Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top judge: US and UK acted as 'vigilantes' in Iraq invasion.

One of Britain's most authoritative judicial figures has called the Iraq war "a serious violation of international law", and accused both Britain and the US of acting like a "world vigilante".

Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general's defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed.

Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith's advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: "It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had." Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions "passes belief".

Governments were bound by international law as much as by their domestic laws, he said. "The current ministerial code," he added "binding on British ministers, requires them as an overarching duty to 'comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations'."

The British government have been at pains to stop any examination of the legality of the Iraq war ever taking place in a British court and these recent comments by the recently retired Lord Bingham show why.

Kofi Annan made it very clear in 2004 that this war took place outside of the UN Charter and was, therefore, completely illegal, a point which Bingham raised.

Addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law last night, Bingham said: "If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law.

"For the effect of acting unilaterally was to undermine the foundation on which the post-1945 consensus had been constructed: the prohibition of force (save in self-defence, or perhaps, to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe) unless formally authorised by the nations of the world empowered to make collective decisions in the security council ..."

The moment a state treated the rules of international law as binding on others but not on itself, the compact on which the law rested was broken, Bingham argued. Quoting a comment made by a leading academic lawyer, he added: "It is, as has been said, 'the difference between the role of world policeman and world vigilante'."

And this was the whole point of the astonishing arrogance behind Bush and Blair's actions. They were demanding that Iraq complied with the UN whilst ignoring the UN themselves because it wasn't giving them the answer which they sought.

Lord Goldsmith and Jack Straw have fallen over themselves to argue that the war was, in fact, legal because.... well, because they say so.

Goldsmith said in a statement: "I stand by my advice of March 2003 that it was legal for Britain to take military action in Iraq. I would not have given that advice if it were not genuinely my view. Lord Bingham is entitled to his own legal perspective five years after the event." Goldsmith defended what is known as the "revival argument" - namely that Saddam Hussein had failed to comply with previous UN resolutions which could now take effect. Goldsmith added that Tony Blair had told him it was his "unequivocal view" that Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations to give up weapons of mass destruction.

Straw said last night that he shared Goldsmith's view. He continued: "However controversial the view that military action was justified in international law it was our attorney general's view that it was lawful and that view was widely shared across the world."

Goldsmith's "revival argument" is simply a piece of nonsense. All previous UN resolutions pertained to removing Saddam from Kuwait. At the time the US and UK decided to invade Iraq Saddam was not in Kuwait, so none of those resolutions applied.

And Straw's argument that the war was viewed as lawful "across the world" is simply laughable. Were it viewed in such a way then the US and UK would have had the courage to put their infamous second resolution up for a vote at the UN. They didn't because they knew they would be defeated, despite bribing as many countries as they could to get the bloody thing passed.

It should be no surprise to any of us that the people who engaged in these criminal acts continue to protest their innocence. But it is very welcome that a figure as important in British legal circles as Lord Bingham has had the courage to say out loud what we all know to be true. The Iraq war was a serious violation of international law. The tragedy is that none of the main players who took part in such blatant criminality will ever be brought to justice.

In any society where we actually value the rule of law as much as we claim we do, both Bush and Blair would be in the Hague.

Click title for full article.

No comments: