Iraq war inquiry delays anger victims’ relatives
London - Impatience with delays in the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war and demands for even a date when the report might be released mounted after lawyers representing families of Britons killed in the conflict and its bloody aftermath threatened legal action.
A lawyer, representing 27 families, gave inquiry officials until the end of August to announce a publication date in 2015 or they would take the issue to London’s high court.
“There have been outrageous delays to date and it seems as though those delays would simply be interminable. The families are not content to simply wait forever for the inquiry to give a publication date and if [Sir John] Chilcot does not impose a timetable… they will be seeking judicial redress,” Matthew Jury, the lawyer representing the families, said in comments to BBC radio.
Launched June 15th, 2009, and led by Chilcot, a former senior civil servant, the inquiry aims to identify lessons that can be learnt from the Iraq conflict. More than six years later and having spent more than $15 million, there is no end in sight, largely due to a process known as “Maxwellisation”, which involves notifying individuals who face criticism and giving them an opportunity to rebut the findings of the report before it is published.
While many responses have been received and incorporated into the report, others remain in limbo. “It is now essential that the remaining responses are received so that the process can be completed,” Chilcot wrote to British Prime Minister David Cameron on June 15th.
“[We] intend to complete our tasks as quickly as possible in accordance with the processes necessary to ensure we deliver a report which will do justice to the gravity of the issues we have been examining,” Chilcot added, without specifying a time frame for the report’s publication.
Responding to Chilcot’s letter, Cameron wrote that he was “disappointed” by the delays, adding that both the British public and government were “fast losing patience”.
The British prime minister said he was “immensely frustrated” by the delays in the report’s publication, calling on Chilcot to “get on with it”.
“As soon as ‘Maxwellisation’ is completed, I expect to receive an update from you on the timescale for the urgent completion of your inquiry,” Cameron said.
The “Maxwellisation” process, named after a case involving media magnate Robert Maxwell, has come in for criticism, particularly given that it is not required by law. The inquiry has received testimony from about 150 individuals, including approximately 30 ministers, officials and military officers, such as former prime minister Tony Blair and former foreign secretary Jack Straw, among others. Chilcot has refused to reveal how many have been given the opportunity to rebut the findings of the report. Both Blair and Straw have strongly denied being the reason for the delay.
A number of other senior British political figures have called for the Chilcot inquiry to publish its report sooner rather than later. Labour leadership contender and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper asked parliament to pass a motion demanding the publication of the report before the end of the year.
“What Sir John (Chilcot) doesn’t understand is the strength of feeling among the bereaved. We want closure on this. It has to be done fair. It has to be done right but he’s had time enough now,” said Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in Iraq in 2003.
The Iraq inquiry looks at the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath.