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ICC will not put Tony Blair on trial for war crimes: Report

The International Criminal Court said that it is beyond its remit to investigation the decision taken by Tony Blair to go to war in Iraq in 2003
British former prime minister Tony Blair arrives to attend a national service of thanksgiving for the 90th birthday of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral in London (AFP)

International Criminal Court prosecutors have told a British newspaper that Tony Blair will not be put on trial for war crimes over his involvement in the 2003 Iraq war.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday that the ICC had told them in an official statement that British soldiers will be investigated for alleged abuses in Iraq – but that the decision to go to war is beyond its remit.

“As already indicated by the Office in 2006, the 'decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the Court’s jurisdiction’,” the ICC said in the statement.

The statement was given ahead of the long-awaited publication of Sir John Chilcot’s investigation into Britain’s war in Iraq, which will be released on Wednesday, and is expected to include strong criticism of former Prime Minister Blair.

The ICC said that while Blair will not be investigated, they are looking through the 2.3 million word Chilcot Report for evidence of alleged abuses by British troops during the Iraq war.

“We will take note of the Chilcot report when released in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination work concerning Iraq/UK,” the ICC statement said. “A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process aimed at determining whether reasonable basis exist to open an investigation.

Families of British soldiers killed in Iraq reacted with anger to news Blair will not be investigated for his role in taking the country to war in 2003 – a decision which critics have repeatedly said was illegal, due to the lack of a UN resolution backing military action.

Roger Bacon, whose son Matt was killed by a roadside bomb in 2005, told the Telegraph: “It is outrageous. It is double standards. These soldiers have gone out to do their best for us and here they are being hounded and yet the guy who took them there is not being looked at. That is completely wrong and disgusting.”

“It is bad enough the ICC are examining these allegations of abuse in the first place but to use the Chilcot report to further their investigation does not seem right at all particularly if they are not going to look at Blair,” he said.

The Chilcot Report is expected to conclude the Blair misled Britain over the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was the key piece of evidence used to justify the invasion to depose the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

While the ICC has ruled out a war crimes investigation against Blair families of those killed in Iraq may still bring legal action against the former prime minister – and it may lead to significant compensation being awarded to the families.

Matthew Jury, managing partner of McCue & Partners, who represents families of British soldiers killed in Iraq, told the Telegraph: “Only after a full and unhurried examination of the reports contents and conclusions, will the families decide what further steps should be taken.  However, if it is determined that government officials have acted unlawfully, the families will consider taking whatever action is appropriate and necessary.”