Anti-war campaigners have challenged British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg to act on his belief that the invasion of Iraq was illegal by making sure those responsible were tried for war crimes, including former PM Tony Blair.
Clegg, from the Liberal Democrats, shocked his pro-war Conservative Party coalition partners on July 21 when he declared the US-led invasion “illegal”. Clegg was standing in for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron for prime minister’s questions in parliament.
During heated exchanges with Labour’s shadow justice secretary Jack Straw, who was Tony Blair’s foreign secretary when the war began in 2003, Clegg said: “Perhaps one day you could account for your role in the most disastrous decision of all, which is the illegal invasion of Iraq.”
But Clegg was later forced to clarify his position by insisting that he was speaking in a personal capacity — even though he was filling in as PM for Cameron, who is on an official visit to the US.
Lawyer Philippe Sands warned that Clegg’s remarks made from the government’s dispatch box in the Commons would be “a statement that an international court would be interested in, in forming a view as to whether or not the war was lawful”.
Stop The War Coalition chairperson Andrew Murry said: “Nick Clegg has only said what is common knowledge in every living room across the land — that the Iraq war was illegal.
“The deputy PM should now use his authority to ensure that those responsible for this gross breach of international law, Tony Blair above all, are brought to justice.”
Rail union RMT leader Bob Crow added: “If Clegg wants to maintain any credibility he will have to commit the government to the earliest possible date for the withdrawal of our troops from the chaos of Afghanistan before more lives are needlessly lost.”
Clegg also admitted causing “confusion” over his claim that Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre was to be closed.
From the dispatch box on July 21, he told MPs: “We will deliver on our pledge to end child detention and to close the Yarl’s Wood detention centre for good.”
But the Home Office was forced to correct his remarks, swiftly pointing out that only the family unit at Yarl’s Wood would shut.
[Reprinted from the British Morning Star.]