Lawyers acting on behalf of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Peacerights last night wrote to Sir John Chilcot reiterating their demand for assurances over the scope of the Inquiry. They also raised fresh concerns about Government departments being allowed to define what information is to be kept secret. Public Interest Lawyers have reiterated demands made in writing last month and as yet unresponded to regarding the Inquiry’s investigation into the legality of the war, the commission of war crimes and the democratic deficit in the lead up to the invasion. In late 2002 the same legal team, acting for CND, took the Government to court to challenge the legality of the planned war and has previously considered a legal challenge to force greater openness on the current Inquiry.

The latest letter to Sir John notes that the disclosure protocol issued by the Inquiry gives Government departments the final say regarding publication of any information they deem sensitive or injurious to the public interest. The legal team question whether Sir John will be prepared to revisit this protocol in the event that unjustifiably broad redactions and/or non disclosure is sought by the Government and whether he is prepared to give an assurance that all such instances of non disclosure will be noted in his final report.

Kate Hudson, Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: “The opening of the Inquiry today presents a real opportunity for us to finally gain an understanding of how the disastrous and illegal decision to go to war was taken. But CND also has serious concerns over the ability of government departments to adequately police their own disclosure of sensitive documents – vital to allowing the public a comprehensive insight into the process. The Inquiry must not be jeopardised by Government reticence to publicly identify and allocate responsibility and criminal liability. The war and occupation of Iraq have been hugely divisive in British public life and only a full and open investigation can finally lay these issues to rest and help restore public confidence in the morality and judgement of our politicians. The tragic loss of life in Iraq, as a result of Government action, is a permanent stain on the reputation of our country.”

“We will continue to push for full openness in the Inquiry, pursuing this through all means possible. The British public, the families of those who have lost their lives – here and in Iraq – and those who have been injured in this illegal war, deserve no less.”

CND has a strong record in this area. Prior to the invasion, CND took extensive legal steps to challenge the government’s excuse for attacking Iraq. In December 2002, it took the government to court to ask for an advisory opinion on the legality of using UNSC Resolution 1441 as a pretext for war. This was argued by Rabinder Singh QC and Charlotte Kilroy acting for CND . 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 the war and after it became clear that weapons of mass destruction were not being found in Iraq. Consistent government refusal to agree to a Public Inquiry and Jack Straw’s veto of the release of the crucial Cabinet meetings of March 13th and 17th 2003, suggest that the government knew it was breaking international law in attacking Iraq and went ahead anyway.

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For further information and interviews please contact  Ben Soffa, CND’s Press Officer, on 0207 7002350 or 07968 420859

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe’s biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere.