IRAQ WAR ON TRIAL - BRISTOL | 01.07.2004 21:42 | Anti-militarism
The Fairford 5 trials have once more exploded onto the international stage, as the Foreign Office intervenes in the court proceedings against the 'Fairford 5' - who all attempted to disable U.S B52 Bombers stationed at Fairford (Gloucestershire, U.K) in the days leading up to the illegal bombing of Iraq during March 2003.
Related Link: http://www.fairfordpeacewatch.com/
July 1, 2004
Iraq War on Trial
“DON’T RULE ON IRAQ”
FOREIGN OFFICE SPOKESMAN WARNS COURT
A senior Foreign Office official issued a dramatic warning this week, about possible consequences of a British court ruling on the legality of the Iraq war.
In a tone best described as one of feverish consternation, Sir Michael Hastings Jay, Permanent Under- Secretary of State at the Foreign Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service, warned that any court ruling on the Iraq war critical of UK government policy could damage relations with other governments, destabilise the new administration in Iraq, give aid and comfort to terrorists, and put the lives of British citizens in danger.
Sir Michael’s four-page signed statement was handed to a hearing of the Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, ten minutes before the hearing was due to start.
In the event, Sir Michael’s statement was never cited in evidence, which is why it can be quoted here. But it offers an indication of the present British Establishment’s extreme touchiness where any possible court ruling relating to the Iraq war is concerned.
The hearing concerned the cases of the Fairford Five - a group of peace protesters charged with conspiracy and criminal damage for their actions at a Gloucestershire air base against the war on Iraq last year.
After a preparatory hearing in Bristol Crown Court in May, Mr. Justice Grigson ruled that the matter of the legality of the Iraq war was “non-justiciable,” and that the Fairford Five were not entitled to argue in their defence that they had acted to resist an unlawful war. Lawyers for the five peace activists argue that for their clients to have a fair trial, it will be necessary for them to speak of their “sincere belief” that the war was unlawful.
Sir Michael writes, “In the judgment of the Secretary of State and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and in my own opinion, it would be prejudicial to the national interest and to the conduct of the Government’s foreign policy if the English courts were to express opinions on questions of international law concerning the use of force by the United Kingdom and the United States which might differ from those expressed by the Government and advanced by it in the conduct of international relations.”
The situation “in and relating to” Iraq remains, in Sir Michael’s view, “one of the most sensitive in international relations at the present time.” Sir Michael believes that, “If the opinion of an English court, expressed in a formal judgment, differed from that of the Government, this would inevitably weaken the Government’s hand in its negotiations with other States.”
Allied governments “which have agreed with and supported the United Kingdom’s views on the legality of the use of force, could regard such a step as tending to undermine their own position.” Governments less friendly to UK policy on the war, “could seize upon such a judgment and use it to question the Government’s position in the course of diplomatic negotiations concerning Iraq and more widely.”
“Serious risks” could arise for the United Kingdom, Jay claims, from a court ruling on the war that went against the Government:
“It is likely that such a decision would provide encouragement to those in Iraq who are using violence to destabilise the situation, including insurgents, terrorists, former regime loyalists and those in Middle Eastern Countries who are supporting them. It would tend to undermine the new Iraqi Interim Government which took office on 29 June 2004. It would weaken the United Kingdom’s standing in Iraq, and could thus increase the
vulnerability of UK forces and personnel.
At the diplomatic level it would risk weakening the international consensus in support of the Iraqi Interim Government’s actions to increase stability, security and the protection of human rights in Iraq. In particular, it would undermine the consensus re-established within the Security Council, in which the international community has agreed to put past controversies behind it and to come together to assist Iraq [to] move forward.” [Italics added]
Sir Michael adds that, in his view, a ruling from the court critical of UK government policy on Iraq could “undermine the Government’s standing with Arab and Islamic countries, and could give comfort and encouragement to terrorist organisations.”
The UK’s “efforts to negotiate and secure effective measures against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction ( and in particular to prevent them becoming available to terrorist organisations) could be hampered” - also “the United Kingdom’s efforts to secure co-operation of States in measures against terrorists based in other countries, and measures to secure co-operation in the exchange of information vital to security matters.”
Meanwhile, the Fairford defendants continue to battle for their right to “mention the war.”
A ruling by the Court of Appeal is expected within the next few weeks.
More information: Related Link: http://www.fairfordpeacewatch.com/
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IRAQ WAR ON TRIAL - BRISTOL