Bereaved mother told inquiry bid 'has no legal basis'

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The Independent Online

The families of five servicemen killed in Iraq have failed in their attempt to challenge the Government's decision to take Britain to war. They had been pressing for a full public inquiry into the legality of the invasion of Iraq, a move that has been repeatedly rejected by the Government.

The families believe that Tony Blair, who said there was no need to go "back over this ground again and again", should be made publicly accountable for Britain's part in the war. But the High Court yesterday rejected their argument, ruling that they did not have a reasonable basis for pursuing their case.

The campaign for the inquiry has been led by Rose Gentle, from Glasgow, whose 19-year-old son Gordon, of the Royal Highland Fusiliers, was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004.

She has said: "All I want is for the Prime Minister to tell the truth about the war."

The families argued in court that the only way to establish the full background to war was through an independent public inquiry. They maintain that the European Convention on Human Rights requires the Government to conduct a proper, adequate investigation when lives are lost.

They say that this obligation is only waived if the war can be demonstrated to have been lawful, and that an inquiry is therefore essential to determine its legality. But Mr Justice Collins upheld the Government's argument that the families had not made "an arguable case", although he gave them leave to appeal against his ruling.

He said: "The only purpose of the inquiry which is sought would be to seek to know whether or not the invasion of Iraq was contrary to international law. The only purpose would be to try to make a political point, or show that the Prime Minister did not tell the truth."

He added: "This is not a proper reason for an inquiry into whether a member of the armed forces has been killed in circumstances such as this."

Lindsey German, spokeswoman for the Stop The War coalition, said she was very disappointed with the decision.

"We feel it is overwhelmingly in the public interest for a full inquiry to be heard," she said.

"We think this is a disservice to the dead soldiers, their families and the people of Britain overall, who really should expect better from the Government in the matter of taking them into illegal and unnecessary wars."

Peter Brierley, whose son L/Cpl Shaun Brierley died in a traffic accident in Iraq, said: "I had always believed that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq. I could not believe anyone, particularly our Government, would put anyone's lives at risk for a lie."

A total of 98 service personnel have died as a result of the war in Iraq and its aftermath.