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Netherlands inquiry finds Iraq invasion lacked legal mandate

[JURIST] The 2003 US-British invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law and was not supported by UN resolutions, according to a report [text, PDF, in Dutch; press release, PDF] released Tuesday by a Dutch parliamentary inquiry. The Dutch Parliament began an investigation into the Iraq War in March by establishing the Committee of Inquiry on Iraq [official website], chaired by former president of the Supreme Court of Netherlands WJM Davids [official profile]. According to the report, during the build-up to the war, newly-elected Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, being more concerned with domestic issues, played little or no role in the debates over the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion and left most of these decisions to then-minister of foreign affairs Jaap de Hoop Scheffer [official profiles]. The committee found that the wording of UN Security Council Resolution 1441 [text], offering Iraq a final opportunity for disarmament, "cannot reasonably be interpreted as authorizing individual member states to use military force to compel Iraq to comply with the Security Council's resolutions," and therefore did not constitute a mandate for the invasion. According to the committee, the government was too concerned with its alliance with the US and Britain and gave insufficient importance to information provided by intelligence agencies and weapons inspection reports, which gave little or no evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Balkenende has rejected [RNW report] the report's criticism.

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair [official profile; JURIST news archive] is also facing criticism over the legality of the Iraq War. According to a letter leaked to the British Iraq Inquiry [official website; BBC backgrounder], confirmed by the Daily Mail in November, former UK attorney general Peter Goldsmith [BBC profile] warned [JURIST report] Blair that the planned invasion of Iraq could be illegal. The July 2002 letter laid out the reasons that Goldsmith believed the Iraq invasion might be illegal, including that an invasion could not be based on "regime change" alone. The existence of this letter will increase the difficulty for Blair to use a good-faith defense against charges that he knowingly led the country into an illegal invasion. He and Goldsmith are likely to be witnesses for the inquiry in the near future.

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