25 November 2009
On 24 November 2009, public hearings commenced at the Iraq Inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot. The purpose of the Inquiry is to examine the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish as accurately and reliably as possible what happened, and to identify lessons that can be learned. The Inquiry is considering the period from 2001 up to the end of July 2009.
Unlike The Baha Mousa Inquiry, which is also currently running, the Iraq Inquiry is not governed by statute, nor is it an inquest or a court of law. It is made up of a Committee of Privy Counsellors, who will not be making any determinations of innocence or guilt. However, Sir John Chilcot has stated that he will not shy away from making criticisms where they are warranted. A report of the Inquiry's findings is expected to be published towards the end of 2010.
The Committee is currently hearing evidence on UK foreign policy towards Iraq in the lead up to the war from fomer foreign office and intelligence officials.
Earlier this year, Committee members met families of British nationals and service personnel who had died in Iraq or are still missing, in order to hear their views about the issues which the Inquiry should address. Leigh Day & Co client, Kellie Merritt, flew over from her home in Australia to meet the Committee members.
Kellie Merritt lost her husband, Flt. Lt. Paul Pardoel, when the XV179 RAF Hercules Aircraft in which he was travelling came under fire, exploded and crashed near Hajlash, Iraq on 30 January 2005. At the inquest held into Paul’s death last year, the Coroner, David Masters, found that the failure to have fitted the aircraft with explosion suppressant foam was “a serious systemic failure and accordingly a contributory factor in the loss of the aircraft..”
Leigh Day & Co is acting for Kellie Merritt and the families of four other RAF servicemen who died in the crash in their claims against the Ministry of Defence (“MoD”), in which liability in negligence has been admitted.
Leigh Day & Co has also represented Debbie Allbutt, widow of Cpl. Stephen Allbutt, at the inquest into his death resulting from “friendly fire” in Iraq in March 2003. We also represent many Iraqis, formerly locally employed staff, and relatives of deceased staff, who state that they have been threatened, persecuted, kidnapped or killed by militia in Iraq as a result of their employment by the British forces.
Unsurprisingly, the main issues identified by the Committee during their discussions with the family members were:
- the overarching question of why and how the UK committed to military action in Iraq
- the adequacy of equipment
- the level of appropriate training
- the inquest/criminal investigation process; and
- government contact with, and support for, bereaved families, injured service personnel and kidnap victims.
Speaking from her home in Canberra, Australia, Kellie Merritt comments, “The Iraq Inquiry is political conscience in action; no other coalition country has demonstrated a commitment to learn lessons in the context of Iraq. It will, however, never bring back the hundreds of thousands killed in this bloody and chronically flawed war. The scrutiny of a plethora of documents will undoubtedly ultimately confirm what is now conventional wisdom that the war in Iraq should not have happened. But will there be space in the thorough scrutiny of political processes to consider the true human meaning and consequences of this devastating war? That will be the measure of its success.”
For further information about these matters, please contact partner Sapna Malik
, on + 44 20 7650 1222.
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