05 August, 2012

Attorney-General vetoes Information Commisioner' decision

The Attorney-General - Mr Dominic Grieve QC MP - has used a power in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 section 53 to veto a decision notice of the Information Commissioner.  The decision notice related to extracts from minutes of two Cabinet meetings held on 13th and 17th March 2003 in the run up to the Iraq war.  The advice of the Attroney-General as to the legality of the war was considered and discussed at those meetings.
The Information Commissioner issued a statement on 31st July expressing disappointment at the Attorney-General's decision. The Decision Notice of the Commissioner is accessible via this statement.  (The case Reference is FS50417514 - 4th July 2012).

I am totally unsurprised by the Attorney-General's decision.
  Mr Jack Straw MP made a similar decision on 23rd February 2009.  All of this seemingly endless quest for information is basically about people trying to establish what they see as the illegality of the military action of 2003 and of the UK's involvement in it.  On that particular question, I have no doubt.  My view is that it was illegal under international law as the law stood at the time.  The arguments of the Attorney-General of the day (Lord Goldsmith QC) never seemed to be convincing and appear to be constructed in a way which gave the government of the day a legal fig-leaf to justify their actions.  I intend to set out the arguments, as I see them, both "pro" and "con" in a post in the near future.  The problem though is that, other than perhaps the International Court of Justice, there is no body which is able to make a definitive legal decision on the legality of attacking Iraq in 2003.  The Chilcot Inquiry is not a court of law even though it intends to eventually publish views about the legality though its report has been delayed and may not see light of day until 2014.

The reader may wish to see part of an interview given by the late Lord Bingham of Cornhill where his Lordship expressed his view that the Iraq War was illegal.  (Lord Bingham - 1933 to 2010 - was the holder of the offices of Master of the Rolls, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and Lord of Appeal in Ordinary).  Lord Bingham of Cornhill (1933-2010) expressed this view at the annual Grotius Lecture delivered at Lincoln's Inn on 17th November 2008.


Addendum 6th August:

The Daily Mail published - "Release the Cabinet Iraq War minutes to show 'there was no meaningful discussion at all' says Clare Short."  Ms Short was a Minister in the Labour government from 1997 to 2003.  After the decision to go to war in Iraq it was clear that she wrestled with her conscience but, in March 2003, opted to remain in the government.  However, she eventually resigned in May 2003.  A summary of Short's political career is here

2003 Invasion of Iraq


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