Legal staff ruled Blair's war illegal

Two former Whitehall lawyers to tell Chilcot of reservations on invasion

Tony Blair is to be presented with claims that his decision to topple Saddam Hussein by force was illegal before his appearance at the Iraq inquiry this week. Two senior Whitehall lawyers are expected to claim that the former prime minister's decision to send British troops to aid the US-led invasion was illegal as it did not have the clear backing of the United Nations.

Sir Michael Wood, the most senior lawyer at the Foreign Office before the war, will give evidence to the inquiry tomorrow. His deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned in 2003 in protest over military action, will also appear. It is thought they will suggest they believed military force was illegal without an explicit UN resolution giving approval for the invasion.

Britain and the US tried to secure such a resolution to put an end to the legal doubts, but failed to convince their UN partners. Ms Wilmshurst has never spoken publicly of events that led to her resignation; Sir Michael has never admitted advising the Government that the war would be illegal.

Crucial evidence will also be given by Mr Blair's chief legal adviser, Lord Goldsmith, who will give evidence on Wednesday. The inquiry has already heard that the former attorney-general appeared to give his decisive legal backing to the invasion only days before it was launched, after a further meeting with Mr Blair.

The inquiry team has also been shown documents from Lord Goldsmith that suggests he still had doubts about the legality of the invasion even after a resolution putting further pressure on Saddam was secured. Lord Goldsmith eventually told the cabinet that resolution 1441, signed in November 2002, did form the legal basis for the invasion in March 2003.

Witnesses have placed the responsibility for deciding on the war's legality squarely on Lord Goldsmith. Geoff Hoon, the former defence secretary, said last week that it would not have been "appropriate" for the cabinet to debate Lord Goldsmith's conclusion. "What he was saying was that this was lawful in his judgment, and I can't see how we could have had a sensible discussion going beyond that," he said. A debate on legality demanded by Clare Short, the former international development secretary, was refused.

Sir John Chilcot and his inquiry team have been accused of being deferential to witnesses and unwilling to push them on embarrassing questions. Some bereaved relatives claimed Mr Blair's appearance will be a "waste of time" because the questioning will not be tough enough. Samantha Roberts, whose husband Steve was killed in Iraq in 2003, said Mr Blair would probably "sail through unscathed". She added: "He will be so well-briefed, so well-prepared, and I don't think there's any sort of chance he will encounter problems."

Embarrassing associations with the Government have arisen during evidence sessions, leading to claims that the inquiry team is too wedded to the establishment to reach hard-hitting conclusions. Sir Lawrence Freedman even had to stop proceedings last year to reveal he had held a seminar before the war for Mr Blair on Iraq society. But the committee's more robust performance in grilling Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair's former communications director, impressed many critics.

Chilcot inquiry: Fireworks expected

25 January: Des Browne and John Hutton, former defence secretaries and loyal servants of Tony Blair. Gordon Brown may be more wary of their evidence if they suggest his cuts while at the Treasury contributed to current problems in Afghanistan.

Fireworks rating: 1/5

26 January: Sir Michael Wood, legal adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2001–6. If he suggests that he told the Government the war was not legal without a second resolution, it will further erode Mr Blair's legitimacy for backing the invasion.

Fireworks rating: 3/5

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 2001–3. Ms Wilmshurst resigned in protest at what she saw as a "crime of aggression". She may suggest that those around her shared her concerns. Fireworks rating: 4/5

27 January: Lord Goldsmith QC, Attorney General, 2001–7. Mr Blair's most senior legal adviser appears to have changed his mind over the legality of the war in the final days before the invasion. Any suggestion that he was leant on would be damaging for Mr Blair. Fireworks rating: 5/5

29 January: Tony Blair to give evidence. Mr Blair's adeptness during select committee appearances suggests he may leave unscathed. But he has tough questions to answer over his attitude to regime change and the language he used in the 2002 dossier on Iraq. Fireworks rating: 5/5

Suggested Topics
News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsAll just to promote a new casino
News
i100
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering