Law Lords reject soldiers’ mothers appeal

The government has avoided an immediate inquiry into the war of Iraq after the Law Lords rejected a final appeal from the mothers of two soldiers killed in Iraq.

Nine law lords ruled against the claim the UK government had failed to ensure going to war in 2003 was legally justifiable.

The two women’s sons both died aged 19 due to two separate ‘friendly fire’ incidents in 2003 and 2004.

Fusilier Gordon Campbell Gentle died on June 28th 2004 and Trooper David Jeffrey Clarke died on March 25th 2003.

Rose Gentle and Beverley Clarke said the decision to invade the Middle Eastern country went against the Human Convention on Human Rights, more specifically article two, which states that members have a duty to protect life.

“This duty extends to the lives of soldiers. Armed conflict exposes soldiers to the risk of death. Therefore a state should take timely steps to obtain reliable legal advice before committing its troops to armed conflict,” the mothers had claimed.

“Had the UK done this before invading Iraq in March 2003, it would arguably not have invaded. Had it not invaded, Fusilier Gentle and Trooper Clarke would not have been killed.”

More specifically, they claimed the government was wrong in its decision to base the legality of the war on an extant UN security council resolution dating back to the Gulf war.

In their ruling peers said article two of the convention had never been held to apply on deciding the lawfulness “of a resort to arms” and noted the legality of military action had no bearing on the risk of fatalities.

Explaining the decision, Lord Hope of Craighead said: “It is a hard thing for a court to say to the mothers of two young soldiers who lost their lives in the service of their country that it can do nothing for them in their campaign to have the circumstances that led up to these tragedies investigated.

“Had there been an issue which was capable of being reviewed by the courts – even arguably so – its duty would have been clear, and this application would have been successful. The problem lies in the nature of the issue which they wish to raise. It simply is not possible to link it to the only legal base on which the application is founded.”

Despite all nine law lords rejecting the appeal, one – Baroness Hale – expressed her reservations over the decision-making process behind the Iraq war.

Ms Gentle said afterwards that she was “bitterly disappointed” by the decision.

“I will never accept that Gordon did die for a just cause and I will never stop fighting for those responsible to be held to account,” she said.

The Liberal Democrats said the ruling would be “extremely disappointing” for the families involved.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “It is simply adding insult to injury after Gordon Brown recently promised to hold an inquiry, but just not yet.

“Whatever the prime minister or the Law Lords say, natural justice demands that a full public inquiry is held without further delay.”