Monday, July 11, 2016

Holding Blair accountable for his crimes

Last week, the Chilcot report was released, with an official finding that Blair lied to get the UK Parliament to back an American war of aggression against Iraq. Foot-dragging by the UK means he will never face prosecution before the ICC for that crime (though there is still the hope of a special UN tribunal). But there is a way the UK Parliament can hold him accountable for his crimes against them: by finding him in contempt:

A cross-party alliance of MPs is pushing for Tony Blair to be declared guilty of “contempt” towards Parliament over the Iraq War – as calls for legal action against the former Prime Minister grow. A parliamentary motion, being tabled this week subject to approval by the Speaker, will declare that Mr Blair used “deceit” in the run-up to the invasion. Its proponents say it could see him barred from public office and stripped of his privy council position.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today signalled his backing for the motion, urging MPs to examine evidence suggesting that Mr Blair had misled Parliament over the invasion. The parliamentary device, to be formally proposed by outspoken Conservative MP David Davis, has attracted the backing of MPs from Labour, the Tories, Scottish National Party, Green Party and Plaid Cymru.

A formal finding that he misled parliament isn't much. But its some justice, and that's better than no justice at all.

It does however raise interesting constitutional questions about whether Parliament has the power to discipline a former member for grave crimes committed while in office. In New Zealand, I think there would be no chance of doing this - allegations of misleading the House must be raised at the earliest opportunity, and I don't really think the allegation here is new (though the formal finding of its truth is). But the UK does things differently, and this path might be open to them.