Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair won’t be prosecuted for invading Iraq in 2003, a High Court in the U.K. ruled Monday, saying that the crime Blair is accused of committing doesn’t actually exist under English and Welsh law, and therefore he can’t be charged.
The ruling halts the case brought forward in 2016 by former chief of staff of the Iraqi Army, General Abdul Wahed Shannan Al Rabbat, who sought to prosecute Blair along with his former foreign secretary and attorney general. Rabbat accused the British leaders of “crimes of aggression” for their decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Monday’s decision comes more than 10 years after a previous ruling in the House of Lords determined that “crimes of aggression” did not exist in English law.
“Because of a decision by the House of Lords binding in this court, there is no crime of aggression under domestic UK law.”
The U.K. was part of the U.S.-led coalition under George W. Bush that invaded Iraq in 2003 on false claims that then President of Iraq Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found, and after hundreds of thousands of casualties, many of whom were Iraqi civilians, the U.S. and U.K. entirely withdrew from Iraq in 2011.
An extensive investigation into the U.K.’s role in the Iraq War published last July determined that the invasion was enacted based on “flawed information” and before peaceful options had been exhausted. The report also determined that despite Blair’s exaggerations, Saddam Hussein did not pose an imminent threat.
Blair apologized for the “mistakes” his government made leading up to the invasion, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN in 2015. But the former prime minister stopped short of apologizing for invading Iraq all together, saying he found it “hard to apologize for removing Saddam.”
In response to the ruling by the U.K.’s High Court Monday, General Rabbat’s lawyer, Imran Khan, said “Iraq has been left decimated and in a state of chronic instability. Despite all of this, and the clear findings of the Chilcot inquiry which laid bare the conduct of those that should be held to account, the high court has confirmed that there is to be no accountability. Those responsible are to remain unpunished. This is not justice.”