Evidence on the legality of the war

Following a disclosure by the Inquiry on 30 June 2010, most of the evidence relating to the internal government advice on the legality of the war has been published but that there remains some evidence that has not been published. This page includes evidence published by the Inquiry and evidence published or leaked previously.

Hearing transcripts and witness statements

 
Testimony of Lord Goldsmith, former attorney general

Testimony of Michael Wood, Foreign Office legal adviser

Statement of Michael Wood, Foreign Office legal adviser, January 2010

Statement of Michael Wood, Foreign Office legal adviser, March 2011

Testimony of David Brummell, legal secretary to the law officers

Statement of David Brummell, legal secretary to the law officers

Testimony of Elizabeth Wilmshurst Foreign Office deputy legal adviser

Statement of Elizabeth Wilmshurst Foreign Office deputy legal adviser

Testimony of Ian Macleod, Legal Counsellor to the UK Mission to the UN

Statement of Ian Macleod, Legal Counsellor to the UK Mission to the UN

Published evidence

 
To date a number of pieces of legal advice on the legality of UK involvement in the proposed invasion have been published and/or leaked.
 

2002 Evidence

March 2002 legal background paper In early 2002 legal advice from the Foreign Office made clear that a war whose primary objective was regime change would not be legal.

Michael Wood letter to PS 26 March 2002 re: Iraq

Letter from Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith QC to Rt Hon. Geoffrey Hoon – 28 March 2002

Letter from Rt Hon. Geoffrey Hoon to Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith QC – 14 April 2002

Downing Street memo The memo, a minute of a meeting on 23 July 2002, quotes attorney general Lord Goldsmith as saying “that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.”

Goldsmith note to Blair 30 July 2002

Extract about a meeting between Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith 23 September 2002, from note from PS/Straw to Michael Wood 24 September 2002

Note from Michael Wood to PS/Jack Straw 4 October 2002 re: FAC Iraq: International law

Note from PS/Jack Straw to Michael Wood 15 October 2002 re: Iraq

Memo from Michael Wood to PS/Jack Straw, 15 October 2002

Memo from Michael Wood to Edward Chaplin with handwritten note from Chaplin to PS/Jack Straw, 17 October 2002

Note made by attorney general’s office of Goldsmith telephone conversation with Straw 18 October 2002

Note made by Foreign Office of Goldsmith telephone conversation with Straw 18 October 2002

Note made by attorney general’s office of Goldsmith telephone conversation with Jonathan Powell on 11 November 2002

Note from Michael Wood to Catherine Adams, Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers 9 December 2002

Note of meeting at 10 Downing Street 19 December 2002
 

2003 Evidence

Goldsmith’s draft advice 14 January 2003

Note from Michael Wood to PS/Jack Straw 24 January 2003

Note from Jack Straw to Michael Wood 29 January 2003

Goldsmith note to Blair 30 January 2003

Letter from Goldsmith to Straw 3 February 2003

Letter from Jack Straw to Lord Goldsmith 6 February 2003

Goldsmith draft advice 12 February 2003

Letter from Jack Straw to Lord Goldsmith 20 February 2003 (replying to note from 3 February 2003)

Relevant extract from letter from Sir Kevin Tebbit to Sir Andrew Turnbull 5 March 2003

Attorney General’s (long) advice 7 March 2003.

Government explanation of events from 7-17 March 2003. In 2006, in response to a freedom of information request, the government also published a chronological account of the events that took place between the two pieces of advice, but not the documents on which the account was based. Documents published by the Inquiry, set out below, have now shown this account both to be incomplete and to included events that did not happen.

Rycroft letter re: PM meeting with DPM, Defence Secretary, AG and CDS on 11 March 2003 (with redaction)

13 March 2003 Goldsmith diary entry

13 March Brummell note of conversation with Goldsmith

14 March 2003 letter from Brummell to Hemming

Note of Goldsmith/Straw meeting on 13 March dated 17 March. At this meeting Goldsmith told Straw that he thought he may need to tell the Cabinet that “the legal issues were finely balanced” but Straw dissuaded him from doing so.

Attorney General’s revised (short) advice 17 March 2003 Advice from Goldsmith stating unequivocally that the war would be legal was published as a written parliamentary answer on 17 March 2003. This was supplemented by a memorandum of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the same date.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst early retirement request 18 March 2003

Missing evidence

 
If you have any of these documents, please let us know.

 

Intelligence briefings to Goldsmith

According to the Butler Review: “The Attorney General was briefed on relevant intelligence issues in September 2002 and February 2003.”

Submissions from international lawyers

 
In June 2010 the Inquiry issued an open invitation to international lawyers to give their analysis of the arguments relied upon by the UK Government as the legal basis for the military intervention in Iraq. An extended deadline expired on 13 September but the Inquiry did not publish the submissions, despite having reserved the right to do so. A number of the submissions were subsequently put online by the Guardian and the Digest.

Submission from Philippe Sands QC

Submission from Dapo Akande, Marko Milanovic and others

Submission from Ralph Zacklin

Submission from Colin Warbrick

Submission from Alexander Orakhelashvili

Submission from Solicitors’ International Human Rights Group

Submission from Melinda Janki

Submission by Lionel Blackman

Submission by Nigel D White
 
Back to the Evidence
 

3 comments to this article

  1. chris lamb

    on February 16, 2010 at 8:41 pm -

    I am greatly impressed by the formidable analyses of Sir Michael Wood of the legal issues underpinning SCR1441. Also, bythe way he takes apart the US “revival” or automaticity argument. It really does make Goldsmith look a rank amateur in the subject of public international law.

    Wood’s “Note on 1441, 9 December 2002” is infinitely superior to Goldsmith’s 07 March “equivocal advice”. (Indeed, Goldsmith’s 07 March advice unattributed lifts whole chunks from Wood’s Note).

    In reading March Brummel’s Note about Goldsmith’s conversion to the “revival” argument, what becomes only too evident is the more Goldsmith refers the “revival” case becoming totally “clear” to him the less evidence- if any- he offers to prove its veracity to us.

    The question is also raised that Goldsmith failed to maintain the dividing line between pushing or advocating the case for military force- the domain of the political- and impartially providing comprehensive and independent legal advice (which he should have done as a Law Officer).

    This is a serious drawback of having the Attorney General- the chief Law Officer- as a Government minister.

    I hope that the Chilcot Inquiry reads Sir Michael Wood’s documents very carefully as a refreshing antidote to the dogmas of Goldsmith, Blair and Straw.

  2. John Bone

    on February 17, 2010 at 9:47 am -

    We have learnt quite a bit from the witnesses to the Chilcot Inquiry. We now know, for example, that Peter Goldsmith thought, right up to January 2003, that a second resolution was required. Part of his justification for changing his mind was that he hadn’t been in the loop with UNSCR 1441 at the time of its negotiation. I am far from convinced about this. Is it likely that the AG was not kept in the loop during negotiations for a UNSCR that might lead to war?

    It also appears to me that the public, and Parliament, were not informed at the time of its negotiation that UNSCR 1441 included automaticity. The Government was beating the war drums in late 2002 but on the basis of the assertion that Iraq definitely had WMD, the inspections would find them so another resolution to permit an invasion would be achieved; nothing was said about UNSCR 1441 already authorising an invasion. I get the impression that the discovery of automaticity in UNSCR 1441 came about in February 2003 when Blair realised that getting a second resolution was going to be difficult and when the weapons’ inspections began to suggest that there was little to discover in Iraq; or maybe when other sources of information began pointing to an absence of WMD in Iraq.