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Politics & Law Series: Expert Comment

Is Tony Blair a war criminal?

Barrister Robin Sellers, a Senior Lecturer and CPD Consultant in The City Law School, comments on possible legal action against the former British Prime Minister.
by John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer)

On 6th July 2016, Sir John Chilcot unveiled his report following the Inquiry he headed into the 2003 Iraq War. The Iraq Inquiry which began in 2009, considered whether it was right and necessary to invade Iraq in March 2003 and; whether the UK could - and should - have been better prepared for what followed.

Robin SellersThe damning report which has held Prime Minister Tony Blair responsible for the invasion and its aftermath, concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.

Sir John Chilcot also reached the following conclusions: the judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were presented with a certainty that was not justified; despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate; the UK Government failed to achieve its stated objectives.

Obstacles to indictment

Barrister, Senior Lecturer and CPD Consultant in The City Law School, Robin Sellers, says that despite the clamour for Tony Blair to be indicted as a war criminal there are a number of obstacles that rule out the possibility:

“The fundamental barrier to an indictment is that the actual best fit ‘charge’ would be ‘aggression’ and this allegation did not exist within the remit of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the time of the alleged acts. There is therefore a good technical argument that the case would not succeed. Though the ICC - which isn’t recognised by the USA - has stated that it is carrying out a preliminary investigation, this is some distance away from instituting criminal proceedings.

Sellers goes on to point out that that the UK and the USA are permanent members of the UN Security Council, from which the ICC derives its jurisdiction. This means that any proceedings against the states involved are unlikely to get off the ground as the remedies would be vetoed by members of the Council.

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (“the ICC” or “the Court”) is a permanent international court established to investigate, prosecute and try individuals accused of committing the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

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