Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Wednesday, 9 April 2008 14:15 UK

Lords reject Iraq inquiry appeal

Rose Gentle
Rose Gentle has had a long battle with the government over Iraq

Law Lords have rejected an attempt to force an inquiry into the Iraq war.

The mothers of two soldiers killed in Basra said Tony Blair's government had failed to ensure in advance that the 2003 invasion was lawful and justified.

Had ministers gained "reliable" legal advice the war might not have happened and the men might not have died, they argued in their appeal.

After the Lords' judgement, one of the mothers - Rose Gentle - told the BBC the legal fight was "now over".

The families of Trooper David Clarke and Fusilier Gordon Gentle were challenging a 2006 Court of Appeal ruling that the government was not obliged to hold an independent inquiry.

Goldsmith advice

Trooper Clarke, 19, from Littleworth, Staffordshire, died in March 2003 in a "friendly fire" incident in the west of Basra.

Fusilier Gentle, also 19, from Glasgow, died in Basra in June 2004 as a result of a roadside bomb attack.

At the centre of the families' argument was the demand for an explanation as to how 13 pages of "equivocal" advice from the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, was reduced within days to one page of completely unequivocal advice that an invasion would be legal.

Those who serve in the armed forces do this in the knowledge that they may be called upon to risk their lives in the defence of their country
Lord Hope of Craighead

They said the government, under the European Convention on Human Rights, had a duty to protect life, which extended to the lives of soldiers.

It was up to a state to gather reliable legal advice before committing troops to war.

The families said that, had the government done this ahead of invading Iraq, the war might have been prevented and the two soldiers might not have been killed.

But, in his judgement on their case, Lord Bingham of Cornhill said: "The lawfulness of military action has no bearing on the risk of fatalities."

He added that the European Convention could not "have envisaged that it could provide a suitable framework or machinery for resolving questions about the resort to war".

'Tragedies'

Lord Hope of Craighead said: "It is a hard thing for a court to say to the mothers of two young soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their country that it can do nothing for them in their campaign to have the circumstances that led up to these tragedies investigated.

"Had there been an issue which was capable of being reviewed by the courts - even arguably so - its duty would have been clear, and this application would have been successful."

He added that the European Convention did not provide "an absolute guarantee that nobody will be exposed by the state to situations where their life is in danger, whatever the circumstances.

It is simply adding insult to injury
Nick Clegg, Lib Dems

"Those who serve in the emergency services risk their lives on our behalf to protect the lives of others.

"Those who serve in the armed forces do this in the knowledge that they may be called upon to risk their lives in the defence of their country or its legitimate interests at home or overseas. "

Mrs Gentle, told the BBC her legal fight was "now over", adding it was still "up to the government" to explain its actions.

She said: "I wanted to know why my son was killed. I wanted to know why my son was sent into Iraq."

Mrs Gentle added: "The legal fight is over but there's a lot that can be done...

"My message to Tony Blair is why didn't he answer our questions so that the families wouldn't have had to have done this?"

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg called the ruling "extremely disappointing for the families". He added: "It is simply adding insult to injury after Gordon Brown recently promised to hold an inquiry, but just not yet.

"Whatever the prime minister or the Law Lords say, natural justice demands that a full public inquiry is held without further delay."


SEE ALSO
Soldier mother tells of PM offer
10 Nov 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Mothers lose Iraq inquiry battle
12 Dec 06 |  England

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