UK Law Lords reject bid for inquiry into legality of Iraq war

[JURIST] The judicial members of the House of Lords making up Britain's highest court on Wednesday denied a request [judgment] by two mothers of soldiers killed in Iraq for a public inquiry into the legality of UK's decision to go to war in Iraq [JURIST report]. The mothers had requested an inquiry into the decision to go to war based on the right to life guaranteed by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text]. Lord Bingham of Cornhill wrote:

It may be significant that article 2 has never been held to apply to the process of deciding on the lawfulness of a resort to arms, despite the number of occasions on which member states have made that decision over the past half century and despite the fact that such a decision almost inevitably exposes military personnel to the risk of fatalities. There are, I think, three main reasons for this:

(1) The lawfulness of military action has no immediate bearing on the risk of fatalities...

(2) The draftsmen of the European Convention cannot, in my opinion, have envisaged that it could provide a suitable framework or machinery for resolving questions about the resort to war...

(3) The obligation of member states under article 1 of the Convention is to secure "to everyone within their jurisdiction" the rights and freedoms in the Convention. Subject to limited exceptions and specific extensions, the application of the Convention is territorial: the rights and freedoms are ordinarily to be secured to those within the borders of the state and not outside.
The mothers were appealing a December 2005 lower court ruling [text; JURIST report] that they could not challenge the government's refusal to hold a public inquiry. In December 2006, the Court of Appeal upheld the lower court judgment [judgment text; JURIST report], ruling that the decision to establish an inquiry was one for the executive, not the courts.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has indicated that an inquiry will take place after British troops return from Iraq to the UK. AP has more.


 

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