Lester QC vs Goldsmith QC: Lib Dem peer says “He didn’t give the correct legal view”

Channel 4 News asked top lawyer and Lib Dem peer Lord Lester for his view on former Labour attorney general Lord Goldsmith’s evidence to the Chilcot inquiry into the war against Iraq. You can see the eight-minute video below, together with C4’s news report:

Lord Lester QC, a leading human rights lawyer and expert in international law, believes Lord Goldsmith failed in his responsibilities on Iraq. “He didn’t give the correct legal view,” says the Lib Dem peer.

As Britain went to war in March 2003, 16 out of 17 international law experts disagreed with Lord Goldsmith’s decision. “The case is completely overwhelming that Lord Goldsmith’s final view was contrary to international law.” …

Lord Lester describes Lord Goldsmith’s decision to miss the Lords debate on the legality of the war on 17 March 2003 as “devious and sneaky”. As Lord Lester explains, Goldsmith “was reluctant to allow parliament to question him because the answers would have been devastating. It meant the government was not called into account on the eve of the war.”

After the invasion of Iraq, Lord Lester battled to find out the date on which the government first sought and obtained legal advice. The information was so sensitive he had to use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain it.

“It became apparent the legality of war was discussed when Tony Blair had gone to see President Bush, at a very early stage, in April 2002. The decision was in everyone’s minds long before most people thought it was.”

Lord Lester has watched the Chilcot inquiry closely but is frustrated there are no lawyers on the panel. “Although they are doing a fine job in asking questions, the inquiry lacks the kind of punch and direction that a skilled counsel for the tribunal would of had. I can’t understand why they never did that.” …

What happened before Britain went to war was a “scandal” according to Lord lester. Parliament was misled about the Attorney General’s true advice, and the cabinet was not presented his full opinions.

“It was deplorable, as a matter of proper government, that neither parliament nor government was properly informed.” Lord Lester continues, “The attorney General had the difficult decision: should he resign or should he he not? His conscience will live with him forever.”

You can read the report here.

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7 Comments

  • It is clear from Lord Goldsmith’s own account that he took his orders, not from Lord Falconer or Alastair Campbell, or even Tony Blair, but from the main man himself – (Vice-)President Dick Cheney. One wonders if the order to murder Dr David Kelly came from the same source. I fear that the only way we are going to get answers is by putting Blair in the dock in The Hague.

  • “I can’t understand why they never did that.”

    I’m pretty certain someone as intelligent as Lord Lester can work out EXACTLY why they never did that!

  • Why have the Liberal Democrats not launched some form of attempt to prosecute Blair et al for their crimes?

  • Could we not attempt to bring a private prosecution?

  • For what though? I don’t see what offence under UK law is committed by undertaking a war which has been backed by Parliament.

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