Legal Implications for Officers Serving in an Illegal War?

Bits

War Hero
#1
Just seen this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4347220.stm

I know PTP has very strict rules on discussing forthcoming court cases, and I do not wish to discuss the case itself.

There are loads of us who have quietly harboured similar reservations about this war, and most of us have now reached the conclusion that what is done is done, and so the best we can do now is to make the best of it.

However, if he wins his case, are there not very serious implications for every other officer who has served in Iraq, since their actions could very well be considered illegal under international law? Are there not also very serious implications for the government?

Could someone with a better understanding of international law comment on what this case could mean for the rest of us?

This case could be one to watch, even if we cannot discuss the details of the case here.

[Edited to add working link to BBC, replacing Times link broken]
 
#2
Dear all,

Please, as Bits requests and as I direct, do not talk about the specifics of the upcoming CM. I'm not interested in seeing "White feather" type posts or bringing this man's reputation into disrepute either.

As Bits says, this could have "interesting" results. Please bear in mind , I don't want to pull the thread because people insist on talking about the impending case, as opposed to how the result could affect us all, not just the ruling classes.

Thanks

PTP
 
G

Goku

Guest
#3
Bits

That link isn’t working for me, any chance you could post the article as well?
 
#6
This will be interesting, can an RAF Officer refuse to obey an order if:

1. He knows it to be illegal.
2. He believes, or has grounds to believe, the order is illegal.
3. Anybody can reasonably expect him to believe the order is illegal.

And I've just been trawled!
 
#7
Can someone please tell who has declared this war illegal? What court of law has stated or declared this?

Also, just because the UN did not sanction a war does not make it illegal. If people believe this, then i suggest they point out chapter and verse where the UK and US have signed up to this.
 
#8
Do you watch the news or read newspapers? its been on for months about the legality of the war, some crazy folk are saying that you cant bomb someone back to the stoneage just because you dont like their leader. crazy I tells ya!!
 

Bits

War Hero
#9
Plastic Yank said:
Also, just because the UN did not sanction a war does not make it illegal.
I agree, but if, as you point out, if we have signed up to a treaty or convention, then failure to observe the terms of such could mean that our actions are illegal.

I wish I knew more about this. Surely someone out there must at least have completed some international law module at university or something?
 
#10
What would be my decision about legality of Iraqi war if I were a judge?

It was legal. Elected British parliament, legal British government made a decision. Was it right or wrong... no matter the decision was made using legal procedures.

As to international law then it has lower priority in comparison with national one. We can discuss question about illegality from point of view of international law but it is irrelevant in our case.
 
#11
About 25 years ago there was an excellent essay in British Army Review by some Greenjacket officer oentitled "In defence of Superior Orders". This explored the fundamental inconsistency between the soldiers duty to obey orders and their obigation, established at Nuernberg, not to obey ordewrs which they believe to be illegal.

At the time it was a rather academic argument. I suppose it may be about to be tested.
 
#12
KGB_resident said:
What would be my decision about legality of Iraqi war if I were a judge?

It was legal.
now I have only two points to make on your statement:

1. Youre not a judge

2. As youre not a judge trained in international law, how do you know whether its legal or not?

just wondering :wink:
 
#13
Foxie,

i know what is going on in the papers, and both sides have articles ad infintium on the legality or otherwise, but what i want to know, is what court of law decreed that the war was illegal?

last i check, Britain was a soverign nation and as such, is allowed to declare war on whom it likes!

An illegal war is one where the loser has lots of media coverage.
 
#15
Filbert Fox said:
KGB_resident said:
What would be my decision about legality of Iraqi war if I were a judge?

It was legal.
now I have only two points to make on your statement:

1. Youre not a judge

2. As youre not a judge trained in international law, how do you know whether its legal or not?

just wondering :wink:
I'm not a judge of course but as I know, any court looks only on national laws. Any country signing a conveniton, treaty has to implement them in national legal system. Way of implementation depends on national governments and(or) parliaments.

Any decision of a judge should be founded on national laws. If an international law was violated then a judge should find a national law that was violated. Without it his decision would be unlawfull.
 
#16
Britain and the USA signed up to the UN Charter, which, briefly, requires nations to give up the use of force to settle differences but does not abolish the sovereign right to self defence. And only a government can decide what is self defence.

As for duty, the Nuremberg principle was that it is the duty of all ranks to refuse to obey illegal orders. That means, for example, no murder of prisoners of war, even if the officer orders you to. That is an obvious example.

The legality of the war in Iraq is a more subtle problem. My personal view was that the legality of the war was dubious, but that there was a great deal of top cover available - they would have had to arrest Tony before they could come for me. I would have gone if mobilised but I would not have volunteered, even if work commitments had permitted it.
 
#17
Surely until tony and george have been in the dock and maybe banged up in a cell next to slobba it was infact a legal war, and as such this RAF Doctors actions are indeed wrong, in a military sense.

To my knowledge no actual judement by an appointed judge, national or international, has declared the war illegal in a court.

Also if this RAF guy has been before, then the tour he is objected to is Telic 4 onwards, which is surely not a war, but trying to get the country up and running again.

Surely it would be catastrophic to Iraq if we all just decided we wouldn't bother to turn up for a tour.
 
#18
chocolate_frog said:
Also if this RAF guy has been before, then the tour he is objected to is Telic 4 onwards, which is surely not a war, but trying to get the country up and running again.

Surely it would be catastrophic to Iraq if we all just decided we wouldn't bother to turn up for a tour.
Agreed, and I think most of us now concur that what is done is done, and best get on and fix it. At this stage the legality of the war does not, to the vast majority of us, impact upon the situation now, i.e. the need to help keep Iraq secure during the reconstruction of the government and infrastructure.

However, if it conspires at a later stage that the war was in fact illegal, my question is what does this pose for us. I agree with Vasco that we have a huge amount of top cover - Tony and co under arrest - but it doesn't de jure mean that there won't be any legal implications for the rest of us.

If, lets say, it can be proved that the information provided to Parliament - on which the democratic decision to go to war was based - was indeed falsified, then I would propose that it would be Tony and co who would end up in the dock, and not the rest of us. We, to the best of our knowledge, were following legitimate orders based on a decision of our government.

If, however, that parliamentary decision was illegal under international law, then whether or not we were following orders is immaterial, because the war was illegal and we are all, potentially and based upon our actions, war criminals.

Chew on that one. I certainly am, and I wish I'd thought deeply enough about it sooner.
 
#19
As to the legality - d'you recall the then CDS demanding a written assurance from the Attourney General as to the legality of the war? Some rather thin clothes to hold in front of ourselves perhaps. As to the morality - ah, now theres a bitter cup to sup on of an autumns eve......
 
#20
Plastic Yank said:
i know what is going on in the papers, and both sides have articles ad infintium on the legality or otherwise, but what i want to know, is what court of law decreed that the war was illegal?

last i check, Britain was a soverign nation and as such, is allowed to declare war on whom it likes!
Aha!

The answer is quite simple. Once HMG has completed the appropriate DOMESTIC requirements, the war becomes legal in so far as the UK law is concerned. So, there should be no comeback on that score from UK courts.

However, the problem lies in whether it is legal in INTERNATIONAL law. The UK has signed up to all sorts of international legislation, declarations and so on. One of the latests being the ICC. It has not been tested in an international court, so nobady can say for sure whether it was or was not legal in that respect.

But it's not just international law that you have to worry about, but also other countries' domestic law. Say country X declares the war in Iraq illegal and contravening some international statute. It could issue arrest warrents and indictments against certain individuals and forward them on to Interpol. Named individuals may be 'secure' in the UK, but could find themselves in trouble elsewhere.

There are three cases to note, which are good examples of what to look out for.

General Momir Talic was CGS VRS. In 1998, he was happily working alongside SFOR and the International Community. On a trip to Austria, on official business, he was arrested. He now resides at the Hague.

Don't forget the Pinochet case. Held in the UK based upon an extradition request from Spain (note: not Chile where the 'crimes' were committed, but Spain).

More recently (a couple of months back) an Israeli General was due to visit the UK, privately I think. UK police were waiting at Heathrow to arrest him based upon a warrent issued by a UK judge in a case brought in the UK for 'previous actions breaching the Geneva Convention.' Israeli embassy were tipped off, and got a message to him to remain on the aircraft and go straight back home!

The invasion and occupation of Iraq may well be 'legal' in UK law, but that don't help your average Tom if he gets picked-up in some foreign resort while he's on his hols, does it?
 

Latest Threads

Top