The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament today condemned the decision of Justice Secretary Jack Straw to veto the release of the minutes of the crucial Cabinet meetings of March 13th and 17th 2003, which considered the legality of the Iraq war, then in the final days of planning.
The Information Tribunal had agreed to uphold the order to release the documents on 27th January but this will now not occur.
CND had taken extensive legal steps to challenge the Government’s legal excuse for attacking Iraq, prior to the invasion. The Cabinet minutes may show that then-Attorney General Lord Goldsmith was initially in agreement with CND’s position, that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was not sufficient to make an attack on Iraq legal.
In December 2002, CND took the government to court to ask for an advisory opinion on the legality of using Resolution 1441 as a pretext for war. This was, comprehensively argued by Rabinder Singh, QC and Charlotte Kilroy, acting for CND. The three judges ruled that they could not give an opinion as they had no jurisdiction on this aspect of international law and that it may be ‘damaging to the public interest in the field of international relations, national security or defence.’
The same CND legal team also produced an opinion on the Attorney General’s use of Resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 to authorise the war , both on the eve of war and after it became clear that weapons of mass destruction were not being found in Iraq.
Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said, “This disgraceful decision is yet another attempt to suppress public debate on the biggest political scandal in decades. The use of the veto cannot be justified in any way – there is no risk to candid discussions in Cabinet as such minutes do not single out those making each point. The disgrace of the Attorney General ‘changing his mind’ on whether the war could be justified must be exposed in all its detail. We had hoped that, with the withdrawal of the last British troops expected in a matter of months, the government would have released these minutes in preparation for the full Inquiry into the Iraq war, long promised by Gordon Brown.”
She continued, “The illegality of the war on Iraq, and the crimes committed there, cannot be swept under the carpet. Six years does not erase the guilt of those responsible for breaking international law and bringing about the deaths of countless thousands of innocent civilians. This will be a running sore, not only in British politics, but in international relations, until the truth comes out and those guilty are put on trial in an international tribunal.”