History > 2009 > UK > War > Iraq (I)
as body of last British hostage
set for release
freedom is key to handover
• McMenemy's father angry at 'lies'
• Moore well treated in final months
Martin Chulov, Robert Booth and Julian Borger
Article history: none
some of the five British hostages kidnapped in Iraq have attacked the UK
government's handling of the crisis, claiming they were lied to by officials
during their two-and-a-half-year ordeal.
Dennis McMenemy, the father of Alan – whose body has still not been returned –
accused the Foreign Office of "deceit, lies and cover-up" over the kidnappers'
links to Iran, while Peter Moore's natural mother, Avril Sweeney, said the
government had "never told the truth".
Iraq government officials today told the Guardian that McMenemy's body was
likely to be handed over once a Shia cleric, Qais al-Khazali, whose transfer to
Iraqi custody was the key to the release of Moore, is freed.
The delivery of McMenemy's remains will bring to an end the longest hostage
ordeal involving British nationals anywhere for more than 20 years.
McMenemy's father complained that he had not had any contact from the Foreign
Office since he learned that Moore was to be released today, despite making
several calls. He is still hoping that his son is alive, although the foreign
secretary, David Miliband, has said the evidence suggests that Alan McMenemy has
The Foreign Office said tonight it returned Dennis McMenemy's calls today.
McMenemy is angry that the Foreign Office never mentioned the kidnappers' links
to Iran, even though the possibility was much discussed by hostages' families.
Sweeney, for her part, dismissed Miliband's assertion that there had been no
deal to secure Moore's release.
Moore was at the British embassy in Baghdad today and was said by family members
to be in good spirits and healthy. He was quoted as saying he had suffered
"rough treatment" during his captivity, but had been treated better in the last
six months, even being allowed access to a television and PlayStation.
Foreign Office sources said he was preparing to fly back to Britain, where he
will be placed in a safe house for around 10 days and given "gold star service"
from doctors and psychiatrists. The priority is to reunite him with his family
as soon as possible, the source said.
The developments follow the Guardian's revelation that Iran's Revolutionary
Guard led the operation to capture Moore, a British IT consultant, and his four
British bodyguards, from Iraq's finance ministry in 2007. According to Iranian
and Iraqi sources, the hostages were held inside Iran. The former US commander
in Iraq, General David Petraeus, told the BBC he was "90% certain" that the
Britons had been held in Iran.
The Foreign Office insisted it had seen "no evidence" to back up claims that
Iran was directly involved in the kidnap of five Britons and the murder of four
of them. However, a former intelligence chief at the Iraqi ministry of defence
described to the Guardian yesterday how the kidnappers made sure that the
hostages would think they were in Iraq by ensuring that those who took care of
them were Iraqis.
An Iranian source with knowledge of the kidnapping also said: "At all times they
were surrounded by Iraqi voices. Everything was done to make sure they had no
idea they were in Iran."
Iraq's Shia Islamic groups and the Shia-led government are preparing a warm
welcome for Khazali, 26, who played no role in the kidnapping of the five
Britons but whose fate came to determine more than anyone whether they would
live or die. Officials say he is not considered to have committed a crime under
Iraqi law and is being hailed as a man who could lead a Shia bloc in an Iraqi
national reconciliation process.
An Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, confirmed that if Khazali was not
wanted for any offence he would be freed. "We are continuing to negotiate about
the release of the body of the fourth guard and we hope to close this sad
chapter within days," he said.
The report of Iranian involvement was denied by the Iranian government yesterday
and by an Iraqi negotiator involved in the talks over the Britons' fate, Sami
al-Askari.The Guardian understands the handing over of McMenemy's body was
expected to have taken place before Moore's release. It is now likely as soon as
Khazali is freed from Iraqi custody. Officials say he is not considered to have
committed a crime under Iraqi law, and is expected to play a leading role in
Khazali was handed over to Iraqi forces by the American military 48 hours before
the six-year US detention programme in Iraq was due to end. He was among the
last Shia prisoners to be freed from a group that at one stage contained
thousands of detainees.His transfer, linked to the release of Moore, had been
long anticipated and, in accordance with a deal outlined by a Shia militant
leader in March, it was immediately followed by the announcement of Moore's
The Foreign Office maintained tonight that Britain does not broker agreements
with kidnappers, claiming that the timing of Khazali's transfer and Moore's
release was a coincidence.
A Foreign Office statement said: "Separately, the government of Iraq is carrying
out a process of reconciliation with groups willing to renounce violence and
enter the political mainstream." It added: "Hostage taking is not compatible
with political reconciliation."
The release of the bodies of three of Moore's four guards, however, coincided
closely with a phased release of Shia prisoners belonging to the hardline group
the Righteous League – which was a key player in the kidnapping – and loyalists
of the Shia cleric Muqtadr al-Sadr. This was a key demand of the Righteous
The Righteous League is a proxy of an arm of the Iranian military's
Revolutionary Guard unit, known as the al-Quds brigades, and maintains close
links to Iran.
The Guardian revealed that Iran had ordered and directed the kidnapping.
Guardian sources, including an Iraqi cabinet minister, revealed that all five
Britons are believed to have been transferred to Iran within days of their
The Tehran government denied Iranian involvement, as did Sami al-Askari, an
Iraqi negotiator involved in the talks over the Britons' fate.
Families' fury as body of last British hostage set for
release, G, 31.12.2009,
Tony Blair branded 'war criminal' after Iraq memorial service
• Father of soldier killed in Iraq criticises Blair
• Rowan Williams decries human cost of conflict
Friday 9 October 2009
James Sturcke and agencies
This article was published on guardian.co.uk at 16.38 BST on Friday 9 October
It was last modified at 16.53 BST on Friday 9 October 2009.
Tony Blair was branded a "war criminal" today by the father of a soldier
killed in the Iraq war after a memorial service to honour the dead at which the
Archbishop of Canterbury criticised "policy makers" for failing to consider the
cost of the conflict.
Rowan Williams, who has previously described the decisions that led to the war
as "flawed", praised the "patient and consistent" efforts of troops on the
But he used his address at the national service of remembrance in St Paul's
cathedral to remind his audience that the conflict, which claimed the lives of
179 British service personnel, remained highly controversial.
Among those in the congregation listening to his words was former prime minister
Tony Blair, who led the country into war and who was confronted at a reception
after the service by Peter Brierley, whose son, Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley,
28, was killed in March 2003.
Brierley refused to shake Blair's proferred hand, saying: "I'm not shaking your
hand, you've got blood on it".
"I understand soldiers go to war and die but they have to go to war for a good
reason and be properly equipped to fight," Brierley said.
"I believe Tony Blair is a war criminal. I can't bear to be in the same room as
him. I can't believe he's been allowed to come to this reception. It comes back
to me every day, every time I see a coffin come off a plane; it reminds me of
what happened to Shaun."
Addressing the congregation, Williams said: "Many people of my generation and
younger grew up doubting whether we should ever see another straightforward
international conflict, fought by a standing army with conventional weapons.
"We had begun to forget the realities of cost. And when such conflict appeared
on the horizon, there were those among both policymakers and commentators who
were able to talk about it without really measuring the price, the cost of
The archbishop alluded to the controversial nature of the campaign, known as
Operation Telic, which brought hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets
in protest in the runup to the war.
"The conflict in Iraq will, for a long time yet, exercise the historians, the
moralists, the international experts. In a world as complicated as ours has
become, it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without
hesitation, this was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or
the wrong place to be."
Iraq veterans and bereaved families joined the Queen, Gordon Brown and senior
military leaders for the service.
Servicemen and women injured fighting during Operation Telic, and the families
of those killed in the conflict, were also among the congregation.
Other senior royals attending included the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales,
Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the
In April, Britain ended combat operations in Iraq with a sombre remembrance
service for the 178 service personnel and one civilian Ministry of Defence
worker who died during Operation Telic. The event brought to a close the
six-year campaign that began in March 2003.
In July an inquiry into the Iraq war, headed by Sir John Chilcot, was formally
Tony Blair branded 'war
criminal' after Iraq memorial service, G, 9.10.2009,
Families of dead soldiers sue MoD over 'vulnerable' Snatch
June 19, 2009
From Times Online
Deborah Haynes, Defence Correspondent
The families of four soldiers killed by roadside bombs in Iraq and
Afghanistan are suing the Ministry of Defence, claiming that the lightly
armoured Snatch Land Rovers their loved ones died in should never have been on
Their lawyers want the relatives of other servicemen and women killed or injured
in the combat vehicle to come forward as they too might be eligible to seek
Karla and Courtney Ellis, the sister and eight-year-old daughter of Private Lee
Ellis, 23, today became the fourth family officially to serve a claim. Private
Ellis was killed in a roadside bomb in southern Iraq in February 2006.
Lawyer Jocelyn Cockburn, of Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “It is a claim for
negligence and under the Human Rights Act that the Snatch Land Rovers were too
vulnerable to the roadside bombs and other explosives used by the insurgents,
and should never have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Her firm is also representing the other three families who have issued claims
since last year against the MoD, on behalf of Marine Gary Wright, who died in
Afghanistan in October 2006, Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, 22, who was killed in
Iraq in August 2007 and Private Phillip Hewett, 21, who also died in Iraq in
“If there are other families of those killed or even injured in a Snatch who
think they may have a claim, they should get in touch,” Ms Cockburn told The
Once all cases are served they will be put on hold until the High Court makes a
decision on whether the Secretary of State for Defence was wrong to refuse last
year to hold a public inquiry into the Snatch Land Rover.
A preliminary request for a judicial review is due to be held in the next two or
The families believe the combat vehicles lack sufficient armour and the Defence
Ministry should never have allowed their continued use. Snatch Land Rovers are
good for providing quick transportation but do not offer the same protection
against bomb blasts as the better-armoured Mastif.
A Ministry of Defence Spokesman said: “Over the past 14 months, the MoD has
received four compensation claims following deaths involving Snatch landrovers
in Iraq and Afghanistan. The MoD pays compensation wherever there is a liability
to do so. In these cases we remain profoundly aware of the enduring grief of the
four families who lost their loved ones in combat."
Over the past four years at least 37 military personnel have been killed in
Snatch Land Rovers during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The toll raised
concerns about the protection the vehicles provide against the threat of
roadside bombs - the greatest risk in both conflict zones.
A former senior SAS officer in Afghanistan, who resigned from his post last
October, has said the Government has “blood on its hands” over the deaths of
four soldiers killed when their Snatch Land Rover hit an anti-tank mine in
Helmand province, southern Afghanistan in June 2008.
Among the dead was Corporal Sarah Bryant, the first British servicewoman to die
in the country.
Major Sebastian Morley said army commanders and Whitehall officials ignored his
warnings that “unsafe” vehicles would lead to the deaths of soldiers.
Ms Cockburn hopes that a landmark Court of Appeal decision last month that
troops serving overseas were covered by the Human Rights Act even in the
battlefield would help to strengthen the families’ cases.
Families of dead
soldiers sue MoD over 'vulnerable' Snatch Land Rovers, Ts, 19.6.2009,
Straw vetoes publication of cabinet Iraq war minutes
Justice secretary refuses to comply with information tribunal's order to
release minutes of two meetings
Tuesday 24 February 2009
Andrew Sparrow, senior political correspondent, and Katherine Baldwin
This article was first published on guardian.co.uk at 16.39 GMT on Tuesday 24
It was last updated at 19.03 GMT on Tuesday 24 February 2009.
Jack Straw today said he would take the unprecedented step of vetoing the
release of cabinet minutes relating to the decision to invade Iraq.
The justice secretary made his announcement in response to a decision from the
information tribunal, which last month ordered the publication of the minutes of
two cabinet meetings, held on 13 and 17 March 2003.
It is the first time the government has used its power to veto the release of
documents under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act .
In a statement to MPs, Straw said he had not taken the decision "lightly".
He added that the public interest in disclosure of the minutes could not
"supplant the public interest in maintaining the integrity of our system of
"It is a necessary decision to protect the public interest in effective cabinet
government," he said.
Straw's decision was supported by the Tories, although the shadow justice
secretary, Dominic Grieve, said the government should have made it clear earlier
that it was not going to release the minutes.
Under the FoI legislation, the government does not generally have to release
information relating to the formulation of policy.
However, the tribunal ruled that this was an exceptional case because of the
public interest in knowing what was said as ministers discussed the decision to
approval the invasion.
Straw told MPs he disagreed with the tribunal's findings.
He said confidentiality was most important when the cabinet was discussing the
most sensitive issues.
"Cabinet is the pinnacle of the decision-making machinery of government," Straw
"It is the forum in which debates on the issues of greatest significance and
complexity are conducted.
"This matter – whether the nation took military action – was indisputably of the
He said he disagreed with the argument that the "momentous" nature of the
decision meant the minutes should be made public.
"The convention of cabinet confidentiality and the public interest in its
maintenance are especially crucial when the issues at hand are of the greatest
importance and sensitivity," he said.
"Responsibility for cabinet decisions is with the government as a whole, not
with individual ministers ... that remains the first principle of the
"If permitted to demonstrate their degree of attachment – or otherwise – to any
given policy, ministers could absolve themselves from responsibility for
decisions which they have nevertheless agreed to stand by.
"The conventions of cabinet confidentiality and collective responsibility do not
exist as a convenience to ministers.
"They are crucial to the accountability of the executive to parliament and the
"The concomitant of collective responsibility is that debate is conducted
confidentially. "In short, the damage that disclosure of minutes in this
instance would do far outweighs any corresponding public interest in their
Straw said the decision to go to war had already been extensively investigated
by a series of official inquiries.
"The decision to take military action has been examined with a fine-toothed
comb," he said. "We have been held to account for it in this House and
He also said although 1,500 FoI requests relating to government information had
been considered by the information commissioner, the government had not, until
now, used its power, under section 53 of the FoI Act, to issue a ministeral
The two cabinet meetings were particularly controversial because they occured at
a time when ministers were considering the legality of going to war.
Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general at the time, initially suggested that the
legality of the invasion was questionable,
He subsequently issuing legal advice saying it would be safe for Tony Blair to
proceed with the attack. Campaigners wanted to see the minutes to find out
whether this issue had been fully debated by ministers at the time.
Responding to Straw's statement, Grieve said the decision not to release the
minutes "... classically illustrates what has been wrong with the government's
approach to freedom of information and propaganda".
Referring to the fact that Straw had been foreign secretary at the time of the
invasion, Grieve questioned how it would look to the public "for someone so
closely involved in the key decisions now to be personally blocking the release
of that information".
However, he said the Conservatives agreed with the decision.
David Howarth, the Lib Dem justice spokesman, said: "This decision has more to
do with preventing embarrassment than with protecting the system of government."
Like Grieve, he called for a full inquiry into the Iraq war.
Kate Hudson, the chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said: "This
disgraceful decision is yet another attempt to suppress public debate on the
biggest political scandal in decades.
"The use of the veto cannot be justified in any way – there is no risk to candid
discussions in cabinet as such minutes do not single out those making each
"We had hoped that, with the withdrawal of the last British troops expected in a
matter of months, the government would have released these minutes in
preparation for the full inquiry into the Iraq war, long promised by Gordon
In its ruling last month, the information tribunal said: "We have decided that
the public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the formal minutes of
two cabinet meetings at which ministers decided to commit forces to military
action in Iraq did not, at the time when the Cabinet Office refused a request
for disclosure in April 2007, outweigh the public interest in disclosure.
"We have reached that decision by a majority, and not without difficulty.
"We concluded that there was a strong public interest in maintaining the
confidentiality of information relating to the formulation of government policy
or ministerial communications (including, in particular, the maintenance of the
long-standing convention of cabinet collective responsibility).
"However, this is an exceptional case, the circumstances of which brought
together a combination of factors that were so important that, in combination,
they created very powerful public interest reasons why disclosure was in the
Straw vetoes publication
of cabinet Iraq war minutes, G, 24.2.2009,
UK Blocks Publication of Iraq War Discussions
February 24, 2009
Filed at 3:23 p.m. ET
The New York Times
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON (AP) -- Britain's justice secretary overturned an order on Tuesday
that would have forced the government to make public the formal minutes of two
contentious Cabinet discussions held before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
It was the first time a special ministerial veto has been used to overturn a
decision by Britain's Information Tribunal regarding the country's Freedom of
Information Act of 2000.
The minutes detail a Cabinet's consideration of advice it was receiving on the
legality of the Iraq war, and the order by Justice Secretary Jack Straw to keep
them private set back a long-standing effort to seek insight into one of the
most contentious periods in recent British history.
The decision to join the invasion in 2003 sparked widespread domestic opposition
and helped transform public opinion of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In Britain, Cabinet papers usually remain private for at least 30 years, but
those containing sensitive material can be kept closed even longer.
In the case of the formal minutes from the Cabinet meetings on March 13 and 17,
2003, Britain's Information Tribunal said in its decision last month that
''maintaining the confidentiality of the formal minutes of two Cabinet meetings
at which ministers decided to commit forces to military action in Iraq did not
... outweigh the public interest in disclosure.''
But it also said some portions of the discussion that took place would remain
closed, and that sensitive material would be removed in order to protect
Britain's foreign policy.
The Information Tribunal typically serves as the final arbiter on freedom of
information matters -- but the government can override its decision in
Straw said disclosing the minutes would make Cabinet ministers reluctant to
discuss politically charged matters in an official setting.
''In short, the damage that disclosure of the minutes in this instance would do
far outweighs any corresponding public interest in their disclosure,'' Straw
Straw was Blair's foreign secretary when the Iraq war began and closely tied to
the decision to go to war. In a 2003 interview, Straw said he was willing to put
his job on the line to secure party support for the invasion.
Peter Goldsmith, then the government's chief legal adviser, initially raised
doubts about the legality of the war, but on March 17, 2003, gave an unequivocal
view that military action was justified under existing U.N. resolutions.
Straw's decision comes after U.S. President Barack Obama pledged in his
inauguration speech to open a new era of government accountability.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who succeeded Blair in 2007, backed a law that
would have kept secret breakdowns of lawmakers expenses, but dropped the plan
when opposition parties said they wouldn't support it.
The U.S. has had Freedom of Information legislation for decades, but campaigners
in Britain say the country's leaders are struggling to adapt to a culture of
''They simply haven't agreed to abide by the rules that they set out for
themselves,'' said Maurice Frankel, of British advocacy group the Campaign for
Freedom of Information.
Though Blair once promised more government openness, officials often have tried
to narrow the scope of the 2000 legislation. Straw also has proposed laws that
would allow inquests into the deaths of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
to be held in secret.
The deaths have repeatedly embarrassed the British government by exposing lack
of equipment for forces of the ground and incidences of friendly fire.
Despite Straw's decision on Tuesday, some elements of Britain's thinking in the
run-up to the war have been leaked to the press, including the so-called Downing
Street memos, which allegedly showed that Straw privately questioned the wisdom
of the invasion.
UK Blocks Publication of Iraq War Discussions,