A group representing the families of British troops killed during the Iraq War has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help bring a civil case against government officials for their role in the conflict.
The website for the crowdfunding effort names former prime minister Tony Blair specifically, though it adds that it hopes to bring legal proceedings against "any state officials who might have acted unlawfully or in excess of their powers."
The campaign had raised 40,571 pounds ($53,000) at the time of writing, less than 24 hours after the fundraising page on the Crowd Justice website was launched. A total of 150,000 pounds is being raised in three 50,000 pound increments.
The campaign is being led by Roger Bacon and Reg Keys, fathers of two soldiers killed in the war. The two men say they are representing the Iraq War Families Campaign group, which campaigns for the families of the 179 British service members killed in the conflict.
The move toward a civil case against Blair and other government officials for their role in the Iraq War was kick-started by the release of the long-awaited Chilcot inquiry report on the war. The government-commissioned inquiry took seven years and resulted in a 2.6-million-word report, offering a remarkably comprehensive view of Britain's decision-making in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Blair came under renewed scrutiny after the release of the Chilcot inquiry. The report included evidence suggesting that he had misrepresented intelligence ahead of the war. In one memo from July 2002 before the war, Blair writes to President George W. Bush that “I will be with you, whatever” — which many took as implying that he would support the war, no matter the opposition.
At a news conference after the report was released, Blair said that he was sorry for what had happened but that he could not apologize for the removal of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. “I did it because I thought it was right,” the former British leader said.
The Chilcot inquiry had stopped short of offering a view about whether the war was illegal, though it noted that the legal justification for British military involvement in Iraq was found to be "far from satisfactory." Numerous legal experts have noted that calls to put Blair on trial at the International Criminal Court are likely to fail: The ICC doesn't have the ability to investigate or prosecute the crime of aggression.
Others, including former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, have suggested that Britain's Parliament could use an obscure "impeachment" law to have Blair face a trial within the legislative body. However, the law has not been used since 1806, and it is unclear how it could work in the modern day.
Many consider a civil suit the most likely course of legal action against Blair and other British leaders involved in the decision-making over the Iraq War. Retired Gen. Michael Rose, a former military leader representing some families, has previously said that they would move to sue Blair if it was revealed that intelligence was "negligently handled."
The note on the fundraising site for the Iraq War Families Campaign says that the money raised will be used to pay the legal firm McCue & Partners to conduct a "full and forensic legal analysis" of the Chilcot inquiry and prepare a comprehensive legal opinion. The Telegraph reports that the hope is to build a civil case of misfeasance in public office against Blair or other British officials.
"It’s down to us — and we hope you will help — to seek justice where there has been none," a statement from the group says. "We want to fight on for the memory of our loved ones. We want to say that we as families are not powerless — we can stand up to those who behaved so unconscionably in sending them to war for no just cause or reason."
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