Top law officer intervenes in bid to try Blair over Iraq war

The UK Attorney General is seeking to block a bid to prosecute Tony Blair over the Iraq war, according to reports.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright has intervened in a bid for a private prosecution against Tony Blair over the Iraq War

Tory MP Jeremy Wright QC, the Government’s top law officer, has formally asked to join hearings to oppose a private prosecution against the former prime minister.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General would not confirm whether Mr Wright would oppose the attempted prosecution, but said: “He is seeking to intervene in this case because it raises issues about the scope of criminal law.”

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A court ruled in November that Mr Blair has immunity from the attempt to bring a criminal charge against him and that pursuing a prosecution could “involve details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act”.

However, lawyers representing General Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat, the former chief of staff of the Iraqi army now living in exile, are seeking a hearing to overturn that decision, the Guardian reported. They believe they have an “80% chance of success” and claim that the judge who dismissed their claim “made glaring errors of law”.

The private prosecution in relation to the 2003 invasion of Iraq seeks the trial of Mr Blair, then foreign secretary Jack Straw, and the attorney general at the time, Lord Goldsmith. It is seeking their conviction under international law for the crime of “aggression” based on the findings of the Chilcot report into the war.

Alex Salmond has called for Mr Blair to be put on trial for war crimes and was part of a group of MPs pushing for the former Prime Minister to be formally censured by parliament over claims he misled MPs.

Imran Khan, the lawyer for Mr ar-Ribat, was quoted by the Guardian saying that his client “wants those responsible held to account and prosecuted using the full force of the law”.

Mr Khan, who previously represented the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, added: “[Mr ar-Ribat] is baffled as to why it is that despite the Chilcot report making it very clear that the war was illegal, attempts are now being made to prevent those responsible from entering a court, let alone being prosecuted for what they did.”

The newspaper said it had seen legal documents showing Mr Wright has formally asked to join future hearings and for the attempt to prosecute Blair and his top aides to be rejected.

The Attorney General claims the case is hopeless because the crime of aggression does not exist in English law. However, the 2003 memo written by Lord Goldsmith on the legality of the Iraq war stated: “Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law.”

The Attorney General’s spokeswoman said: “It is not unusual for the Attorney General to intervene in these sort of cases in order to represent the public interest.”