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Chilcot report: Iraq war families crowdfund legal costs

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Media captionSir John Chilcot's report into the Iraq war in 60 seconds

Families of some of the British troops killed in Iraq have launched a public crowdfunding appeal to pay for lawyers to potentially sue those responsible.

The Iraq War Families Campaign Group wants to raise £150,000 to fund legal work, including analysing the 12-volume Chilcot report on the Iraq war inquiry.

They hope to assess whether people who made mistakes, such as former PM Tony Blair, can be pursued in civil courts.

The report did not make any findings on whether individuals acted unlawfully.

However, it rejected the legal basis for UK military action, and said Mr Blair overstated the threat posed by then-President of Iraq Saddam Hussein and sent ill-prepared troops into battle.

There was no "imminent threat" from Saddam - and the intelligence case was "not justified", Sir John Chilcot, the ex-civil servant who chaired the inquiry, said.

The report highlighted a catalogue of errors in political and military decision-making, including:

  • UK military commanders made "over-optimistic assessments" of their capabilities which had led to "bad decisions"
  • There was "little time" to properly prepare three military brigades for deployment in Iraq. The risks were neither "properly identified nor fully exposed" to ministers, resulting in "equipment shortfalls"
  • Policy on the Iraq invasion was made on the basis of flawed intelligence assessments. It was not challenged, and should have been
  • Mr Blair overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq; and the UK's relationship with the US does not require unconditional support
Image copyright AP
Image caption Tony Blair was criticised in the Iraq War inquiry, but no judgement was made about whether his actions breached international law

Mr Blair has apologised for any mistakes made, but not the decision to go to war itself.

Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew was killed when his Snatch Land Rover was hit by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2005, is one of the group of 29 families involved in the campaign.

He said the group's determination to find answers has been redoubled by Sir John's "excoriating view of the establishment's tragic and error strewn display".

'Never again'

Mr Bacon said: "We must now ensure that every iota of the report is analysed in depth to determine whether there are potential civil legal cases. And we need the British public to help."

The families say they wish "to hold state officials to account to ensure such a tragedy, with such far-reaching and long-term consequences both for Britain and the world, never happens again".

Image caption Campaigners Roger Bacon (left) and Reg Keys, whose sons died in service in Iraq

It may be the only chance for a full legal analysis of the Chilcot report, the group say.

Matthew Jury, from the families' lawyers McCue and Partners, who have been working on the case pro-bono, said: "The report told us what went wrong and who was responsible but it was not a court of law.

"If they can, the families are determined to hold those individuals to account by bringing them to trial to answer for their actions."

"Not just for them or their loved ones, but to ensure that never again will our politicians act with such impunity in taking our country into an unjust war with such tragic consequences."

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Media captionTony Blair expressed sorrow, regret and apology

The campaigners say they hope to raise enough money to pay for preliminary legal work to build a case, before applying for legal aid to take the case for trial. The crowdfunding appeal is open to anyone, not just the British public.

The Chilcot report, which is 2.6 million words long and took seven years, looked at the UK's involvement in the 2003 Iraq War.

Contentious war

British troops were part of an international coalition, led by the US, which invaded Iraq, leading to the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein, who had ruled the country since the late 1970s.

The UK's participation was extremely contentious. A total of 179 British service personnel were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2009, when British troops left Iraqi soil.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians died over the period, though estimates vary considerably.

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