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UK tribunal orders release of Cabinet minutes on Iraq war

[JURIST] The British Information Tribunal [official website] has ruled [decision, PDF] that the government must release redacted minutes of two Cabinet [official website] discussions from the months preceding the war in Iraq [JURIST news archive]. The discussions of March 13 and 17, 2003, centered on the legality [BBC report] of a possible Iraq war. The tribunal found that the public interest in keeping the minutes sealed did not outweigh the public interest in disclosure, as required by the country's Freedom of Information Act [text]. The majority cited the value of giving the public the chance to make up its mind about the effectiveness of the government's decision-making process in deciding to invade Iraq. The tribunal agreed to the redaction of the names of nations discussed in cases where disclosure would be likely to cause diplomatic difficulties. The tribunal stopped short of requiring the disclosure of informal notes from the meetings.

Britain's Freedom of Information Act took substantive effect [JURIST report] in January 2005, four years after its passage by Parliament. At the time, critics complained about broad exceptions that might prevent the release of highly sought-after documents, including many relating to the war in Iraq. In December 2005, a Freedom of Information Act request led to the release of files regarding Bad Nenndorf [JURIST report], a secret British prison camp in Germany after World War II.

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