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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Danish PM faces Iraq war lawsuit
By Julian Isherwood
BBC News, Copenhagen

Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Rasmussen has been accused of misleading the public over the war
An unusual constitutional battle is about to get underway in Denmark.

After two years of preparation, a group of 24 citizens have brought a suit against the Danish prime minister over Denmark's role in the Iraq war.

The plaintiffs are seeking to challenge the legitimacy of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's decision to go to war against Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Denmark was one of the original members of the US-led coalition which invaded Iraq in 2003.

False weapons claims

The group say it is vital that the Danish courts are given a chance to decide on the legitimacy or otherwise of the Danish government's decision.

They contend that the prime minister breached the constitution on two counts, taking the country to war without a United Nations Security Council resolution, and devolving sovereignty over Danish troops to a foreign power without the necessary constitutional authority.

Although Denmark's contingent is small, currently some 500 men, Mr Rasmussen has been the target of widespread criticism and claims of misleading the population on the issue of the Iraqi threat and claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

Although the Danish parliament overwhelmingly supported the government motion to go to war in 2003, the suit claims that under the constitution, it had no right to do so.

Lengthy debate

It says that under the constitution, Denmark is only allowed to go to war if the country is directly threatened or if there is a UN mandate to commence hostilities and that Danish troops are placed under UN command.

According to the suit, none of these prerequisites were fulfilled.

As a case of constitutional principle, the suit is likely to take at least five years to go through the courts as both parties are likely to exhaust all appeals available with the case ending up in the high court.

Initially the first court of complaint will have to decide on whether the group of 24 is eligible to bring the case at all as an interested party.

That in itself is likely to take at least two years.

Country profile: Denmark
24 Apr 05 |  Country profiles

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