Who are we and what are we trying to achieve?
We represent the Iraq War Families Campaign Group, campaigning for the families of the 179 servicemen and women killed in the Iraq War.
As has been widely reported, the Chilcot Inquiry recommended the government take concrete steps to avoid a repetition of the seemingly unavoidable slide into an unnecessary conflict that occurred around the second Iraq War.
We strongly supported these recommendations. We were optimistic government would consider and implement the steps necessary steps to protect the lives of service women and men across the country who are put in harm’s way during a time of conflict.
But according to an influential parliamentary committee, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), those recommendations have been ignored by the government.
“The committee is disappointed with the Government’s response given the clear evidence of the need for improvements to … Government decision-making.”
However, because the failures of decision making are matters of ‘high policy’ they can’t be challenged in the courts as you might expect. Through the PACAC, we need to apply pressure to parliament to legislate to ensure government is accountable.
So we need your support to force Parliament – the only body that is able – to force the government to implement the recommendations of the Chilcot inquiry. We have instructed our lawyers to lobby the relevant committee, government departments and if necessary to push for PACAC to reopen its inquiry or conduct a new one into the Government’s failings and the danger this poses.
Why does this legal activity matter?
We don’t want to see any other of our service men and women sent to fight and die unnecessarily and without just cause or purpose. We are taking action to force the government to introduce the recommendations and in particular to ensure they put in place safeguards to decision making that would stop another conflict like Iraq taking place.
But we also want to allow the English courts to adjudicate and impose a sanction or penalty on those state officials who have acted unlawfully or in breach of constitutional conventions. Why shouldn’t they be held to account by the courts when what they do results in harm or loss to UK citizens? Only Parliament has the power to pass laws giving the courts specific jurisdiction to hear cases of this kind, and that is what we will be asking our elective representatives to change.
How much we are raising and why?
We have already raised funds for previous legal actions and are very proud to have taken legal action to force the government to publish the Chilcot Inquiry – if we hadn’t done so, we would have still been waiting.
However, this is a distinct and urgent matter that has real implications across government and for our armed forces. We have to ensure the government follows through on the recommendations otherwise what was the point of having the inquiry in the first place?
We can do that by applying pressure to the government through the PACAC and the parliamentary process.
We will start by raising £5,000 to cover drafting and making submissions to the PACAC (both written and, if necessary, in person) calling for it to take further actions.
Legal Background to this action
This legal summary is based on preparatory work by our lawyers and provides more detail on the background of the action we are taking:
- Thanks to the fantastic support from people like you, we fought and won against the government to ensure the Chilcot report was published and we weren’t kept from the truth any longer. After that, we set about to find out whether any of the state officials involved could face trial. Sadly, recent decisions of the English courts closed off any possibility of this happening. Now, the only way to ensure such wrongdoing never happens again is through Parliament.
- A recent report from the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) criticised the government for failing to act on the Chilcot recommendations, namely introducing adequate measures to stop a repeat of the actions that led to the Second Iraq War.
- On 15 December 2017, Counsel’s final legal Opinion was published. Its conclusion was that the Iraq Inquiry identified specific breaches of constitutional conventions and failures of collective responsibility and intelligence assessments.
- However, following recent decisions of the higher courts, Counsel’s conclusion was that these are failures over which the courts do not have jurisdiction to adjudicate. The failures of state officials identified by the Iraq Inquiry are matters of high-policy; therefore, they are not justiciable by the English Courts. Parliament is the only body with power to take action over the government and/or introduce legislation to grant the courts the necessary powers instead.
- In publishing the Opinion, the Families hope was that it may not only serve to promote greater understanding of the Inquiry’s momentous examination of the failures of UK executive conduct, but also perhaps that the UK, as a country, may now seek to examine and challenge the fact that the decision whether to punish such breaches or our constitution by our Government, even those that result in the most dire and tragic consequences for the British people, is left solely to Parliament.
- On 10 January 2018, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) published its Report titled ‘Lessons still to be learned from the Chilcot Inquiry: Government’s Response to the Committee’s Tenth Report of Session 2016-2017’.
- The PACAC expressed its concern that, in light of the Inquiry’s criticism of how the UK was taken to war in Iraq in 2003, HMG had not done enough to strengthen decision-making, both within the Cabinet and in government in general.
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