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Iraq war families raise funds for possible legal action against Blair

Relatives of British soldiers killed in Iraq are raising money to pay for investigation into whether case can be brought against former PM
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the 2016 Starkey Hearing Foundation "So the World May Hear" awards gala at the St Paul RiverCentre on 17 July 2016 in St Paul, Minnesota (AFP)

Families of British soldiers killed in the Iraq war have setup an online funding page to pay for potential legal action against former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Iraq War Families Campaign says it wants to raise £50,000 ($66,000) to “bring to justice those responsible for the war and the deaths of our loved ones”.

By Tuesday morning about £20,000 ($26,400) had been raised.

The campaign comes after the recent publication of the long-delayed Iraq Inquiry, which examined the buildup to the war and its aftermath and included strong condemnation of the decision by Blair's government to commit British troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

On the day the Iraq Inquiry report was published, Peter Brierly, whose son, Lance Corporal Shaun Brierly, was killed in Iraq in 2003, told Middle East Eye's Charles B Anthony that seeing Blair in a courtroom would be "the ultimate thing".

Once a court gave a verdict, he said, he could move on with his life, whatever the ruling.

"I’ve always looked forward to the day that I can go home from one of these meetings, I can sit down and put my feet up and say to my wife, 'Right, that’s it. I’ve done all I can do. It’s finished now'," he said.

The funding campaign is headed by Roger Bacon and Reg Keys whose sons were among 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq.

If the £50,000 is raised it will be used to pay for lawyers to analyse the 2.6 million words of the Iraq report, with a view to seeing whether legal action can be taken against those responsible for the war – including Blair.

Lawyers are already looking into whether a civil case can brought against Blair, after the International Criminal Court ruled out investigating the former prime minister for his role in the war.

Blair was criticised by John Chilcot, who chaired the inquiry, for taking Britain to war in Iraq on the basis of “flawed” intelligence and inadequate planning for the invasion’s aftermath. Chilcot also concluded that the war was launched at a time when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein did not pose an “imminent threat”.

A statement on the campaign fundraising page said: “The long-awaited Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot) Report has confirmed that there were serious failings in the lead-up to, planning and conduct of the War, which led to so many unnecessary deaths. Those responsible should be held to account. 

“Now it is down to us, the Families, to ensure that justice is done. Not only for the sake of our children, siblings, parents and spouses, whose lives we can never get back, but to deter our state officials from ever again abusing their positions with such tragic and far-reaching consequences.”

The Chilcot report said the legal case for war in Iraq was “far from satisfactory” but it did not rule on its legality as this was beyond its remit.

Lawyer Matthew Jury from McCue & Partners, who is working with the families, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: "The report told us what went wrong and who was responsible but it was not a court of law. If they can, the families are determined to hold those individuals to account by bringing them to trial to answer for their actions.

"Not just for them or their loved ones, but to ensure that never again will our politicians act with such impunity in taking our country into an unjust war with such tragic consequences.

"This is the families' and the British people's only chance for justice."