Iraq war was illegal, British court told
23 minutes ago
LONDON (AFP) - British opponents of the Iraq (news - web sites) war arrested for breaking into military bases were denied justice because the conflict itself was illegal, a court case with potentially far-reaching implications was told.
A group of protestors convicted of aggravated trespass should not have been found guilty because they were simply trying to prevent an illegal war, their lawyer told the High Court in London.
The case is a potentially sensitive one for the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair (news - web sites), which always insisted the March 2003 war was justified under international law but has refused to release the legal arguments behind this.
Detailed debate about the legality of the US-led, British-backed conflict could be particularly embarrassing given that a general election is widely expected in early May.
In a case expected the last two days, the High Court was hearing three separate challenges by protesters who broke into three of military sites in the run-up to the war, a tank depot and two air bases.
Lawyer Maurice Mendelson, representing 14 members of environmental group Greenpeace who broke into a tank base in Southampton, southern England, in February 2003, said their convictions were flawed.
The trial judges had erred by ruling that the protesters' defence they were preventing a war crime under the International Criminal Courts Act (ICCA) was "non-justiciable" as it related to defence and foreign policy, Mendelson said.
"It is crystal clear that crimes under the ICCA are justiciable in the English courts, whether or not those crimes are committed pursuant to defence or foreign policy," he said.
It was up to prosecutors to actively prove that the military personnel at the bases targeted were not assisting with an illegal war, he said.