-- London, United
Kingdom - It was only as
David Cronin saw Tony Blair and his entourage striding
towards him that he finally plucked up the courage to go
through with his plan to attempt to arrest the former
British prime minister over his role in the invasion of
Iraq and claim a bounty on his head.
"I walked up to
him very briskly and managed to put my hand on his arm
and say, 'Mr Blair, this is a citizen's arrest,'" Cronin
told Al Jazeera of the 2010 encounter at the European
Parliament in Brussels, where he worked as a journalist.
"I didn't have
time to say anything else before his bodyguards pushed
me away, so I just shouted at him, 'You are guilty of
war crimes!' He looked at me for a split-second before I
was bundled off. I can only describe it as a look of
puzzlement and contempt."
Ten years since
British forces joined the US-led assault, many in the UK
are more critical than ever of the country's involvement
in a conflict
documented by the Iraq Body Count database to have
killed more than 112,000 civilians.
More than a
fifth - 22 percent - of Britons polled by YouGov this
said they believed Blair should be tried as a war
criminal for his role in the conflict, which was
preceded by massive anti-war demonstrations in London
and other cities.
percent said the invasion was wrong, while half said
Blair, a key international ally of US President George W
Bush, had deliberately misled the British people over
the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction.
schedule these days is a closely guarded secret to avoid
ambushes by the protesters who stalk his public
appearances armed with eggs, shoes and banners reading:
"BLIAR". Even his testimony at last year's phone-hacking
inquiry was interrupted by an intruder shouting, "This
man is a war criminal!"
meanwhile, is one of four people to have claimed a
reward from an online campaign,
Arrest Blair, which offers a share of a bounty pot
for each attempted arrest.
2010, the campaign has already paid out about $16,600,
though it concedes its efforts are largely symbolic.
According to its rules, attempts must be non-violent and
must be reported by at least one mainstream media
donated his $4,200 bounty to a Gaza-based charity, said
he was moved to act not just by Iraq but also in protest
at Blair's appointment as Middle East envoy for the
Quartet of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia.
complete joke that a guy who had helped to start two
wars in the wider Middle East region is now swanning
around posing as a peace envoy," Cronin said.
Moves to hold
Blair accountable are also gaining momentum in Scotland,
where some campaigners believe he could be tried under
the country's separate legal system.
MacDonald, an independent member of the Scottish
parliament, told Al Jazeera that she planned to table a
motion on Wednesday calling for Scottish law to be
amended to make illegal "the waging of aggressive war
with the intention of regime change", specifically so
that Blair could be brought to trial.
we believe he could face a court in Scotland," MacDonald
told Al Jazeera. "We are simply adding to the pressure."
In an article
published in last weekend's Sunday Herald
newspaper, Alex Salmond, the leader of the ruling
Scottish National Party, appeared to lend weight to
MacDonald's cause, writing: "The illegal invasion and
war in Iraq is a disgrace without parallel in modern
times, the shame of which will echo down the ages for
Blair and all of those who were complicit in sending
young men and women to risk their lives on the basis of
a gigantic fraud."
Sloan, an expert in international criminal law at
Glasgow University, told Al Jazeera that any attempt to
prosecute Blair, whether in Scotland, elsewhere in the
UK, or at The Hague-based International Criminal Court
(ICC), could face near-insurmountable legal obstacles.
While the crime
of aggression - the likeliest charge that Blair could
face - fell under the ICC's jurisdiction, Sloan said it
was not yet prosecutable because signatories of the
court's founding statute in 1998 had not been able to
agree on a definition.
was finally agreed on in 2010, but is not due to come
into force at the ICC until 2017. That could pose
problems for any effort to apply the charge of
aggression to Blair's actions more than a decade
earlier, Sloan said.
fundamental principle of criminal law that you cannot
retrospectively try someone for something that was not
criminal at the time. There could be a pretty good
defence that he couldn't expect to know how the crime
would be defined in 2013 or later when he was acting in
maintained that the war in Iraq was justified and that
even the subsequent sectarian violence was a price worth
paying for ending Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.
introduction to A Journey, his 2010
autobiography, he wrote: "I have often reflected as to
whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether
I may have been right."
response to an email seeking comment, a
spokesperson for Blair's office directed Al
Jazeera to remarks made this week in an
article in the Sun newspaper and to
the BBC, in which he suggested that an eventual
uprising against Saddam could have been even
bloodier than the current conflict in Syria.
also brushed off protesters' efforts to confront
footage of an attempt last year by a British
activist to arrest him during a lecture in Hong
Kong, he can be heard to say: "You've made your
point and that's democracy for you," and then
jokes, "Actually, I'm used to it."
Chris Nineham, a founder of the UK's Stop the
War coalition, sees a hardening of attitudes
against Blair and growing recognition of the
weight of war crimes allegations against him in
political and media circles.
the Sun, a cheerleader for the
invasion, felt obliged to run a piece alongside
Blair's in which the father of a British soldier
killed in Iraq accused him of being a war
criminal and said he should be in prison.
way I suspect it is official politics and
mainstream media beginning to catch up with
where the public has been for a long time now,"
said Nineham, the author of a forthcoming book
titled The People v Tony Blair.
of people want to see justice but in the public
imagination, I think Tony Blair has already been
effectively vilified and it has humiliated him.
That is very important because other politicians
in the future who are looking at the possibility
of more wars and more invasions will think
said Blair could also expect to be harried by
protesters for a long time to come.
only need to send an email out saying Blair is
going to be appearing at such and such an
armaments manufacturing conference, and you'll
have hundreds of people phoning in or emailing
saying, 'Yeah, come on then, where is he?'"
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