2 March 2004

Revealed: Attorney General changed his advice on legality of Iraq war

The [UK] Government continued to insist yesterday that it would not publish the Attorney General's full advice. But further court cases are pending in which lawyers are expected to mount a similar defence to Ms Gun's, and prosecution may be hampered if the advice remains secret.

Fourteen Greenpeace supporters face trial for a demonstration at a Southampton military base in February 2003, and five peace activists are charged with criminal damage at RAF Fairford. In all cases, the defence is expected to argue that, like Ms Gun, they were acting out of 'necessity', to prevent an illegal war.

A Labour peer today raised questions about the way in which the Attorney General came up with the advice he gave on the legality of war following reports it changed in the run-up to the conflict.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC said the 'vast majority' of lawyers thought the conflict without a second UN resolution would be unlawful.

She said in a GMTV interview: 'The vast majority of lawyers were of one view.

'It was interesting that out of probably only two lawyers who would have argued for the legality of going to war, one of those was the person to whom the Attorney General turned.'

She added: 'I think the lesson from this is that actually law matters. Before you make those commitments to your friend or ally you have to talk about law because it is not some side issue. It is the way we have tried to civilise the world and we must not forget that.

The Howard government also published a memorandom of advice that closely mirrored what we know of the British attorney-general's conclusions. In light of these developments, and the criticism of the memorandum in Australia, the UK opinion would make most interesting reading.

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