The highly-anticipated inquiry into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war was published on Wednesday, after 7 years in the making, and a legal expert told Business Insider that the report is an abject “failure.”
The 2.6 million word Chilcot Inquiry detailed a number of occasions where Tony Blair, his Labour government, military officials, and diplomats made critical misjudgments and used “flawed evidence” in their decisions relating to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Business Insider spoke to Dr. Aidan Hehir of the University of Westminster on Wednesday afternoon about the report and its implications. Dr. Hehir is an expert in international law, humanitarian intervention, and the ethics of war.
ADAM PAYNE AT BUSINESS INSIDER: What is your reaction to the Chilcot report?
DR. AIDAN HEHIR:“Taking into account the money that has been spent on it and the length of the report, it has done very little more than to confirm the obvious. The level of detail in the report is impressive, but the report has no remit, and the findings were always going to be of very little importance.
“The anger that is felt in the UK and across the world about the invasion of Iraq is not going to be changed by what has been written in the report. As much as it is good for academics and historians, ultimately, it doesn’t do anything to bring the process to court. The fact that the inquiry wasn’t given the remit to look into the legality of the war means that it could only confirm what we already knew.”
AP: Some claim that Blair should be tried for war crimes — are you saying that this report won’t move that process forward at all?
AH: “It will give those people a sense that their cause is certainly just but unfortunately the way that this has been presented is a kind of PR exercise by the British government.
“It is good on one level to have this level of detail out in the open but it is not going to be of much use, if at all, it is [just] a recap of the events and a description of what happened without any pronouncement of guilt.”
AP: So, there is no procedure available for legal action to be taken against Blair?
AH:“I don’t think that it is possible, unfortunately. In terms of international law, it can’t go to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because the UK has a seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC) and can veto that. What this all highlights is the failure of the report.
“What this all highlights is the failure of the report and the failing of international law. It shows how politicised the enforcement of international law is.
“Domestically, the UK establishment is highly reluctant to engage in any kind of criminal proceedings against the Blair government because it would expose misdeeds that were committed by people in the Blair administration. I think, ultimately, it is not something that is going to be taken to an international court or a national court in any meaningful way.”
AP: You said that international law has become politicised — do you think if we were talking about another former leader elsewhere in the world the legal situation would be any different?
AH: “Yes. The UN has previously set up special criminal proceedings against administrations in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, and Sierra Leone, but it won’t do the same thing for Iraq.
“Again, that is because those proceedings were established by the UNSC, which simply won’t do anything because the UK as a member can use its veto. It just highlights the hypocrisy and duplicity of international law.
“If this was a country that wasn’t the UK and didn’t have a seat on the UNSC, you could envisage criminal proceedings being brought against them and a proper legal investigation.”
AP: Do the families of killed personnel have any legal rights for prosecution?
AH: “It has been suggested that they could bring proceedings against the UK government for the inadequate provisions they were given in terms of arms and armour. So, I think there could be a domestic case in that respect.
“Again, I don’t think that would amount to the type of criminal proceedings that are really required and necessary for the gross violation of international law. Plus, in that case, it wouldn’t lead to Blair being brought to court, it would be some bureaucrat instead the British establishment.
“My faith in the UK government’s capacity to undertake a fair trial is limited.”
AP: The words “lie” and “liar” were not used to describe Blair’s behaviour in the report but there are clearly occasions where he misled parliament and his own cabinet. Based on your research, is it fair to describe Blair as a liar?
AH: “I would think so. From my reading on the subject, he was presented with the evidence and chose to go with the dodgy and highly-contested evidence that supported the invasion. In that sense, I believe he consciously chose to mislead the parliament, public, and international community.
“The fact that the report doesn’t say that explicitly is one if its failings. I don’t think you need to be a genius or an expert in international law or British foreign policy to find ample evidence to back up that it was deception on a grand scale.”
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