidence given to the Chilcot Committee shows unequivocally that Tony Blair knew he was taking Britain into an illegal war.
This is heating up now. It looks as though this enquiry is rather more serious than the last one.
Straw rejected advice that Iraq invasion was 'unlawful'
Sir Michael said it was unprecedented for his advice to be rejected
Jack Straw rejected advice in the run up to war that invading Iraq without UN backing would break international law, the Iraq inquiry heard.
Mr Straw's chief legal adviser at the time, Sir Michael Wood, told the then foreign secretary it would "amount to the crime of aggression".
But Mr Straw told him he was being "dogmatic" and that "international law was pretty vague", Sir Michael said.
Ministers used the attorney general's advice on the war's legality instead.
Lord Goldsmith, who is due to appear before the inquiry on Wednesday, advised the government that force could be used legally without a second UN resolution.
But the Iraq inquiry heard there were serious concerns about the way in which the decision was reached among the Foreign Office's senior legal advisers.
Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned in protest days before the invasion of Iraq, described the process as "lamentable" and lacking in transparency.
She said it was "extraordinary" that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had only been asked for his opinion about the war just days before British troops went into action.
Sir Michael - chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office between 2001 and 2006 - said he believed the invasion did not have a legal basis as the UN Security Council neither met to agree Iraq was in "material breach" of existing disarmament resolutions nor explicitly approved the use of force.
"I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law," he said
Newly declassified letters published by the inquiry show Sir Michael raised his concerns directly with the foreign secretary.
On 24 January 2003, Sir Michael wrote to Mr Straw telling him the "UK cannot lawfully use force in Iraq in ensuring compliance" on the basis of existing UN resolutions, including resolution 1441 which gave Saddam a "final opportunity" to comply in November 2002.
"To use force without Security Council authority would amount to the crime of aggression," he wrote.
In his reply, also published by the inquiry on Tuesday, Mr Straw said he "noted" Sir Michael's advice but did "not accept it".
Assessing what would constitute a legal basis for war, he said: "I am as committed as anyone to international law and its obligations but it is an uncertain field. In this case, the issue is an arguable one, capable of honestly and reasonably held differences of view."
Mr Straw said he hoped to secure a further UN resolution "for political reasons" but there was a "strong case" that existing resolutions and subsequent Iraqi non-compliance "provide a sufficient basis in international law to justify military action".
Asked about Mr Straw's reaction to his letter voicing concerns, Sir Michael said the foreign secretary had told him he was being "dogmatic and international law was pretty vague".
Tuesday: Ex-Foreign Office legal advisers Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst will appear, as will former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett
Wednesday: Former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, who advised ministers the invasion was lawful, will give evidence
Friday: Former Prime Minister Tony Blair will make his long-awaited appearance
Iraq protest lawyer attacks process
Profile: Elizabeth Wilmshurst
He said Mr Straw also told him at their meeting that he had "often been advised things were unlawful and gone ahead anyway and won in the courts" when he was home secretary.
Asked by the inquiry about Mr Straw's analysis of the legal position regarding the invasion of Iraq, Sir Michael told the inquiry: "Obviously there are some areas of international law that can be quite uncertain. This, however, turned exclusively on the interpretation of a specific text and it is one on which I think that international law was pretty clear."
He told the inquiry his advice had never been rejected by a minister before or since.
Mr Straw told the inquiry last week that his decision to back the war was the "most difficult" of his career, describing it as a "profoundly difficult political and moral dilemma".
The Lib Dems said Tony Blair and Gordon Brown must be asked whether they were aware of the advice on the war's legality when they appear before the inquiry.
"Michael Wood's statement is the final nail in the coffin of the case for a legal war," said the party's foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey.
"We need to know just who saw this advice. Did it reach Tony Blair and Gordon Brown? And if not, why not?"
But Sir Michael said he had always made it clear that it was ultimately up to Lord Goldsmith to advise ministers on whether war was lawful.
Just before the conflict began, Lord Goldsmith said in a statement that authority to use force came from the combined effect of existing UN resolutions dating back to the ceasefire after the Gulf War.
Yet 10 days earlier he had told the prime minister "the safest legal course" would be the adoption of a new UN resolution.
Sir Michael said there was a reluctance among ministers to seek legal advice early on as the Iraq crisis escalated and that Lord Goldsmith's ultimate conclusion "came in very late in the day as I see it".
"It was unfortunate advice was not given at an earlier stage."
But former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett defended Lord Goldsmith's role, telling the inquiry she believed he had properly weighed up all the legal arguments before coming to a final decision.
"I can't image any pressure he could be subject to that could make him give advice that was anything other than what he thought," she said.
This is explosive stuff (boom boom). What it amounts to is the government's refusal to listen to the two most senior officials at the foreign office and instead turn to their yes man, Lord Goldsmith.
Role and duties
The Attorney General is a non-cabinet minister who leads the Attorney General's Office. The rule that no Attorney General may be a cabinet minister is a political convention rather than a law, and for a short time the Attorney General did sit in cabinet, starting with Lord Birkenhead in 1915 and ending with Douglas Hogg in 1928. There is nothing that prohibits Attorneys-General from attending meetings of the cabinet, and on occasion they have been asked to attend meetings to advise the government on the best course of action legally. Despite this it is considered preferable to exclude Attorneys General from cabinet meetings so as to draw a distinct line between them and the political decisions on which they are giving legal advice. As a government minister, the Attorney General is directly answerable to Parliament.
He or she is also the chief legal advisor of the Crown and its government, and his primary role is to advise the government on any legal repercussions of their actions, either orally at meetings or in writing. As well as the government as a whole, he also advises individual departments. Although the primary role is no longer one of litigation, the Attorney General still represents the Crown and government in court in some select, particularly important cases, and chooses the Treasury Counsel who handle most government legal cases. By convention, he represents the government in every case in front of the International Court of Justice. The Attorney General also authorises prosecutions by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service; one such authorisation was in the Campbell Case, which led to the fall of the first Labour government in 1924.
The Attorney General also supervises the Treasury Solicitors, the Director of the Serious Fraud Office, the Revenue and Customs Prosecution Office and (currently) the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. The Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 creates an Attorney General for Northern Ireland who would otherwise supervise the DPP for Northern Ireland and fulfil all of the Attorney General's other duties as it relates to Northern Ireland, but this position has not yet been filled. The Attorney General also has powers to bring "unduly lenient" sentences and points of law to the Court of Appeal, issue writs of nolle prosequi to cancel criminal prosecutions, supervise other prosecuting bodies (such as DEFRA) and advise individual ministers facing legal action as a result of their official actions. He or she is also officially the leader of the Bar of England and Wales, although this is merely custom and has no duties or rights attached to it. The Attorney General's duties have long been considered strenuous, with Sir Patrick Hastings saying that "to be a law officer is to be in hell". Since the passing of the Law Officers Act 1997, any duties of the Attorney General can be delegated to the Solicitor General for England and Wales, and his or her actions are treated as coming from the Attorney General.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attorney_G ... _and_Wales
I included this qoute from wiki as I was unclear about the role of attorney general which is an English legal position. Is it not, therefore, contrary to Scottish law for a British army to go into war on the advice of a member of the English legal system. I'm not sure so I'll have to check it out further. Any advice would be appreciated.
I can't wait to see that little weasel Blair's evidence on Friday. How much of his testimony will be published remains to be seen.
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